Are Young athletes nutritional needs really different to adult athletes?

When it comes to sports nutrition we all know that protein plays a big part in helping athletes with their muscle growth and recovery. The next most important macro nutrition that parents tend to concentrate on, of course is Carb consumption so that their young athlete gets their needed energy whilst training hard.

However you ever wondered about how much protein and carbs are right for the younger athletes?

How do the nutritional needs of younger athlete differ to that of adults? What other nutrition is essential to support their sports activity?

Age-specific energy requirements for boys and girls who participate in heavy physical activity levels is as below:

Age Boys Girls
(years) (kcals/day) (kcals/day)
6-7 1,800 1,650
7-8 1,950 1,775
8-9 2,100 1,950
9-10 2,275 2,125
10-11 2,475 2,300
11-12 2,700 2,475
12-13 2,925 2,625
13-14 3,175 2,725
14-15 3,450 2,855
15-16 3,650 2,875
16-17 3,825 2,875
17-18 3,925 2,875



Young people have different body weight to adults – they need different levels of nutrients - The American College of Sports Medicine and American Dietetic Association recommend intakes between 1.2 and 1.8 g/kg of body mass for youth athletes.  They don't need the levels of protein consumed by adults. Consuming too much protein can make children feel constipated and uncomfortable which is turn might affect their performance.

We were surprised to hear from parents that they have offered adult protein bars to their children. We certainly won't recommend this, as adult protein bars may have too much protein that isn't suitable for younger people. Further it may contain certain supplements which may be harmful for children or contain artificial sweeteners that can play havoc with glucose levels.  Young people's digestive system is less mature and thus nutrition needs to be in easy to absorb forms.


The recommendations for young athletes suggest at least 50% of young athletes diet should be in the form of carbohydrate or between 3 and 8 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass dependent primarily on exercise intensity.

Other essential Micro Nutrition that support performance

Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, & Manganese are all considered as key micro nutrition that specifically support energy production, reduction of fatigue, provide electrolyte balance in helping body’s hydration and iron transport. 

Therefore choose foods that contain these key nutrition. For ideas on food that contain these nutrition please read our post on 'Food ideas to support game prep. 

Our source : The American College of Sports Medicine and American Dietetic Association