Wellness News & Info

Nutritional Needs of the Adolescent and Adult

By Mary Howard RN

Recently my articles have focused on weight loss. In this article, I would like to clarify the nutritional needs of the growing adolescent and the adult. In some of my past articles we covered the nutritional requirements of pregnancy and childhood we’ll make this article expand from there and talk about the nutritional requirements of adolescents, adults and elderly. There are many of you that suffer health conditions that debilitate your body and pull hard on your energy stores.

Adolescence is a time of major growth for young people and so it’s also a time of amazing nutritional needs. Adolescents do 20% to 25% of their growth in 24 to 36 months on average. The statistics of growth just amaze me.

Girls usually start their growth spurt between 8 and 14 years of age and are usually finished growing within 3 years. On average, a girl will grow 2 to 8 inches and gain 15 to 55 pounds.

Boys on average begin their growth spurt about 10 to 16 years of age. During this time they grow 4 to 12 inches and gain 15 to 65 pounds. For boys, this usually ceases at 18 to 20 years of age.

Adolescent energy needs for boys are 2500 to 3000 calories per day. Protein requirements are 46 to 59 grams per day. Girls energy needs are about 2200 calories per day and protein requirements are 44 to 46 grams per day. The need for vitamins and minerals are also very high during adolescence.

Young adulthood – skeletal growth is usually completed by about age 25, but height may increase another 1/4 to 1/2 inch by age 30. Age 30 is usually peak muscular strength and endurance.

At around age 30 is when your life-style, heredity, nutritional habits, and gender have the largest impact on your weight and general well being for the rest of your life. Young adult calorie needs on average for women are 1900 calories and for men are 2200 calories a day. Protein requirements from here on out are basically the same for all ages. About 0.8 grams/kilogram of body weight. [Divide your weight in pounds by 2.5 to get Kilograms of body weight]. Athletes or those in a strength building program need higher protein requirements – at least 1.0 g/kg of body weight/day.


Weight: 130 lbs = 52 kilograms

0.8 x 52 = approximately 42 grams of protein needed per day


Nutrition of the aging and aged adult varies widely based on health and diseases they have weathered in their younger years. During middle and older adulthood, there is a gradual cell loss and decrease in metabolism. With that comes a gradual decrease in performance of most body systems. These changes are both physical and mental and may occur quickly in one organ system and slowly in another. Each of us varies widely in the rate and order that this deterioration takes place.

In general, lean body mass loss gradually accelerates as we age. For example by age 70 the kidneys and lungs lose about 10% of their weight and the liver loses about 18% of its weight. The skeletal muscles may decrease by as much as 40%. We also don’t have the reserve capacity that we used to.

As we age, we also have factors that change our food patterns. For example we have a decrease in digestive juices, a decreased ability to absorb nutrients and a decreased sense of smell and taste. For these reasons the foods consumed need to have flavor and nutrition. We still have the same nutrient requirement as the young adult but most generally we have a decreased over-all energy need.

An interesting finding is that nutrition even plays a role in mental alertness as you age. A balance of protein, vitamins and minerals is very important. One of the best ways to better get the nutrients you need is to continue to eat a large variety of foods. It is easy as we age to fall in a rut of eating the same foods all the time but “variety” really IS “the spice of life”.

One interesting factor I notice while researching for this article is that WATER is so, so important no matter what age you are. It is important for cell growth, hydration, and cleansing. In this same vein, it is also important to NOT overload your body with stuff it doesn’t need or know what to do with like smoking, alcohol use, unnecessary drugs or medications, concentrated sweets and processed food chemicals.

It all comes back to “we are what we eat” and “everything in moderation.” With this philosophy we can age more gracefully and with less pain. There are many disease processes that you cannot control, but by fortifying your body with nutritious food the best you know how will give you the ammunition to fight the fight the best you can.

References for this article taken from:

1.”Essentials of Nutrition and Diet Therapy”

By Sue Rodwell Williams, Ph.D., MPH, RD.


2. “Nursing Care of Infants and Children”

By Lucille F. Whaley RN, Ed.D, and

Donna L. Wong, RN., MN., PNP., CPN.


3. “Principles and Practice of Adult Health Nursing”

By Patricia Gauntlett Beare, RN, PhD and

Judith L. Myers, RN, MSN



Mary Howard is a Registered Nurse, mother of two, and enjoys natural gardening. She hosts this Site: www.Powerlinehealth.com

Health Article & Information Disclaimer: The health articles on this site are designed for educational purposes only and we do not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. These products make no claims. If you feel that you have a health problem, you should seek the advice of your Physician or health care Practitioner.