Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition and Hydration for Adolescents

By Kati Epps – August 6, 2022

The heat of summer is still in full swing, but school is about to start, which means the fall sports activities are getting back to practice. I love fall — being back in the stands cheering on my favorite growing athletes! As a mom of three boys, there is nothing more joyful than watching them engage in their favorite activities and learn the great lessons of life through sports.

There is also nothing more stressful than making sure I’m fueling them well for before school, after school and weekend activities. I want to make sure I’m providing the right nutrition to keep their energy levels up but also repair their bodies from previous workouts. I look at hydration and protein intake, making sure they have both slow-digesting and quick carbohydrates as well as great fats for repair and growth. It’s a lot to think about, which is where a great list comes in handy!

1. Hydration

Hydration needs to come in before it’s actually necessary. If you have a long tournament weekend, hydrating starting the Monday before is key. With football two-a-days, hydration needs to happen before, during and after workouts. Hydration isn’t just water; it’s electrolytes also. Electrolytes are the salts, or minerals, that are released in sweat. Calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and phosphate are essential to keep the body hydrated and must be incorporated into the process. Getting electrolytes in the body efficiently has been made easy over the years with sports drinks and electrolyte tabs, but you can also utilize food!

  • Fruit: Watermelon, bananas, pineapple, oranges, apples
  • Vegetables: Cucumber, carrots, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, pickles
  • Coconut Water: Sweetened or unsweetened
  • Fish: Salmon, cod, mahi-mahi, trout, sea bass, halibut
  • Animal Protein: Chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork

2. Protein Intake

Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. To maintain and rebuild muscle from strenuous activity, protein from plant or animal sources needs to be consumed. As a general rule, children only need about 10% to 12% of their daily calorie intake as protein. Protein is 4 calories per gram. This would potentially look like 50 to 60 grams of protein for a 15-year-old female. Depending on the amount of calorie expenditure per day and how many calories the athlete is consuming, this could fluctuate.

  • Plant Protein: Rice, beans and lentils, oats, quinoa, dark leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts/Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Dairy: Greek yogurt, plain or chocolate milk, low-fat cow cheese, goat or sheep cheese
  • Animal Protein: Chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork, fish, eggs

3. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the energy source that services the body. Slow-digesting carbohydrates work for the endurance of the athlete’s day. Quick-digesting carbohydrates can be consumed right before or during high-intensity workouts or games. Carbohydrates are also 4 calories per gram but should make up close to 50% to 60% of an athlete’s calories per day. 

  • Slow-Digesting Carbohydrates: Sweet potato or white potato, brown or wild rice, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, butternut or acorn squash, hummus, beans and lentils
  • Quick-Digesting Carbohydrates: Fruit, sweet vegetables like bell pepper, tomatoes or carrots, white rice, fresh pasta, fruit snacks

4. Repairing Fats

Creating an environment in the body to repair tissue after a strenuous workout and prepare the body for more to come is so important for our young athletes. There is so much happening during natural growth from adolescence into adulthood — ligaments, tendons and bone tissue grow with the new muscle the athletes are training. Part of youth sports needs to be preventative care as well as maintenance and growth. Fats at 9 calories per gram and should make up 25% to 35% of a youth athlete’s caloric intake. 

  • Fruit: Avocados are the best-known and easy-to-eat fruit with an abundance of healthy fats
  • Nuts/Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Healthy Oils: Olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, coconut oil 
  • Dairy: Greek yogurt, plain or chocolate milk, low-fat cow cheese, goat cheese, sheep cheese, butter
  • Animal Fats: Salmon, fatty fishes, beef, dark poultry meat, lamb, bison

With this great list of foods, check out the section below to see what a hydrating fueling menu looks like for a growing athlete. Making sure our young athletes stay properly fueled and hydrated is key to a great season. Keep energy levels up and prevent injury this year — we are rooting for you! Good luck and play great!

Teen drinking water.



Breakfast (Endurance Energy): 

½ cup oatmeal

½ cup strawberries

1 cup milk (dairy or nondairy)

1 tbsp flax seeds 

Drink 16 oz of water


Snack (Pregame or Pre-workout):

2 cups watermelon

1 slice of whole-grain toast

2 oz avocado

1 dill pickle spear

Drink 16 oz of water


Lunch (Refuel/Endurance Energy):

3 oz ground turkey

½ cup marinara sauce

2 oz whole-grain pasta

1 tbsp fresh shredded parmesan cheese

1 cup zucchini or another green vegetable

Drink 16 oz of water


Snack (Pregame or Pre-workout):

Power Smoothie:

1 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt

1 cup spinach

1 cup frozen berries

1 tsp chia seeds

1 tbsp almond butter, peanut butter, Nutella, sun butter or avocado oil

Water, ice, blend

Drink 16oz of water


Dinner (Post Workout, Post Game, Recovery):

4 oz salmon or beef

1 cup broccoli or another vegetable

4 oz red potato with 1 tbsp butter

1 tsp olive oil for cooking

2 cups salad greens

½ tbsp vinaigrette dressing made with avocado oil or olive oil

Drink 16 oz of water


About the Author

Kati Epps posing and smiling.

Coach Kati Epps is the founder of MyBody GX with a background in chemistry from Colorado State University, an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach and nutrition specialist.


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