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Build Muscle with Protein from Foods

Protein Foods Teens
How to build muscle with protein from whole foods! At Youth Sport Nutrition (YSN) we understand the importance of healthy eating for teen athletes, and we favour a ‘food first’ approach when it comes to supporting youth athletes. In this article, we share some ideas on food choices for young athlete, to help youth athletes, parents, coaches and trainers with their food choices.
A young athlete needs power for quick, strong moves and endurance for practices and games. But how do you make sure that you get the necessary nutrients to fuel both? Here are 4 nutrition tips for young athletes.
Strawberry milkshake for youth athletes
Food Is Fuel
You wouldn't put cheap fuel in a luxury car, so why put unhealthy fats and added sugars in your body? Teens in high-level sport go through what is known as Peak Height Velocity (PHV) which is the period where your maximum rate of growth occurs (also known as a growth spurt). PHV typically lasts around 24-36 months and places advanced nutritional requirements on your body to be able to support your training and sport goals, highlighting the importance of nutrition in youth sports performance.
Active teenage boys need an average of 3,000 calories a day, while active girls need around 2,400 to 3,000 calories (1). Although, the  recommended calorie intake for teen athletes will vary from young athlete to athlete, given the individual differences within this large demographic. Choose quality calories from fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat dairy, lean protein and heart-healthy fats. These foods provide the vitamins and minerals athletes need, as part of a balanced diet for young athletes.
Vitamins and minerals for youth athletes
As a youth athlete it is important to have a balanced breakfast. Breakfast is a great time for whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and fruit or whole-grain waffles with peanut butter, banana and fruit juice. Most teens - even athletic ones - get enough protein through their diet. However, if you have a poor appetite or don’t consume many protein-rich foods, food powders specifically designed for youth athletes, such as NUTRI-TEEN Shakes, may be an option.

Or healthy homemade shakes could deliver the nutrients needed. Why not put a blend of the following ingredients together:
  • Frozen Fruit. Berries. Pineapple. Peaches.
  • Fresh Fruit. Oranges. Berries. Banana.
  • Veggies. Spinach. Kale. Celery.
  • Liquids or mixers. Nonfat vanilla and strawberry yogurt. Nonfat milk. Unsweetened light soy or almond milk.

Looking for more tailored meal ideas and recipes to support your nutritional needs? Check out our free YSN Kitchen App. It's packed with youth athlete recipes and good teenage snack ideas, perfect for young athletes and active youths.

You can blend together milk, yogurt, fruit and nut butters, such as peanut, almond or cashew butter. Use Greek yogurt or add food powder for an extra boost of protein. You can also add oatmeal to your protein smoothie, or use frozen yogurt instead of regular yogurt, depending on your preferences. This can be a perfect post-workout snack for youth athletes.
 strawberries for youth athlete
Prior to lunch at school, review the menu and choose performance foods instead of fried or fast food. Bean and beef burritos topped with salsa or grilled chicken sandwiches with coleslaw delivers a solid base of nutrients needed for afternoon activity. If you have a busy afternoon of sport, and school lunch options are poor, you can always grab a NUTRI-TEEN Berry Oat Bar for as a pre-game meal idea for young athletes.
Nutriteen bars nutriteen gummies
For dinner, pasta with meat sauce accompanied by a salad and whole-grain Italian bread with olive or canola oil spread plus low-fat milk is a perfect recovery meal for youth athletes. Keep healthy snacks handy — fresh fruit; veggies and hummus; low-fat cheese and yogurt; and low-fat microwave popcorn (yes that’s OK); or NUTRI-TEEN Oat Bars.
Carbohydrates are an important fuel for an athlete. Carbs are stored as fuel inside muscles (as glycogen) and athletes need full carbohydrate stores before intense activity. We've got a dedicated article for parents and youth athletes, acting as a guide to carbs and protein for youth athletes. Carbs are also needed after a workout to get ready for the next day's events and to refuel muscle glycogen used in training / match play. Carbs are the only fuel that can be used for power moves — a jump, a sprint into the box or an overhead smash all need carbohydrates.
  • Eat a light snack before practice (especially if you have early lunch period), such as half of a turkey sandwich or an orange and string cheese, along with 1 to 2 cups of water.
  • After practice or a game, refuel with a water or a low-fat chocolate milk, a banana and a handful of nuts.

Build Muscle with Protein from Foods
Muscles can get all the protein they need from foods! Lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt as high-quality protein sources for young athletes. Specific examples include:
  • Lean Beef. This should be a staple of your diet if you are trying to gain muscle mass.
  • Skinless Chicken.
  • Cottage Cheese.
  • Eggs.
  • Whey Protein.
  • Tuna and Other Fish. Mackerel is also a good source of Omega 3&6 (Wholesome Fats)
  • Oatmeal (Porridge is a great breakfast food)
  • Whole Grains
  • Tofu, beans and lentils are good sources of protein.
Tip: Try to include protein in every meal to help muscles recover.
Even with these tips, you might still have questions about your specific situation. After all, each young athlete is unique, with different needs, goals, and preferences. Fortunately, at YSN, we have experienced nutritionists on hand who would love to provide further assistance. We understand that navigating the world of youth sports nutrition can be complex, and we're here to make it easier.
You can book a personalised consultation with a nutritionist through our nutritional support page. They can provide tailored advice to suit your specific nutritional needs and help you achieve your fitness goals. Ready to take your sports performance to the next level? Book your consultation today: YSN Nutritional Support.
Pack Snacks
Active teens need snacks to boost calories and to satisfy cravings. Listen to your cravings as it is your bodies way of telling you you need a particular nutrient, just remember to satisfy cravings with healthy choices for teen athletes and try to avoid them by eating more substantial meals. Here some backpack-friendly snacks:


If you're finding it challenging to ensure your young athlete is getting enough protein from whole foods, then YSN's Food Powder NUTRI-TEEN shakes could be the solution you're looking for. Specifically designed to cater to the nutritional needs of active youths, this food powder can help fill in any dietary gaps, providing the high-quality protein that's crucial for muscle recovery and growth.

Available in several kid-approved flavours, these shakes offer a quick, easy, and tasty way to boost your child's protein intake. What sets NUTRI-TEEN shakes apart is their focus on supporting active youths during their vital growth and development phases, as well as facilitating recovery.

Please remember, these shakes are not meant to replace a balanced diet of whole foods. Instead, they're designed to complement it, particularly when your child's dietary needs are heightened due to intense training sessions. If ensuring adequate protein through food alone is proving difficult, consider adding YSN NUTRI-TEEN shakes to your young athlete's nutritional plan for that added support.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about nutrition for youth athletes and is not meant to replace professional dietary advice or individual nutritional counselling. Every child's nutritional needs can vary due to factors such as age, size, physical activity level, and medical conditions. We strongly recommend consulting with a registered dietitian or a healthcare provider before making changes to your child's diet, such as adding food powders. YSN and the author of this article do not take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, dietary modification, action, or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this article.
  1. National Health Service (NHS) accessed May 2017

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