As we head into the season and training may increase as the world opens up (with vaccination rates), we need to ensure we are refuelling our athletes adequately to keep up with the demands of training. We also know that providing adequate fuelling can be the difference between our athletes continually improving or falling flat.
Energy intake of adolescents should provide adequate support for growth and development needs while maintaining the desired energy expenditure for exercise and performance goals. No simple method exists that can accurately determine the exact energy needs of adolescent athletes. Therefore, markers of growth and health will help to determine if total energy intake is appropriate.
Athletes should be encouraged to moderate eating patterns to reflect daily exercise demands. This will often mean that larger meals and regular snacking are required to meet the increased energy demands on training days.
Adolescents require the knowledge and support to develop a healthy lifelong relationship with food. Parents, guardians and coaches play a key role in this. Those responsible for adolescent athletes should be aware that body composition is only one contributor to athlete performance, and that dietary and training strategies exclusively designed to manipulate an adolescent’s physique independent of performance should be avoided. It is important that eating patterns and food selection during adolescence reinforce long-term health, as well as developing a positive body image.
The body may function sub-optimally if there is inadequate or low Energy Availability. Energy availability is:
Total Energy Intake (Food consumption) – Exercise Energy Expenditure = Energy Availability
Energy Availability is what is used for bodily functions such as growth, immunity, repair, digestion, temperature regulation, metabolism etc. So when Energy Availability is low, these functions are compromised.
Some common symptoms of Low Energy Availability
- Persistent injuries or prolonged recovery
- Gut disturbances
- Increased sickness (colds, respiratory tract infections)
- Compromised bone health (stress fractures or broken bones)
- Changes to or loss of menstrual cycle in women.
Some effects of Low Energy Availability
- Missed training days or inability to complete scheduled training
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Impaired training adaptations
- Reduced muscle strength
- Loss of coordination
- Increased injury risk
Some Common Reasons for Low Energy Availability
- Increased training without increased energy intake
- Time constraints or lack of nutritional knowledge inhibits achieving adequate intake
- Disordered eating behaviours or an eating disorder
If you experience any of the above, please make an appointment to see an Accredited Sports Dietitian to ensure you can adequately meet your requirements.