How Many Calories Does a High School Basketball Player Need?

Making sure your teen athlete is eating the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients each day is a big job. It’s hard to know exactly how much a teenager will eat in a day, let alone an active teen athlete. 

High school basketball players need around 2,400 calories per day for females and 3,000 calories per day for males, depending on several factors like gender, height, weight, and activity level.

Help your teenage basketball player perform at the best of their ability and remain healthy. Get calorie recommendations, daily food group amounts, healthy tips, and more below for feeding your basketball star. 

How Many Calories Should a Teenage Basketball Player Eat? 

Some teenagers can eat! Especially teenage athletes. How do you keep those kids fed? Teenage basketball athletes need about 3000 calories per day and sometimes as much as 4000 calories per day. Teenage athletes are going through a big stage of growth, plus they are exercising many hours per week. That means they need a lot of energy and nutrients! Make sure they are eating the right stuff to fuel their body for top athletic performance and growth benefits for success.

When it comes to eating, diet and exercise go hand in hand in order to have top health and performance of high school athletes. To help you have an idea for how much food a teenage basketball athlete should be eating, this post discusses calorie recommendations and nutrient requirements.

What Factors Increase Calorie Recommendations for Teenage Basketball Players: 

Growing teenagers going through puberty need extra calories and have additional nutritional needs.

Athletes need extra calories and have additional nutritional needs.

So teenage athletes are like the double bonus- they have major additional nutritional needs.

Your body requires more calories during the teenage years than at any other time in life. High school basketball players are expending more energy plus they are growing and developing into adults. They need the appropriate calories to fuel their bodies for basketball and growth. The extra calories are needed to help them grow taller and bigger and develop more muscle mass.

Caloric and nutrient needs increase with height, weight, BMI, more exercise, and other factors. Basketball players also may have more muscle mass than typical teenagers, meaning they burn more calories at rest and require more calories to maintain muscle mass.

The amount of food and calories teenage basketball players can eat also depends on age, gender, and skill level of the basketball player (how vigorously they move during basketball). Because basketball is an intense sport, high school basketball players need more calories and nutrients than the average teenager during basketball season.

Need more help with an eating plan? Check out my Nutrition Game Plan for Teen Basketball Players eBook

How Many Calories Should A Teenage Basketball Player Eat?

The average teen male requires around 2,800 calories per day while females require 2,000 calories per day. With participation in higher intensity sports, such as basketball, teen athletes need more nutrients than the average teenager. The daily calorie recommendation for teen basketball players is anywhere from 3,000-4,000 calories per day for males and 2,000-3,000 calories per day for females.

At this stage of teenage puberty years, nutrient needs are increased to support growth and development and hormonal changes. Then a teenage basketball athlete needs an additional increase in calories to also fuel physical activity appropriately.

In general, I would recommend starting with at least 3000 calories per day for a teenage male high school basketball athlete, and 2400 for females. My meal plans are written at 2,400 calories per day for females and 3000 calories per day for males, but amounts can easily be adjusted based on needs. 

Calorie needs are just an estimate, not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. This is based on age, average size, and amount of exercise per day for a basketball athlete (about 2-3 hours of basketball practice). Individual requirements can be calculated and are based on gender, height, weight, body composition, activity level, and more.

You can calculate your own recommended calorie range fairly accurately with a calorie calculator right here. (This uses the Mifflin-St Jeor equation to calculate BMR, the most accurate method, but is typically used for adults.)

You can also use this chart from the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to quickly estimate daily calorie needs:

Daily Calorie Recommendations for Teen Boys

AgeNot ActiveModerately ActiveActive
142,000 2,4002,800

Daily Calorie Recommendations for Teen Girls

AgeNot ActiveModerately ActiveActive

Activity Levels:

  • Not Active – Minimal activity, only moving for tasks needed for daily life, such as walking to class, chores.
  • Moderately Active – Engages in activity needed for daily living, plus 30 to 40 minutes of activity.
  • Active – Engages in activity needed for daily life, plus activity equivalent to more than 40 minutes.

Calorie equations are just an estimate because each person is different. While these recommendations are not personalized for each individual type of athlete, they can be a handy guide to get you started.

While it can be helpful to know calorie needs, following calorie recommendations each day can be tedious by keeping a food log of everything you eat. Instead, it’s best to learn how to eat by listening to your hunger cues and learning recommendations to fuel workouts.

If your goal is to gain weight, eat a little bit more than normal, and if your goal is to lose weight, eat a little bit less. I’ll share more specific tips to get you started.

See also: How to Gain Weight and Muscle – for Teen Basketball Players

What Should A Basketball Player Eat? 

Now that you have an idea of how many calories you need per day as a teenage basketball athlete, what do you actually need to eat each day? 

I don’t usually recommend counting calories daily (unless you have specific goals), but recommend to learn to eat an appropriate amount of food and nutrients at appropriate times throughout the day. It might be helpful once or twice a month to keep a food log and total calories and nutrients to get an idea of habits, but it’s best to learn how to eat with a good balance that will supply you with the nutrients you need.

A high school basketball player should have a balanced diet of each of the food groups in order to get the nutrients they need to fuel their growing bodies.

Here’s a quick example of foods from each of the food groups:

  • Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese are great choices. 
  • Fruit: Eat a balance of fruit in every color. Choose from fresh, cooked, frozen, canned, dried, and juice. 
  • Vegetables: Choose a variety of vegetables in every color. Choose from fresh, cooked, frozen, canned, dried, and juice. 
  • Protein Foods: Choose animal and plant sources of protein such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. 
  • Grains: Choose healthy options such as oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat crackers, etc. 

It is easier to focus on the correct amount of food from each food group than to count calories. The average teenage (male and female?) needs about 3 servings of dairy per day, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of vegetables, 6 1/2 ounces of protein (see protein equivalents and ounces of grain equivalents) in order to meet nutritional needs and hit their calorie recommendations, about 2800 calories per day. 

See also: Free Nutrition Meal Plan for Teenage Basketball Players

Food Group Recommendations for a High School Basketball Player (starting at 3000 calories):

Male (3,000 calories)Female (2,400 calories)
Dairy3 cups3 cups
Grains10 ounces8 ounces
Protein7 ounces6 ½ ounces
Fruits2 ½ cups2 cups
Vegetables4 cups 3 cups

This is a good starting point for athletes as well. In order for high school basketball players to reach their calorie goal, they should focus on getting a balance from each food group and slowly increasing their intake to hit the recommendations. 

Do your best to follow a healthy eating plan and you will notice tremendous performance benefits on the basketball court.

Parents Are Still in Control of Teen’s Eating Habits

The teenage years are crucial for developing healthy eating habits and food preparation skills. High schoolers often lack the ability and skills to prepare their own meals, plus they typically don’t help with grocery shopping or food preparation at home.

Along with school, homework, jobs, getting enough sleep, and other extracurricular activities and responsibilities, hectic schedules may make it difficult for basketball players to plan ahead well enough for meal times to get the appropriate nutrition they need.

Trying to get a proper diet is difficult enough as a teen, but add a basketball schedule of 1-2 games per week and 2-3 hour practices after school, it can be stressful. Teens need some help planning meals from home.

Parents please help your teen eat right! It doesn’t need to be overly-complicated, but please help your teen. Teach them some healthy eating habits plus food-prep skills for success. Teens are more independent and can buy their own food so talk to them about healthy choices.

See also:

Tips for Parents to Encourage Teens to Eat a Healthy Diet: 

Let your child prepare simple meals- Teach teens to prepare a healthy breakfast by themselves, or help when they are in a rush.

Plan ahead for lunch- Pack lunches and snacks the night before. Teach your teen how to pack an appropriate lunch. Encourage your high schooler to pack their lunch for school. USDA school lunches often don’t meet the nutrient requirements to fuel a teenage basketball player. If school lunches are the best option, talk to your teen about healthy choices.

Have dinner at home- Do your best to have a home-cooked meal as a family each night. Prepare a balanced meal that will fuel your basketball player and your family. Have your teen help in the kitchen when possible. If you are busy during the week, meal plan on weekends or try a meal delivery service to make things easier. 

Keep healthy snacks on hand- Have some healthier grab-and-go foods so your teen never skips a meal, including breakfast. Examples: fruit, hummus and crackers, string cheese, dried fruit, trail mix, low-sugar granola or energy bars, hard-boiled eggs, packaged yogurt and granola, overnight oats, etc.

Boost nutrients- If your teen is going to eat school lunch every day, send some additional snacks/fruit/veggies for added calories, protein, and overall nutrition. 

Be in control of what foods are in the house-  Buy healthy foods and leave the junk food out of your grocery cart and out of your house. You are the “gate-keeper”. If it is not there, it won’t be a temptation, and they won’t eat it. 

Make healthy eating a family affair- encourage the whole family to make healthier choices by including more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and also limiting junk foods, packaged foods, soda, desserts, and eating out. 

Always make a plan for the week- this will help you when grocery shopping and preparing foods. Start with one week at a time.

Choose one tip to work on at a time. It takes practice and training, but stay committed just like your teen is doing everyday for basketball. It’s worth it, your teen will learn awesome habits and skills from home that will ensure success and long term benefits.

See also: How to Gain Weight and Muscle – for Teen Basketball Players


  • Teen ballers need a tremendous amount of calories because they are growing and developing into adults and they are engaging in regular vigorous physical activity. 
  • Teen basketball players typically need 3000-4000 calories per day. Individual requirements can be calculated and are based on height, weight, body composition, activity level, gender, and more.  
  • To gain weight and reach calorie recommendations, a teenage basketball athlete should eat more often during the day and focus on high-nutrient dense foods. 
  • To gain muscle, a teen basketball player doesn’t need to eat more protein. They should focus on having a balanced diet with a slight increase in calories; with appropriate timing of protein intake throughout the day, plus extra time in the gym. 
  • A high school basketball player should aim for 3 cups of dairy, 2 1/2 cups of fruit, 4 cups of vegetables, 7 ounces of protein foods, and 10 ounces of grains per day for a healthy and balanced diet that will help them reach nutrient and calorie recommendations. 
  • Most high schoolers do not prepare their own meals, they need assistance from parents and family for success.

Related Questions

How Many Calories Do You Burn in a High School Basketball Game? A teenager burns around 500-800 calories per hour in a high school basketball game depending on size, intensity, and duration of play. Basketball is a combination of running, jumping, dribbling, shooting, passing, and burns a lot of calories.

How Many Calories Should a High School Basketball Player Eat? A high school basketball player needs to eat about 3,000 calories per day for males and 2,400 calories per day for females. Meals should be around 500-800 calories each and snacks around 100-300 calories each.

How Many Calories Does an NBA Player Eat in a Day? NBA players typically eat around 3,000-5,000 calories per day and sometimes more depending on level of training and overall fitness and health goals. They eat less on rest days and in the off season.

What Should I Eat for Basketball? The best things to eat for basketball include healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Ideas include oatmeal, rice bowls, chicken salad, fajitas, veggie wraps, whole grain pasta, eggs and toast, and protein smoothies.

See Also

Written by Katherine Harmer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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