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Youth Athlete Nutritional Requirements – Counting Calories

It’s widely accepted across the spectrum of research within sports nutrition that what, how much and when you eat affect sport performance.

The International Olympic Committee noted that “good nutritional practice will help athletes train hard, recover quickly and adapt more effectively”. Although, this statement was issues in 2003 there are still many contradictory articles outlining the correct nutrition strategies for youth athletes. 

Protein Food Youth Sport Nutrition

Nutrition is a simple discipline, yet individual variances complicate good practice. The mission of this series is to provide a space where the core principles of ‘correct’ nutrition are communicated, to Parents, Coaches and Athletes alike. There is also the opportunity to comment on the forum, and one of our coaches will answer any individual questions.

Today we’re looking at calories. Let’s start by changing any preconceptions of calories, from the athletes point of view calories must be viewed as energy! Therefore, calories are an essential component of performance.

Not enough calories can increase the risk of injury or negatively impact performance (Harr and Sherman, 2007)

Too many calories can increase the risk of gaining unnecessary weight, and depending on the source of the calories increase the chances of health conditions (Kerksick and Fox, 2016).

The amount of calories youth athletes need depend on a variety of things, such as: Age, Gender, Sport, Height, Weight and Bod Composition.

As a rule of thumb, Bean, 2013 noted the heavier, more active and more muscle mass a youth athlete has the more calories they will need to consume. This is widely accepted throughout the limited research available for youth athlete nutrition.

Assuming all the youth athletes are very active, defined as daily intensive activity or sport. The table below has been taken from two sources and refined to the needs of elite youth athletes, showing the estimated energy needs of 10 – 17 year olds in this category. 

Weight (KG)

Males (Kcal per day)

Females (Kcal per day)














Original Source: (Department of Health, 1991) / Secondary  Source: (Bean, 2013) / Youth Sport Nutrition® have edited content to ensure the table reflected our readership. 

Food Diary Youth Nutrition Sports Healthy Supplements

Now you know how much to eat, but it is important to monitor your diet over a period of time. As we mentioned before, nutrition has many variable and it’s important to tailor advice to your individual needs.


So the advice we always give during the educational workshop is to start a food diary. Over time you will build up a picture of how many calories you are eating on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You should also monitor your weight on a monthly basis to ensure your body composition is developing in the correct way to meet the demands of your sport.


Mental Health Sport Nutrition Food Youth Lifestyle

Nutrition plays a role in mental performance too, so sometimes its useful to note down some key indicators, and rate yourself out of ten every day to see how your mental performance is progressing. Here’s some indicators we recommend evaluating:






Finally, make sure to eat little meals throughout the day (little and often). We will cover this in more detail in one of the forum posts early next year. One way to achieve this is through liquid sources, such as smoothies or PROTEEN®.

Alongside the associated benefits of adding liquid sources into a balanced diet that we’ve listed in our precious posts, the digestion process of liquid food sources is noted by Mangieri, 2017 to be much quicker. Ideal for after training, to ensure the calorie count is where it needs to be.


Reference list

Bean, A. (2013) Sports nutrition for young athletes. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Mangieri, H. (2017) Fueling Youth Athletes. 1st edn. Human Kinetics, 2016.

Department of Health. (1991)

Harr, E. and Sherman, A. (2007) Goal digger fitness. New York, NY: Rodale.

Kerksick, C. and Fox, E. (2016) Sports nutrition needs for child and adolescent athletes

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