How to Lose Weight for Young Athlete’s

Be a winner at losing! Losing weight, or losing “fat” more specifically, can be challenging.  The WINforum sport nutrition game plan for weight loss will help you stay healthy and improve performance on the field.

Lose the Fat

Some body fat is necessary for human function.  However, excess body fat can weigh down your performance.  There are no secrets to losing body fat. However, many athletes make the mistake of following fad diets, skipping meals and not fueling adequately with food when fuel is needed (at practice or during games). This results in muscle loss and decreased metabolism.


What’s the Best Diet Plan for Me?

Most diets require you to overly restrict calories and leave you “running on fumes.”  The best diet plan for you is a healthy diet that gives your body the nutrients it needs. You might choose to follow a structured diet plan or just fine-tune what you eat now. It’s critical to maintain a balanced diet that has enough calories, protein and other nutrients to support training, aid recovery and help you resist illness and injury.

weight loss scale


Weight Loss Tip: More Small Meals

“Eating small meals frequently throughout the day, rather than skipping meals or having three large meals, has been shown in the research to minimize the muscle loss associated with ‘dieting’, and prevent overeating at night.”  –Emily Edison, Momentum Sports Dietitian

Although eating at night when you are biologically hungry (tummy growling) is okay, eating excessively, when it’s not needed, will create more fuel in your storage tank (which is stored as fat).

When is the Best Time to Lose Weight?

The best time for weight loss is in the off-season or between seasons because most athletes don’t have the time or energy to focus on dietary changes and extra exercise during the season. Give yourself plenty of time to meet your goal. If you are burning 500 calories a day more than you’re eating and drinking, you’ll lose about 1 pound per week.

One way to know whether you’re losing fat and maintaining muscle is to have your body composition measured by a trained professional.

Game Plan for Weight Loss

1. Calculate Energy Requirements– Using Nutrition Fundamentals: Calories

2. Eat Frequently to Lose Weight

  • Spread calories throughout your day according to your needs. Try to have TWO meals and 1-2 snacks before afternoon practice.
  • Have a daily meal plan. Listen to your body’s signals for hunger and fullness.  Going longer than 4-5 hours without eating can lead to overeating at night. Plan on eating balanced meals and snacks during your active day. This supports muscle and metabolism, while allowing the body to use stored fat for fuel.
  • Figure out where and when you will eat. If you’ll be eating on the go, pack the healthy food and drinks that you will need. Don’t leave your eating to chance.
  • If you tend to overeat, cut down on the portion size of foods. Use slightly smaller glasses, cups, bowls and plates. Research suggests this can help reduce your portion size.  Minimize caloric beverages (soda, juice, sweetened teas), aside from low fat milk.
teen eating a burger

Many athletes utilize a Registered Dietitian, who specializes in Sport Nutrition, to help them create a diet plan for weight loss. She/he may ask you to write down what, when and how much you eat and drink for a few days. Recording what you eat and drink can be helpful in creating an eating plan that maximizes energy intake when fuel is needed.


Weight Loss Tip: Vitamins

Athletes who consume less than 1,800 calories per day have more difficulty getting the needed nutrients to support health and training. They should consider taking a multi-vitamin / mineral supplement

Exercise More to Burn More Calories- when necessary

Some athletes can benefit from additional exercise outside of practice to aid in weight loss. In most sports, one hour in practice is different than one hour of constant aerobic activity. For example, during a soccer practice, the most active players are moving at full speed for only short periods of time. Waiting in line for drills, shagging balls and listening to instruction does not burn many calories.

You’ll expend far more energy with cardiovascular workouts like running, cycling, rowing, stair climbing, spinning and other exercises where you move your legs rhythmically and constantly.  Be sure to check with your coach before adding additional exercise.

Lifelong weight maintenance depends on eating a healthy diet and moving more in everyday activities. Examples include taking the stairs instead of elevators and walking instead of driving your car. Adding more activity to your daily routine utilizes more calories without much notice.

running on the track

Don’t deprive yourself

Be sure to include favorite foods in your diet plan, as deprivation can lead to overeating, which can cause weight gain. Mix in plenty of healthy foods like fruits and veggies, whole grains and dairy.  Just don’t forget to include the occasional scoop of your favorite ice cream to round out your plan.

Remember: Skinny does not mean you are lean, and big does not mean you are fat.