Sports and nutrition: proper diet for amateur athletes

Written by: Quirin Eberl, 08.06.2021

Proper nutrition is important, especially when exercising! Find out which foods and drinks will help you get the most out of your workout. If you are just starting out with the sport, this article will be very interesting for you and support you to enhance your performance.

Why is proper nutrition important in sport? Isn’t it enough just to exercise regularly? The answer is “no”. During physical activity, available nutrients from the body’s reserves are used, including minerals, proteins and vitamins. These essential nutrients are not sufficiently present in all foods, but they are necessary for a more successful sports experience. 

The general goal should therefore be to eat a wholesome and varied diet. This is particularly important with regular exercise, as the body needs these valuable nutrients. With proper nutrition, you can achieve multiple goals at the same time. On the one hand, it ensures increased performance, general well-being and, on the other hand, helps you specifically to build muscle or lose weight.

Balanced nutrition for athletes

In the following section, you will learn which nutrients are essential to live healthy and help you to achieve the optimal performance.

Complex carbs

Hobby athletes are recommended to attach particular importance to “good” carbohydrates in their diet. This supply of nutrients should be obtained from fruits and vegetables, for example. When you think of carbohydrates, you might think of pasta or bread. Although these can provide valuable nutrients, they are not all of the same value. 

There is a big difference between good and bad carbohydrates. The difference is that while the bad carbohydrates provide the body with energy, they also cause blood sugar levels to rise sharply, which is very unhealthy. Therefore, try to avoid sugar and products made from white flour and turn to whole grain bread instead. A supply of the last-mentioned products, fruits, vegetables and legumes will provide your body with valuable and healthy energy.

In addition, you should also pay attention to the time of consumption of these carbohydrates. About two hours before exercise, you should no longer eat large meals that are rich in carbohydrates in order for your body to not have to spend energy burning the food, but rather use it for growing your muscles. This not only ensures a more comfortable workout for you because you don’t have a full stomach, but also increases performance.


Another building block of the human body is protein. Since muscles largely consist of protein, these are particularly helpful for strength training or muscle building. Together with healthy carbohydrates, these are particularly effective. However, you should not take in more than 15% of the energy gain per day. Poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and legumes are good sources of protein. It is best to combine animal and vegetable sources of protein. Again, caution is advised here, as excessive protein gain can damage the kidneys.

Healthy fats

Fat is another source of energy. However, there are big differences in what types of fat should be consumed and which will help the body to perform well in sports. A rule of thumb is to consume a total of around one gram of fat per kilogram of body weight per day. Unhealthy fat can be found in foods like chocolate or butter. Multiply saturated fatty acids, such as those found in fish, for example, are extremely healthy when used in appropriate quantities. These so-called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids strengthen the heart and circulation.


Not only the food, but also the choice of drinks influences the success of training and your well-being. A healthy adult should drink around 1.5 to 2.5 liters of water per day. However, the sweat that is lost through exercise has to be compensated for as well. Sodium-rich mineral water or fruit juices mixed with water are particularly suitable for this. The drinks should not be too cold and only contain little sugar, so the ratio of fruit juices should be around 2/3 water and 1/3 juice. By the way: Fruit juices are a suitable substitute for so-called isotonic or sports drinks and can even help to provide the body with more electrolytes and sodium.

In summary, a balanced diet with plenty of fluid intake is important in order to perform as well as possible in sport. Healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide energy and provide your body with strength so that you can do your training well. If you think you have to spend a lot more money on healthy food than on unhealthy food, take a look at this blog! This article shows you how to save money while cooking.

Here are two more nutrition tips:

  1. The greatest danger of consuming unhealthy foods comes from snacks. Since our “snacks” are often only small portions in between, we pay less attention to the ingredients. However, these are mostly calorie bombs and only provide our body with very few valuable minerals or nutrients.

2. If you find it difficult to keep track of the appropriate percentage of food intake, the food pyramid could help you! It clearly shows that (healthy) carbohydrates are the basis of the daily diet. On the second and therefore second most important level you see fruits and vegetables, which should make up another large part of your diet. Animal products, meat and proteins are important, but should only make up a subordinate percentage of your energy intake. Ultimately, there are sweets, unhealthy fats and carbohydrates, which offer your body only minimal added value and should therefore be reduced to a minimum.


I am currently eating very unhealthily. Are there any tips and tricks for making a permanent switch to a healthy diet?

As often in life, however, the following applies: The dose makes the poison. While it is important to eat healthy and appreciate your body, you can of course indulge occasionally in something that will keep you motivated and happy. The purpose of this is to reward yourself so that it is easier to eat healthier. Another tip for switching to a healthy diet in the long term is not to make extreme changes. If you are currently eating a little unhealthy, you should slowly introduce yourself to a change in diet, both physically and mentally. This means that you do not need to immediately throw away all the sweets and only buy fruit and vegetables, but gradually minimize the consumption of unhealthy and harmful foods and drinks while increasing the intake of healthy foods. If you make a radical change in your diet, your body can fight it and you run the risk of falling into old patterns after a while out of habit or simply losing desire and motivation.

Do I actually have to eat more when I exercise?

Yes, those who are physically active have an increased energy expenditure and should therefore consume more. Often, however, the increased energy consumption is overestimated, since various activities usually do not burn as many calories as assumed. It is therefore advisable to check beforehand how many calories a particular sport burns for the time performed and to adjust your nutrition plan accordingly. A recommendation, however, is not only to pay attention to the increase in food, but also to keep an eye on the fluid balance. For example, a man burns around 448 calories in an hour of jogging, but sweats 750ml to 1500ml. This shows that you should keep an eye on the fluid balance when you exercise. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium or iron are lost through sweat, which must be replenished with the help of mineral water or tap water with a high mineral content. If you are a fan of home workouts, this article about homeworkouts is just right for you.

Here you have a small overview that can make your training easier and improve your performance:

Before the training

As a rule of thumb, the shorter the time left before training, the less you should eat. It is best to refrain from eating about two hours before exercising. If this is not possible, you should make sure to eat easily digestible and low-fat foods that provide you with carbohydrates and proteins. You could eat oven vegetables with a little quark or raw vegetables on the side. Greek yogurt with fruit is also a delicious alternative for pre- exercise. If you have about two hours until the next training session, you can have oatmeal or muesli with some curd cheese too. Do not drink too much water before exercising, as this can lead to stomach ache.

Durring the training

During training you should, if at all possible, refrain from eating so that your energy is focused on losing weight and building muscle and does not have to deal with digestion. Regularly drink small amounts of water or fruit juice mixed with water to restore your electrolyte balance.

After training

After exercising, you should consume protein and a small amount of carbohydrates. Eat, for example, lentils, low-fat quark / curd cheese or lean meat. This replenishes the emptied energy stores and helps you build muscle and lose weight.

Here is a brief overview of which foods are suitable for the most common sports. A distinction is made between before and after training.

  • Soccer
    Before: pasta or rice with turkey meat
    After: fruit juice with water or mineral water
  • Running
    Before: eggs, raw vegetables or yogurt
    After: If your goal is to lose weight, you should eat protein-rich foods such as meat or dairy products. Do you train for endurance, strengthen yourself with pasta or wholemeal bread with curd cheese.

Psst! If you need a few jogging tips, take a look at this blog. 

  • Weight training
    Before: fruit or yogurt
    After: dairy products and meat


We hope we were be able to give you a good overview of the right nutrition! It may seem like a big change at the beginning, but there are many delicious meals that can be prepared with healthy foods that will support you in your training performance. Try to implement changes bit by bit so you can stick to it!

Most importantly: have fun and success with your sporty goals!

Here are some brain foods and happy mood foods that can also enhance your diet!


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