Most tennis players try hard to eat healthy but did you know that there are key food fuels that meet the sport’s specific demands? Keep your tennis engine running strong with the following tips from nutritionists in the know:
Hydration: Don’t Neglect It
Sally Parsonage B.Sc., Ph.D., R.Nutr., C.I.S.S.N., Nutrition Division Head at IMG Academy International Performance Institute, stresses the high importance hydration plays in performance at all levels. “Starting a match less than fully hydrated, you will never catch up. Dehydration is one of the number-one causes of non-performance both mentally and physically. Use your urine or “P Chart” to determine where you are. Very pale urine, you’re doing fine. Dark in color, you need to drink — before you start playing.”
Healthy DietOn-Court Nourishment
Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a New York City based nutritionist, adds that “fluid and electrolyte loss can be extreme during a long match so replenishing before, during and after a match with water and electrolyte-rich sports drinks is essential.” Bring both drinks on court or mix prior to play.
Carbohydrates are also important to take in during a long match or practice. Parsonage suggests that the individual player find what works best for him or her. “Some people like their on-court carbs in liquids, others in little packets or bars accompanied by sips of water. It’s a matter of personal preference. If something makes you feel unwell, or you don’t like the taste, it’s obviously not the right choice for you.”
The Daily Ticket: Lean Protein and Carbohydrates
“The needs of weekend warriors and professional tennis players are different but lean proteins and carbohydrates are key body fuels for both,” says Parsonage. Proteins suggested include: chicken, fish, pork and lean beef. For carbohydrates: rice, potatoes, bread, and pasta.
Many pro players talk about eating sushi. Glassman says, that “sushi, when prepared with brown rice, can be a healthful food combining lean protein rich in omega-3s (like tuna or salmon) with high-fiber carbohydrates (other good high fiber carbs are are quinoa and sweet potatoes).
Lean proteins are what’s key as they are rich in amino acids and help to repair muscle tissue which is critical for athletes. Protein also helps to slow down digestion, keeping energy high for longer periods of time.” So if you like sushi great, but there are other lean protein choices.
“Muscles love carbs,” says Parsonage. “A very active tennis player should be getting 50 to 60 percent of their calories from carbs. If they look at their plate, every meal should be 1/3 carbs. For the weekend warrior, ¼.”
Glassman notes that “high fiber carbohydrates are what fuel games and keep energy high. Whole grains are great choices since they are high in fiber and have GABA (an amino acid derivative). “
Fruits and Vegetables
Parsonage tells her IMG athletes to eat five servings of fruits or vegetables a day, the darker in color the better. Blueberries, baby spinach, raspberries and field greens are all excellent sources of vitamins and antioxidants. “People playing at a high level are stressing their bodies, especially in the heat, and the antioxidants are good for helping recovery,” she says.
Once again don’t forget to hydrate and Glassman recommends carbs again as well. “It is important to build back up glycogen stores after they are depleted. Make sure to have a protein and carbohydrate rich snack after workouts and games.“
Fuel well, play well. It’s clearly a big part of the equation.