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Carbohydrate Intake for Teens

by Jonae Fredericks

Teens need a certain amount of carbohydrates in order for their bodies to gain muscle and create energy. Carbohydrates, once eaten, break down into simple sugars that enter the bloodstream, according to KidsHealth. The more carbohydrates a teen consumes, the more insulin -- a hormone -- the pancreas produces to create energy for his body. Eating the right amount of carbohydrates is essential to keeping the teen body running as it should.

Carbohydrates and Calories

The National Institutes of Health recommends a certain amount of calories for teens based on their activity levels. Carbohydrate needs are based on these caloric guidelines. For instance, a somewhat active 13-year-old girl requires 1,600 to 2,000 calories -- boys 1,800 to 2,200 calories. Girls between the ages of 14 and 18 who are somewhat active need 2,000 -- boys 2,400 to 2,800 calories. Somewhat active 19-year-old girls require 2,000 to 2,200 calories, while boys require 2,600 to 2,800 calories.

Daily Recommendations

The Food and Nutrition Board, along with the Institute of Medicine, suggests a Recommended Dietary Allowance of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day for teen boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 19. What this means is that 45 to 65 percent of a teen’s daily diet should contain carbohydrates. For example, a teen who requires a daily diet of 2,000 calories, 45 percent amounts to 900 carbohydrate calories per day -- 2,000 calories x .45 = 900.

Athletic Teens

An athletic teen requires more than the IOM’s recommended amount of carbohydrates in his diet each day. The University of Florida IFAS Extension explains that as a main source of fuel, a teen athlete’s carbohydrate intake should remain between 60 and 70 percent of his caloric intake each day. While a very active 15-year-old girl requires 2,400 calories each day, a teen boy of the same age needs between 2,800 and 3,200 calories each day. At 70 percent, the 15-year-old teen girl’s highest carbohydrate amount is 1,680 calories -- 2,400 x .70 = 1,680 -- and the 15-year-old teen boy’s highest carbohydrate amount for the day is 2,240 calories or 3,200 x .70 = 2,240.

Type Matters

Cookies, cake and candy contain simple sugars that break down quickly, causing sugar levels to skyrocket. However, complex carbohydrates -- starchy foods such as legumes and vegetables -- take more time to break down, resulting in a slower, more beneficial release of sugar that the body counts on for energy. Healthy sources of carbohydrates for teens are foods that contain whole grains, brown rice, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, according to KidsHealth. While complex carbohydrates should make up the bulk of a teen’s daily carbohydrate intake, a sweet snack every now and then is OK, too.

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