Endurance athletes require additional nutrients to stay healthy compared to non-athletes. This is especially important for teenage endurance runners, since most teenagers are still growing and endurance exercise can burn a significant amount of calories. Eating an appropriate diet can help ensure that teen endurance athletes stay healthy and may help maximize athletic performance.
Teenage endurance runners require significantly more calories to maintain their body weight and grow and develop properly compared to sedentary teens. However, the University of Illinois Extension says that an athletic teenage boy may even require 5,000 calories per day, depending on his sport and workouts. Depending on the length of endurance running performed, teens may even need to exceed 5,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight.
Carbohydrates should make up the majority of a teenage runner’s diet, since carbs are the main fuel source during exercise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, teenagers should consume a diet consisting of 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. However, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, some athletes may require up to 70 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates 2.
Protein is another important nutrient for teenage endurance runners because it can help fuel the body and is important for muscle maintenance and repair. For teenagers up to age 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages a diet of 10 to 30 percent of daily calories from protein, and for teens 19 years old, the USDA recommends a diet of 10 to 35 percent of daily calories from protein 1. The University of Illinois Extension reports that distance runners may burn some protein for energy and athletes do require more protein than non-athletes. However, protein needs for athletes are easily met through eating a healthy diet without the need for protein supplements or a high-protein diet.
Sample Meal Plan
The USDA sample healthy meal plans are good guides when planning your diet. A sample 3,000-calorie USDA meal plan may be appropriate for some teenage endurance runners and includes the following: 2.5 cups of fruits, 4 cups vegetables, 10 oz. of grains, 7 oz.
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