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Healthy Diet Plan for a 19 Year Old Athlete

By Cecily J. Dawson, MS, LAT, RD

An athlete faces the challenges of getting the right combination of healthy foods at the right time to support the body to physically excel. For 19-year old athletes, this challenge may be complicated by things such as being in college, starting in the workforce, lack of sleep, cooking for themselves, and for men, continuing to grow.

Basics and Calories

Exercising athletes of all ages need to determine the correct number of calories they need to sustain their workouts without gaining fat from excess calories. Males especially at this age may still be growing and need a very high number of calories, sometimes over 5000 daily if training rigorously. The daily diet plan should include whole grain choices, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, healthy fats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy or dairy alternatives.

Meals and Snack Planning

Planning ahead can be a key piece of the puzzle for an on-the-go 19-year old. Try to keep the right foods available to have 3 meals and 2 snacks daily that are fairly evenly spaced throughout the day. Ready-to-eat foods that can help accommodate this plan with a busy schedule include instant oatmeal and cold cereals, healthy nutrition bars, low-fat string cheese, foil pack tuna or salmon, whole fresh fruit, microwaveable veggie packets, whole grain crackers, and hard boiled eggs, just to name a few.

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The Athlete's Diet

According to the American Dietetic Association, college-age athletes who are training heavily need between 6 and 10 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day. For an athlete weighing 200 lbs., this would equate to between 2160 and 3600 calories just in carbohydrates. Protein needs for athletes in heavy training are 1.4 to 1.7 g per kg of body weight per day. For the 200-lb. athlete, the range is 120 to 160 g per day. Eating a high carbohydrate diet that is low in fat and includes lean protein sources such as fish, chicken, turkey, beef, dairy, eggs, and beans or legumes is recommended.

Food Timing

For athletes, eating frequent meals and snacks ensures that fuel is available for training and that muscle tissue isn't broken down for the body's metabolic needs. Nineteen year olds, who may be on their own for the first time, must plan on eating breakfast regularly, consume snacks and meals throughout the day, and pay attention to the post workout meal or snack. This meal, consumed within an hour after exercise, should contain a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrates to protein to ensure optimal muscle recovery and repair.

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