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Two young athletes having a snack

The Importance of Nutrition for High School Athletes

By: Bridget Lee, ATC

Eating breakfast can seem like a daunting task when you wake up and it’s still dark outside. As a young athlete, you’re probably still tired from practice the day before and late night homework. The only thing you may be able to focus on in the morning is catching the bus for school.

Nevertheless, grabbing a granola bar and a piece of fruit to go can help your body start storing fuel for practice. Research shows that skipping breakfast can result in low energy and a craving for sugary foods. Not only does that leave you with trouble focusing during school, your body will not be prepared for high intensity exercise.

An average person needs between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day. However, that number is higher for an athlete, based on their weight and daily activity. Most high school athletes have only one lunch period during the day. This is their last chance to eat a full, balanced meal before practicing in the afternoon.

To help meet your caloric needs, make sure you have healthy snacks throughout the day. This will keep you feeling full and away from sugary foods that will drain your energy. Young athletes have different nutritional needs, but the three main basics to start with are proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Proper hydration throughout your day also plays an important role in nutrition.

Here is what an average day of meals should look like.


If you are crunched for time, a small protein-packed breakfast can include Greek yogurt, a banana, and a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese. If you have time in the morning, breakfast can include eggs, mixed fruit, and yogurt with granola.


If you don’t want to eat a school-prepared lunch, pack one the night before so you are not scrambling in the morning. Since lunch is typically the last full meal before practice begins, it is important to eat enough to last you through dinnertime. Go for a fresh salad of spinach, tomato, bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli, and low-fat dressing. Add grilled chicken and almonds for more protein and healthy fats.


Dinner is all about refueling your body from activity throughout the day while also preparing for the next day. You want to have a good mix of steamed vegetables and carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes or whole grain rice. For protein, you can prepare chicken, ground turkey, or tofu to create a main course.

Remember what you put into your body will be the main source of energy throughout your day.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.