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Ages & Stages

Carbohydrates for Energy

Child eating pasta. Child eating pasta

About 50% to 55% of a teen athlete’s daily energy requirement should come from carbohydrates. In practical terms, this works out in the following way: a young athlete consuming 2,500 calories a day needs on average about 1,250 carbohydrate calories daily, equivalent to about 312 g (11 oz) of carbohydrate food, or 6 to 11 servings.

To Load or Not To Load?

For short, intense bursts of activity, such as sprints or weight-lifting events, athletes get their energy from glucose stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Longer events requiring sustained effort draw calories first from glycogen, then from body fat. Some athletes try the technique known as carbohydrate loading to boost their glycogen stores just before a major competition. The idea is to consume as many carbohydrates as possible while cutting down on the time spent training on the day before the event. Carbohydrate loading also requires extra water and juices because glycogen needs extra water for storage.

Although carbohydrate loading can help athletes taking part in endurance events lasting 90 minutes or longer, it is not recommended for shorter competitions or for athletes taking part in sports at the high school level. Teenaged athletes should meet at least half of their daily energy requirements with carbohydrates.

A carbohydrate snack or a drink of juice right after a training session helps to replace the glycogen in muscles. Carbohydrates at the next meal will help to keep the muscles primed for training.

Carbohydrates and Calories in a Few Everyday Foods

Breads and cereals


 Food, Serving Size  Carbohydrates (g)  Calories
 White or whole wheat, 1 slice  12  65
 Bagel (1 medium)  38  200
 Corn flakes, sugar-frosted, 3/4 cup  26  110
 Cracker, graham, 2 pieces  11  60
 English muffin  27  140
 Taco shell  7  50
 Toaster pastry, 1  35  195


Fruits and juices


 Food, Serving Size  Carbohydrates (g)  Calories
 Apple, 1 medium  21  80
 Banana, 1 medium  27  105
 Orange juice, fresh, 1/2 cup  13  55
 Raisins, 1 1/2-oz package  10  40


Pasta, cooked firm, drained (1 cup)


 Food, Serving Size  Carbohydrates (g)  Calories
 Macaroni  39  190
 Egg noodles  37  200
 Spaghetti  39  190


Rice (1 cup)


 Food, Serving Size  Carbohydrates (g)  Calories
 Brown or enriched white  25  115


Vegetables and legumes


 Food, Serving Size    Carbohydrates (g) Calories
 Black beans, cooked, 1/2 cup    20 115
 Black-eyed peas, cooked, 1/2 cup    18 95
 Carrot, raw, 1 medium    7 30
 Celery, raw, 1 stalk    -- 5
 Corn, boiled, 1 ear    19 85
 Kidney beans, cooked, 1/2 cup    20 110
 Potato, baked, 1 medium    50 220
 Potato, french-fried in vegetable oil, frozen (10 pieces)    20 160


Yogurt, low-fat, 8 oz


 Food, Serving Size  Carbohydrates (g)  Calories
 Plain  16  145
 Fruit flavored  43  230


Last Updated
Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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