Nutrition & The Importance of Breakfast for High School Athletes

High school athletes need a substantial number of calories for optimal growth and development and also because participation in sports places additional stress on the respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal systems. Inadequate calorie consumption and low-quality nutrition dramatically reduce athletic performance. The rapid growth that occurs during the high school years makes proper nutrition essential for high school athletes. 

Approximately 30 percent of total calories in a high school athlete’s diet should come from fat. Fats tend to get a bad reputation and are feared by many athletes, especially young, female athletes. Many think that by eating fat, they will get fat. This is not the case! High school athletes need healthy fats, which can be found in foods such as salmon, tuna, avocados, walnuts, olive oil, and canola oil. They should limit the fat that comes from fast foods and most processed foods. Omega-3 fats, which are particularly healthful, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Such fats are found in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.

Carbohydrates and fat are the main fuel sources the body uses for energy. It’s recommended that 55 percent of a high school athlete’s diet comes from carbohydrates primarily in the form of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include starches and fiber and are the most nutrient-dense carbohydrate.

Encourage your high school athletes to fill up on whole grains, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Cookies and other processed foods should be kept to a minimum as should sugary drinks such as soda.

These articles are strictly for informational purposes. Always seek medical and/or nutritional advice before taking any action.

The word “protein” comes from the Greek word meaning “of prime importance.” Protein is essential for optimal health, growth, and development. Inadequate protein intake will impair development and athletic performance.

Approximately 15 percent of a high school athlete’s total calorie intake should come from lean protein sources. Food such as milk protein, soy, chicken, turkey, fish, and egg whites are all wonderful choices.

For high school athletes that do not eat animal products, food such as quinoa, soy, beans, nuts, and legumes will help them meet protein needs. Plant proteins are considered incomplete proteins meaning they do not contain all the essential amino acids. Therefore, athletes should eat a variety of these foods to get all the required amino acids.

Importance of Breakfast

One in four teenagers skips breakfast. This is a serious issue for teenage athletes as they are still developing physically and require adequate vitamin, mineral, and calorie intake for optimal health and growth.

Skipping breakfast, or any meal as an athlete can have a dramatic effect on athletic performance. High school athletes should be encouraged to think of food as fuel for their bodies. Fueling their body well at the beginning of the day will ensure they have enough energy to meet the demands of practice sessions and it will also allow them to choose better quality foods for other meals. As Registered Dietitian Nancy Clark states, “Without a doubt, breakfast is the meal that makes champions.”

It is an important goal for all athletes to provide their bodies with appropriate fuels to maintain and enhance their performance. Carbohydrates and proteins are major sources for the athlete.

Most athletes need to consider the amount of time between eating and performance when choosing foods. The following are recommendations and facts to consider when consuming carbohydrates before, during, and after training or competition.

These articles are strictly for informational purposes. Always seek medical and/or nutritional advice before taking any action. All nutrition articles posted on the TFA website have been reviewed and verified by our in-house Registered Dietitian/Licensed Nutritionist. Leah Fakhuri, R.D., L.D.N. This article was sourced from

Check out blogs on the role of Nutrition and Protein.

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