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Timely statement of The American Dietetic Association: Nutrition guidance for adolescent athletes in organized sports

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The American Dietetic Association (ADA) encourages sound nutrition practices that promote optimal growth and development in adolescents (ages 13 to 18 years) while meeting the added requirements of participation in organized sports (1). Adolescent athletes require accurate information on healthful nutrition for sports, safe weight management, eating disorders, fluid needs, dietary supplements, and ergogenic aids. It is also important to educate coaches and parents regarding these topics and to discourage unhealthful nutrition practices (1,2).

At puberty, hormonal changes mark the beginning of adolescence. It is important to monitor children entering puberty to ensure that they are meeting nutrient needs and have adequate energy stores to fuel the growth spurt. To evaluate growth, all adolescents should have their weight and height measured and assessed by a qualified health professional using National Center for Health Statistics growth charts (3).

As adolescents go through puberty, bone density and the proportion of body water change and, as a result, differ significantly from those of mature athletes (4). Although methods of determining body composition have been developed to account for these differences (4), percent body fat and weight should not be used as a criteria for sports participation or to set stringent weight requirements, especially for adolescents who have not completed their growth spurt. Doing so may compromise overall growth and development. In the hands of a qualified health professional, measurements may be taken on an adolescent athlete to estimate percent body fat and lean body mass in order to monitor changes in body composition during training.

During adolescence, suboptimal dietary intake and potential nutrient inadequacies may arise as increasing independence and peer pressure influence food selection. The struggle for identity is further challenged by a changing body image. To meet nutrition needs for physical activity and health, the training diet should provide about 55% to...