Athlete Nutrition & Hydration – The Basics



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As a parent, it can be difficult to know exactly what, how much, and how often your athlete should be eating and drinking.

Age and level of intensity of workout are prime factors in knowing what is best for your athlete’s dietary intake.

With that in mind, we have gathered some basic information for you to work with when preparing snacks and meals for your busy athlete.  This  includes hydration information as well!

According to the American Heart Association, the information in the chart below lists kilocalorie intake recommendations per day for children between the ages of 4 and 18.

These recommendations are based on a sedentary lifestyle.  You will need to add 0-200 kilocalories per day for moderate physical activity and 200-400 kilocalories per day for high physical activity.

Based on data from the American Heart Association.

When shopping for the fruits and veggies to make for snacks and meals for you athletes, consider choosing from the following:


  • Seafood
  • Lean meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Soy products
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds

Vegetables (fresh, canned, frozen, dried):

  • Choose from a variety of vegetables that include;
    • Dark green
    • Red and orange
    • Beans and peas
    • Starchy
  • If using canned vegetables, look for low to no sodium

Fruit (fresh, canned, frozen, dried):

  • If choosing canned fruit, make sure it is packaged in its own juice for less added sugar
  • 1/4 cup of dried fruit = 1 cup of fruit
  • If drinking juice, choose a brand that uses 100% juice with no added sugars


  • Choose whole grains
    • Whole-wheat bread
    • Oatmeal
    • Popcorn
    • Quinoa
    • Brown or wild rice
  • Limit the following the intake of refined grains
    • White bread
    • Pasta
    • Rice


  • Choose fat-free or low-fat products like;
    • Milk
    • yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Fortified soy beverages
Photo: moms team

Just as important as eating, staying hydrated is a key component for a successful workout or competition and for maintaining a healthy body.

According to, “A reduction of just 2% of fluid can result in degraded performance by as much as 10-20%.”

But how much water should an athlete be drinking?

You can try using the following formula to figure that out:

Source: recommends that athletes start workouts and/or competitions well hydrated and then stay hydrated throughout to help their bodies recover quicker and to help reduce injury and muscle cramping.

You may be asking, “But where do sports drinks fall into this whole package?”

According to, “Sports drinks are designed to rehydrate, provide energy and replenish the body’s electrolytes, especially sodium, which is lost through sweating. Sports drinks also contain carbohydrates – the body’s main source of energy.”

Athletes that will reap the best benefits from sports drinks are those who are working out intensely for 60 minutes and who are salty sweaters.  Sports drinks are designed to replenish the sodium that athletes loose through their sweat.

“If exercising longer than 60 minutes, consuming a few gulps of a sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes can help to maintain energy and electrolyte levels, and sustain performance.” states

This article is only meant to give you a basic foundation regarding athlete nutrition and hydration and it should be used for informational purposes only.  By no means is this to dictate your athletes daily meal planning.

For more detailed information or assistance on meal planning, contact your pediatrician/physician or a registered dietitian.



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