Tennis is a unique sport when it comes to nutrition. Low-carb diets do not apply!
As the sport is both aerobic and anaerobic; it requires a certain level of cardiovascular endurance, yet at the same time it necessitates high-impact bursts and movements which are more fueled by muscular development and strength. As it it’s known, when it comes to sport, a balance is needed when it comes to fitness requirements and fuel athletes need to apply that in their daily basis. Both food and a proper hydration are key since the activity of playing tennis requires.
It is important to considerate that every body is different, so each athlete’s diet should vary according to body type, level of training, lifestyle, etc.
Here are a few examples compared to an average diet and different body types and necessities:
- Relatively high carbohydrates – the good kind including whole grains – are needed to ensure adequate glycogen storage and energy levels. Active tennis players should not look to cut corners on carb intake.
- Relatively high protein intake is recommended for muscle tear repair and strength. You could have: fish > chicken > red meat.
- Relatively low-fat intake is recommended. There are “good” fats and less-good fats; either way consuming fat in the form of nuts and avocado – in moderation – is recommended.
- For fluids, water, and electrolyte-enhanced beverages are recommended. Carbonated beverages, sugary drinks, and other like fluids are not recommended.
- Caffeine in relatively small dosages is recommended before or during a tennis match to boost ergogenic benefit.
- If you travel a lot to play tournaments, it is essential to stay hydrated and also to know your location and what food options are available.
Note: On a match day, or on the day you’re playing, you want to fill your diet with simple carbs that are not high in fiber. Things like fruit, low-fiber cereal, or white bread are recommended.
If you are close to a match, here is a sample of a meal plan for the days leading up, during and later on of a competition based on Mary Glenn, an expert on the nutrition area. Enjoy!
Pre Match (4 days before the match)
- Increase carbohydrates by 10-15%
- Good sources – brown rice, beans, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain cereal
- Protein intake of 0.8-1 g per pound of total body weight
- Good sources – salmon, tuna, turkey, chicken, eggs, tofu, nut butters, beans
- Stay away from – fatty cuts of steak and pork, hot dogs, processed meats
- Fat intake stays consistent to help sustain blood sugar levels
- Good sources – nuts, seeds, cooking oils, avocado
- Stay away from – fried foods, pastries, desserts
Pre-Match (Day of Match)
- 2-3 hours before your match
- Early match – bowl of oatmeal, greek yogurt, berries, topped with trail mix, glass of water
- Midday match – turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, fruit, side salad, glass of water
- Night match – grilled chicken or fish, brown or white rice, vegetable medley, glass of water
- 30 minutes – 1 hour before match
- Trail mix OR an apple with almond butter OR applesauce OR fruit smoothie, glass of water
- At each change over, take 4-6 gulps of water. After an hour of playing, add in an electrolyte mix as well to help replace sweat loss
- Between sets, reach for your carbohydrate source to obtain 30 grams every hour
- Sports drink, dates, apple, almond butter, trail mix, apples sauce, or sports snacks such as gels or energy bars
- Consume a protein and a carbohydrate within the hour if you aren’t able to eat a meal immediately
- Protein shake
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Chocolate milk and a banana
- A balanced recovery meal
- Refuel with carbohydrate – whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole wheat bread
- Rebuild with protein – turkey, salmon, ground turkey, chicken, eggs
- Rehydrate with fluids – 1-2 glasses of water
- Aim for half of your plate to be fruits and vegetables to fight inflammation and muscle soreness
Sample Meal Plan Source: Mary Glenn (TennisTakes.com)