Caloric Requirements for Athletes

April 6, 2020

Coaches often want to know exactly what constitutes a balanced diet.  A balanced diet provides all the necessary nutrient and calories the body needs to function properly these nutrients are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water.  Just as there are many training strategies that achieve victory there are a number of dietary patterns that provide good nutrition.



The dietary guidelines for Americans are national guidelines for healthy eating. Calorie requirements vary greatly from person to person and are influenced by the level of Physical activity, body size and age. Therefore, it is impossible to establish a Universal daily caloric requirement for athletes.



Weight loss, weight maintenance, or weight gain is a matter of energy balance. An athlete’s body weight will stay the same when calorie intake equals calorie expenditure. To lose weight, energy intake must be greater than energy expenditure. If an athlete is maintaining his or her ideal competitive weight, adequate calories are being consumed. A number of factors influence the bodyweight of adolescent athletes.



Many young female athletes are concerned about their appearance and eat less than they should to appear thin. However restricting calories can have negative impact on performance and health. As calorie consumption decreases, so does nutrient intake.



The minimum requirement for high school athletes should be roughly 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day.   Athletes eating less than 1800 calories a day probably do not consume adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and protein.  This can cause depleted fuel stores, muscle wasting, weakness, fatigue, stress fractures and impaired performance.  Some athletes have a hard time increasing their calorie intake because the volume of a larger meal cause them discomfort, especially if they are training soon after eating.   Athletes juggling a heavy academic schedule with training and part time job may have difficulty finding the time to eat.   These athletes can benefit from eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day.

The Author

Ray Richardson, MBA

Certified Personal Trainer

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