5 Most Important Nutrition Tips for Amateur Athletes | Stephen Coleclough
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5 Most Important Nutrition Tips for Amateur Athletes

5 Most Important Nutrition Tips for Amateur Athletes

All amateur athletes want to perform well in their chosen sport.

However, to do so, you must ensure that your body has the nutrition it requires for energy, muscle growth, and tissue repair.

Correct nutrition will maximise your athletic performance and strengthen your body — helping you to avoid injuries.

In this post, I’ll be sharing the 5 most important nutrition tips for amateur athletes.

They are easy-to-remember tips that can dramatically improve your performance.

Let’s check them out.

#1 — Get enough calories

Amateur athletes with a rigorous training schedule require a surprisingly large number of calories each day.

Ensuring that your body requires the calories it needs is essential for muscle growth, training recovery, general health, and performance in your chosen sport.

If you fail to obtain sufficient calories from your diet, you may begin to suffer from Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S).

This condition can have a negative impact on your heath, including decreased bone density, impaired immune system performance, and disruption of metabolic processes.

So how many calories do you need as an amateur athlete?

It depends on a variety of factors, including your gender, height, age, weight, the athletic activity being performed and the intensity of your training schedule.

If you are a 6 foot male weightlifter or wrestler, for example, you will obviously need more calories than a 5 foot female runner (although runners also need a lot of calories compared to the average person).

Nanna Meyer, a sports dietitian who works with Olympic athletes, says that high-level Olympic athletes can consume anywhere between 3,000 to 8,000 calories per day.

For people playing team sports like soccer, basketball, or hockey their calorie requirements are about 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day.

Athletes performing in sports that require bursts of energy have a far greater variance, consuming anywhere between 2,000 to 6,000 calories per day.

Endurance athletes usually consume the most calories.

Pro cyclists, for example, can consume as much as 6,000 to 8,000 calories per day and will burn 10 to 15 calories per minute during a race.

Although you may not need as many calories as a pro athlete does, your caloric requirement is likely to be higher than the average adult’s.

Make sure you fuel your body with a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and healthy fats.

#2 — Eat plenty of carbohydrates

Most amateur athletes use a massive amount of energy when training or competing.

This energy primarily comes from foods containing carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient that is required in large quantities by athletes.

When you consume carbohydrates, your body converts them into glucose, which is a form of sugar.

Some of the body’s glucose is stored in the muscles as glycogen, which can be quickly converted into energy when required.

The glycogen that is stored in the muscles can provide the body with energy for about 90 minutes during periods of high intensity physical activity.

If you need energy for a high intensity activity that lasts for more than 90 minutes, you will need to supplement your carbohydrate levels by:

Carbohydrate loading

Eat higher than normal levels of carbohydrates for 3 days before your workout or competition.

Making 60-70% of your diet carbohydrates

Cyclists, runners, and other endurance athletes should eat a diet that includes a higher proportion of carbohydrates (more on balancing macronutrients below).

Replenish carbohydrates during long sessions

Athletes should avoid eating food within 3 to 4 hours of competing, however, endurance athletes will usually need to eat while exercising to supplement their carbohydrate stores.

#3 — Get the right kind of protein

Protein is the another very important macronutrient for amateur athletes.

It is used to repair and strengthen muscles after physical activity — improving your endurance and strength.

The average adult requires about 1.2 to 1.5  grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.

Athletes that require more strength may require 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

This equates to about 150 grams of protein per day if you are a 200 pound amateur athlete.

However, before you start chugging the protein shakes, be aware that consuming an excessive amount of protein may put strain on your kidneys and may negatively impact your health.

A better option is to eat high-quality protein from natural sources like eggs, lean meat, fish, nuts, milk, and beans.

Milk is a particularly good food to consume after a workout as it contains both protein and carbohydrates.

The types of protein milk contains also make it a great choice.

It contains both casein and whey protein — which gives your body a source of quickly absorbed protein (whey protein) and slowly absorbed protein (casein).

#4 — Balance your macronutrients

We’ve mentioned the two most important macronutrients.

The final macronutrient that that amateur athletes need is fat, which provides energy and supports cellular growth.

How you balance these three macronutrients will depend on your physical characteristics, the sport you compete in, and how hard you are training.

However, in general terms:

The average adults should obtain about:

  • 45-65% calories from carbohydrates
  • 10-15% calories from lean proteins
  • 20-30% calories from healthy fats 

Endurance athletes (runners, cyclists, rowers, long distance swimmers), should incorporate more carbohydrates for energy, eating:

  • 55-70% calories from carbohydrates
  • 15-20% calories from lean proteins
  • 20-35% calories from healthy fats 

Strength/power athletes (weight lifters, boxers, wrestlers, gymnasts) should add a bit more protein to build muscle, consuming:

  • 40-50% calories from carbs
  • 25-30% calories from lean proteins
  • 20-30% calories from healthy fats

 Again, the way you balance your macros should depend on what your goals are and your current physical condition.

The simplest way to track your caloric intake and macronutrient balance is to use a smart phone app like My Fitness Pal or Carb Manager.

 #5 — Focus on food, not supplements

It’s important to remember that nothing replaces the nutrients found in food.

Don’t fall into the trap of eating a low quality diet that is topped up with megadoses of supplements.

Taking too much of a specific supplement can interfere with the action of other supplements or do unusual things to your body.

Focussing on real food ensures that your nutritional intake is very balanced, including macronutrients, fibre, physiochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.

Thanks for reading 5 Most Important Nutrition Tips for Amateur Athletes.

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Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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