DISCLAIMER:  I am a Fitness Nutrition Specialist, not a registered dietician. What follows is information summarized from several published articles on the subject of nutrition for active and non-actives teens.  Links to those articles are provided at the end. The information provided is general and is intended to give you an overview.

Consult your teen’s physician for specific recommendations.

As with adults, a caloric deficit will cause weight loss in teens and a caloric surplus will cause weight gain. 

But because teens are not fully grown and their bodies are going through rapid changes, parents need to be mindful of what teens are doing nutritionally.


What is different for teens is that they are experiencing growth spurts.  Extreme caloric deficits can cause malnourishment side-effects.

They are also in an intensive learning environment for most of their day when they are at school.  

The brain uses the most calories of any of our organs – about 20% of our total intake! 

As a retired high school math teacher, I know there is a link between nutrition and learning. 



And teens need appropriate nutrition to support the immune system, which is important when considering the amount of exposure to illnesses they have at school.

To learn more about protein and the immune system, read my blog Protein: How Much and Why?


I DO NOT recommend that teens track their food or weigh themselves regularly, but I DO recommend that parents pay attention without making it a topic of conversation.

  • If they are storing fat, they are in surplus.


  • If they are losing weight, they are in deficit.

I researched the caloric needs of teens based on their activity.  Please remember that these are general guidelines and will vary from teen to teen.  

A recommended macro split of 30% protein, 45% carbohydrate, and 25% fat was used to calculate the macros grams listed.

Macros for Non-Active Teens (Ages 14-18)


1800-2000 calories

Protein: 135-150 grams

Carbs: 203–225 grams

Fats: 50–66 grams


1800-2000 calories

Protein: 135-150 grams

Carbs: 203 – 225 grams

Fats: 50 – 66 grams

Nutrition Notes for Teen Athletes

Athletes need appropriate nutrition to perform, decrease fatigue and the risk of injury.

Carbohydrates are the most important fuel source for athletes because they provide the glucose used for energy. (4 cal/gram)

Proteins build and repair muscle, hair, nails and skin.  During long bouts of strenuous exercise, the body will convert protein to glucose. (4 cal/gram)

Fat is an energy source, but it is harder for the body to metabolize than carbs.

It is necessary to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), to provide essential fatty acids, protect vital organs and provide insulation.

Fat also provides the feeling of satiety. (9 cal/gram)



Macros for Teen Athletes (Ages 14-18)


2200-3000 calories

Protein: 165-225 g

Carbs: 248–338 g

Fats: 61–83 g


3000-4000 calories

Protein: 225-300 g

Carbs: 338 –450 g

Fats: 83 – 111 g


Timing of Meals Before, During, and After Activities

A pre-activity meal should be a minimum of 3 hours before an event.

That meal should include carbohydrates, protein and fat.  It shouldn’t be high in fat or fiber, though.  Both can cause digestive issues for the athlete.

For early morning practices or events, having a snack or liquid meal 1 to 2 hours before exercise

Have a full breakfast after the event.

Pre-game snacks or liquid meals should be eaten 1 to 2 hours before an event.

During an event, use sports drinks, fruit or granola bars.

Recovery Meals

Recovery foods should be consumed within 30 min of exercise, and again within 1 to 2 hours of exercise.

Recovery meals should be mostly protein and carbohydrates.


Fluids, particularly water, are important nutrients for athletes.

The amount of fluid required depends on many factors, including age and body size.

2-3 hours before activity, athletes should consume 400 mL (about two-thirds of a bottle) to 600 (about a whole bottle) mL of cold water.

During activities, athletes should consume 150 mL (one quarter of my bottle) to 300 mL (half of a my bottle) of fluid every 15 min to 20 min.

Use the following chart to estimate how much fluid needs to be consumed before and after an event based on body weight:

Use a Sport Drinks When…

For events lasting longer than an hour, or it if it hot, humid, sports drinks are recommended to replace energy stores and fluid/electrolyte losses.

The consumption of sodium-containing fluids and snacks after exercise helps with rehydration by stimulating thirst and fluid retention.

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