Modern tennis is now composed of a much more athletic game and physically demanding on the various muscles and joints of a tennis player. Thus, it is absolutely necessary to learn and practice proper tennis nutrition habits.
Tennis, when played at even a moderately high level, is a very physically demanding sport with no time clock. It can leave any player, even the most fit, exhausted and wrung out after a long match. Tennis is played most often during the warmer months, adding to the stress on the body as it is played.
Proper tennis nutrition is a must for tennis players who play the sport on a regular basis and wants to feel good before, during and after a match. For players who participate regularly in tournaments, this is even more of a must as she or he needs to recover quickly and play again the next day or even later the same day. If you put junk into your body, it will respond in kind. Tennis players need to pay attention to what they eat and drink, and when they eat and drink it, in order to compete and fully enjoy the sport.
Bjorn Borg once said that a tennis match is like “a thousand little sprints.” He was right. The sport calls for repeated quick anaerobic movements that might have to be performed over the course of several hours. Tennis gives a full body workout like few other sports can.
Good tennis nutrition for tennis players must focus on several aspects:
- High-energy foods
- Adequate hydration
- Proper timing of food input
Pre-Match Tennis Nutrition
Let’s consider first of all the tennis nutrition guidelines that need to be followed before a match takes place. This can be applied to an official match or even the casual grudge match you will be playing against your co-worker later today.
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Anything consumed before a match needs to provide fuel for hours, as the match unfolds and you might have another one later that day. Pre-match meals and snacks should be:
- Familiar to you and known to settle hunger
- High in carbohydrates so that your muscles will have adequate energy
- Moderate in protein
- Low in fat
- Quickly digested (not high in fiber or fat)
- Meals and snacks that meet all of these criteria include pasta, bread, fresh fruit, granola bars, energy bars and sports drinks. You probably don’t want to load up simply on the energy bars, however. They might give you a rush that turns into a crash at the midway point of your match.
Tennis Nutrition – What to Eat?
Here is a sample ideal tennis nutrition lunch to consume about 3-4 hours before a match: turkey or grilled chicken sandwich, crackers, apple, skim milk, sports drink.
For a pre-game snack, to be consumed about 1-2 hours before the big match, eat: fruit yogurt or a banana, water, energy bar, 20 oz. of sports drink.
Of equal concern to you as you seek to practice sound tennis nutrition is your hydration level.
Be sure to limit or avoid completely caffeinated beverages right before or after match play, such as iced teas, coffee, coffee drinks and colas. These beverages might cause additional fluid loss as urine before the match.
In addition, be sure to chill at least 2 liters of your favorite courtside drink the night before your match, such as water or a sports drink, so that it will be nice and cold during your match. All players should have a minimum of 2 liters of liquid by their side during a match.
Tennis Nutrition In-Match Play – Hydration
Fluids should be consumed every 15 minutes or so during a match, regardless of your thirst level. Thirst is not a reliable indicator of hydration. Ask anyone who has suffered heat stroke. They will probably tell you that they did not feel thirsty at all before collapsing.
Drink a bit during changeovers, whether you feel like it or not. Gulp down 5-10 oz. of fluid every quarter hour or so for optimal hydration.
Sports drinks are preferable to water because they contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, such as sodium. As a player takes in carbs during play, she or he is able to maintain more power and accuracy, studies have proven.
Such carbs are quickly absorbed and used by working muscles. As you sweat, you lose a lot of sodium as well, so you need to replenish that with a good sports drink. Need a good guideline for the best sports drink? Find one that has 17g of carbohydrates and electrolytes. They are ideal for consumption during match play.
Post-Match Tennis Nutrition
After you have won your match, don’t celebrate with a big trip to Dairy Queen! Continue to practice sound tennis nutrition so that you’ll be ready for the next challenge. After the game, you will need to eat foods and drink beverages that replenish muscle energy stores and the electrolytes that you lost in competition.
For that reason, you should east carbohydrates as soon as possible, even 30 minutes after a match. Drink your sports drink as you walk off in triumph, then eat a high-carb meal that contains lean protein as well.
This will maximize muscle glycogen recovery that will activate protein synthesis in your muscles. Don’t back off the sodium, either. You lost a lot during your match, so it’s okay to salt your food a bit and eat and drink things that are natural sources for sodium. Stay away from the high-fat and high-protein foods; they contribute to dehydration, and just because you won the match does not mean that you are out of the woods in terms of staying hydrated.
Tennis Nutrition Guideline:
Here’s a good post-match meal to celebrate your latest win:
-2-3 cups of pasta with marinara sauce (little meat, low fat content)
-2-3 slices of garlic bread (easy on the margarine or butter)
-Salad with vinaigrette or low-fat dressing
-2-3 cups of sports drink or low-fat milk
If Italian doesn’t float your boat, go Chinese with:
-2-3 cups of steamed rice with vegetables and chicken stir fry
-2-3 cups of sports drink or low-fat milk
What to Remember When Practicing Sound Tennis Nutrition Habits
On the days when you are not playing a match or even leading up to one, practice good tennis nutrition and a balanced diet to stay fit and lean. Not too many winning tennis players sport huge pot bellies or rail-thin arms.
Eat a healthy diet heavy on vegetables, light on red meat, very light on fried food and fast food altogether. Keep your consumption of sodas to a minimum if you drink them at all. You can indulge your sweet tooth from time to time, but don’t live on sugar highs and the lows that follow.
At the same time, if you are playing regularly or training, don’t skimp on the calories. You might be worried about maintaining your great figure, but if you are burning hundreds of calories every day by playing tennis, you need to be sure to eat well in order to replenish your body.
Avoiding Fast Foods – A Key to Tennis Nutrition
It’s certain that some players have won consistently while eating a lot of fast food and consuming more alcohol than they should, for instance. It’s also certain that many players ascend to the next level once they pay more attention to what they eat.
That’s why many of the top pros have their own personal chefs to help them maintain a balanced diet and eat the foods that will prolong their careers.
Even if you are not a pro, healthy eating will prolong your career as well, as in enabling you to live longer and have more years to enjoy the great lifetime sport of tennis. By practicing proper tennis nutrition as described above, you will feel better, look better and play better. The right foods and beverages in proper amounts are a win-win-win for any tennis player of any age.
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