Nutrition for Teenage Swimmers: How Much Protein is Right?

by SwimSwam 9

June 08th, 2016 Lifestyle, Masters, Opinion

Courtesy of P2 Life, a SwimSwam partner. 

In addition to the significant amounts of food they require for training, adolescent swimmers have higher energy and nutrient needs than mature swimmers. Adolescents are still growing and developing, and growth requires proper nutrition and extra calories. If nutritional needs are not met, children will show signs of fatigue and lack the ability to build muscle and recover efficiently from their strenuous workouts as well as likely weakened immune systems. Since protein is an important part of muscle development and recovery, how much is right for your teen?

Why is protein important?

It is important for any athlete to consume healthy protein foods, combined with smaller amounts of carbohydrates. Protein not only helps to build muscle, but it stabilizes our blood sugar, keeping energy and endurance steady. Increasing protein intake above the RDA ‘daily allowance’ will increase protein synthesis and, at levels higher than double this total, decrease protein breakdown. Protein is also a critical nutritional component of muscle repair and should be eaten after a workout to aid in this process. If teens aren’t getting enough protein in their training diets, their muscles are not going to recover properly which leads to premature injuries and strains.

How much is recommended?

So how much protein should your teen aim for while training? To begin, the USDA recommends that females who are active take in 1,600-2,000 calories a day for ages 9-13 and 1,800-2,200 calories a day for ages 14-18. For young males, it’s recommended that ages 9-13 years old take in 2,000 calories a day, while ages 14-18 years old get 2,400-2,800 calories a day. But for an active, athletic teen, they’ll need more sustenance, since a two-hour practice adds about 1,200 calories to a swimmers’ dietary requirements. For the right protein ratio, aim for about 30% of your dietary calories to come from protein.

Also, if you are an athlete or highly active person currently attempting to lose body fat while preserving lean muscle mass, a daily intake of 1.5-2.2g/kg bodyweight (0.68-1g/lb bodyweight) would be a good target, with the goal a little lower if you are an athlete or highly active person, or you are attempting to lose body fat while preserving lean mass, then a daily intake of 1.0-1.5g/kg bodyweight (0.45-0.68g/lb bodyweight) would be a good target. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, these levels of protein intakes for physically active individuals is not only safe, but may improve the training adaptations to exercise training.

In addition, the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine also support high protein intake for active individuals in the range of 1.2-1.7 g/kg of bodyweight (0.5-0.8 g/lb of bodyweight). In recent years, the results of a number of investigations involving both strength and endurance athletes indicate that, in fact, exercise does increase protein/amino acid need. So your teen may need more than the average child, based on their body weight, gender, age, and overall training goals.

Protein Power

When preparing meals for your teen, aim for lean sources of protein like meats, chicken, and fish. Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts are great snacks are a great source of high quality protein and healthy omega 3 fats. Nutritional powders can also be a fantastic tool for energy and can be added to smoothies with fruit and blended for breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. You can also carry a small pack of protein powder with you to meets and add water for a healthy snack. Another way to get protein is with protein bars that are whole food based. This is a good idea to carry in your backpack if you have difficulty getting well balanced meals with high quality proteins in before or after training because of busy school and homework schedules.

You and your teenage swimmer can enjoy optimal health and performance with a little planning. Getting the right amount, and right type, of protein is important for their development and will put them on the path to athletic success.

P2 Life 2016 Bio banner

About P2Life

P2Life is family owned, performance-based, nutritional supplement company that was designed for swimmers, by swimmers. P2Life takes great care in ensuring that every batch of their performance line is tested to be free of banned and illegal substances.

Over the past couple years, athletes taking P2Life products have had some astounding results. See below for more.

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  • Over 40% of the USA Men’s National team that were taking P2Life products brought home 11 medals in total. Seven of those were gold medals.
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  • Over 600+ of 5 out of 5-star reviews P2Life has received from verified buyers who have purchased our products. (That’s a higher rating than the iPhone 6).
  • The percentage of P2Life Masters athletes who have been inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame.
  • Over 80 National Age Group Records have been set by athletes taking P2Life products.
    A 100% pass rate for P2Life products that have undergone 3rd party testing, and have been certified free of banned or illegal substances.
  • Every batch made, is sent and tested, safe.
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Courtesy of  P2Life, a SwimSwam ad partner.

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7 years ago

When will the Vanilla nutriboost be back???? I miss it

Reply to  VanillaLover
7 years ago

:(. Soon. I has not been discontinued.

7 years ago

I tried to find a contact for your company on your webpage but could not. I was concerned about the use of soy and sugar and sucralose in your product. All three concern me. I am used to products that are pure whey protein isolate with no soy. Can you explain more why you have chosen those ingredients? I guess I am cautious to give my teen a product with soy and fructose on it as perceived as healthy. Thanks

Reply to  Jen
7 years ago

You’re right to be afraid of soy…it’s really, really bad for you. All about the whey!

Reply to  Sprintdude9000
7 years ago

Everything in moderation. In fact, Soy has shown to have amazing benefits in the correct amounts. If you take too much, then I would agree it’s not ideal, but the same can be applied to anything. Sugar is super important, in the right amounts. Too much of it and it becomes a negative.

There are a ton of studies showing the benefits of Soy. Whey is great, but again it depends on your goals. Casein is also a fantastic choice. We have found the combo of those three (Whey, Casein, and Soy) works very very well. Read above for more details.

Reply to  Jen
7 years ago

Hi Jen,

Thanks for reaching out! I responded to your question via email but to add some clarity I will also respond a summary version here. 🙂

Everything in moderation.
Is Soy bad for you? In the amounts, we’ve put into the Nutriboost, no. It depends on the amounts you have, just like with any other food. If you are not aware, Soy is one of the complete proteins for humans out there.

We formulated our products with the swimmer in mind. Swimmers’ builds and needs are very different to say a footballer. Having just whey is fantastic if you want to look at gaining power and muscle mass (assuming there is weight training involved, which most swimmers are… Read more »

Reply to  Michael
7 years ago

Is your so Gmo free? From what I have read soy is one of the most genetically engineered food products. Also from what I have been told by medical professionals is soy can mimic estrogen in the body which can affect many aspects and systems in the body especially the thyroid and adrenals. Thanks for your replies it is great to hear more info.

jay ryan
7 years ago

I hate to be contentious, but an average 2 hr swimming practice adds about 4000 to 5000 Cal (not 1200 Cal) to your energy requirements. 1200 Cal is likely the amount of Cal burned by a recreational swimmer puttering around in free swim for 2 hr. Many male college and elite swimmers training doubles (4-5 hr) eat approximately 12-14000 Cal/day. This was the case with Michael Phelps as revealed in his “up close and personals”, and it was true during our intermittent Cal counts when I was in college. No one was putting on weight so we were in “steady state”. During our brief weeks of off season, everyone gained 10-20# in no time so our eating habits caught up… Read more »

Reply to  jay ryan
7 years ago

Thanks for the feedback Jay. I guess it depends on the level/duration at which you are training and your age. This article is mainly focused on teenage swimmers between the ages of 13-17 or so that are training roughly 2 hours daily, not college swimmers. If you are training at your levels, then I would agree that the calorie burn is much higher than mentioned and closer to the 3000-5000 added calorie burn rate. I think ideally it needs to be looked at the intensity and duration when it comes to total calories used. Typically we are trying to show that for every 2 hours of exercise, you burn roughly around the 1200 mark – some will be more due… Read more »