Ask a CHOC Doc: How can my athlete daughter learn vital nutrition?


Mine is an interest. I’m looking to learn more about how my teenager, dealing with orthorexia eating disorder, can continue to play high school sports and learn vital nutrition techniques, like how to refuel the calories that have been burned. -Anonymous


Health care providers always support teens and families focusing on healthy nutrition choices such as a balance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Sometimes, however, a nutrition plan overly focused on the ideals of healthy eating can actually result in significant nutritional lapses with both short term and long-term consequences to your health – this is what is commonly referred to as orthorexia. Persistent fatigue, prolonged muscle aches, dizziness, mood changes, and loss of periods are all signs that your teen should be evaluated by their pediatrician as soon as possible, and with the right interventions hopefully we can prevent nutritional imbalances and medical complications.

In order for your teen to perform in their sport at their most optimal level, they need the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in addition to supportive vitamins and minerals, and adequate fluids.

  • Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source and should be a significant part of all meals and snacks. All athletes need energy!
  • Protein is important for muscle growth, and repair of muscle breakdown after exercise. Athletes should consume a protein and carb snack within 30 minutes after exercise to help refuel their body’s and aid in recovery. Pairing protein and carbohydrates actually lets the body use the protein better. It is important to note that the body can only utilize 30grams of protein at any one time.
  • Fats are the body’s “reserve tank” for fuel, and are especially important in any type of endurance sport.
  • Vitamins and minerals help unlock the energy stored in food, and Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health.

Checking with your doctor is always important to make sure there are no early signs of an eating disorder or complications from imbalanced nutrition. Seeing a sports nutritionist can help identify the exact nutritional components your teen needs, and the best choices to meet those needs. Great websites for additional information and resources include eatright.org and scandpg.org (sports, cardiovascular, and wellness nutrition section of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

-Dr. Alexandra Roche, pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine and Amanda Czerwin, nutritionist at CHOC Children’s

Learn more about adolescent medicine at CHOC.

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