Nutrition is Everything
Tips and Tricks for Feeling Good on Court
Nutrition is a key element of tennis and gameplay. Poor nutrition and high sugar intake can lead to decreased performance and well-being. It is best to have a nutrition plan.
For the best performance, focus on eating grains, proteins with minimal fat, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. Do not try something new the day of the match or consume foods high in sugar, fats or fiber, which slow digestion.
The night before a match, it is important to fuel your body with good, healthy food. Tennis matches can often last 2-3 hours and so your body needs fuel the night before to store energy to be used during the match. Foods high in healthy fats and carbs are recommended such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or oatmeal.
The 3-4 hour mark before a match, eat a meal that consists of carbs, protein, and fat for additional energy buildup. And, within a few minutes of the match, eat a few additional carbs.
During the match, if you feel sluggish or low on energy, eat more carbs to add to your reserve. These digestible, quick snacks may be some grapes, nut mix, almond butter, a banana, or a sports drink. Electrolytes are also helpful to reduce dizziness and muscle cramps, so salty snacks like pretzels are effective.
Recovery is also important for your body. Immediately after the match, consume a carbohydrate or a protein, such as a protein shake, PB & J sandwich, or a banana. That evening, make sure to fuel up on carbs, protein, and fats as well. Fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, pasta, etc will help your body recover. The most important aspect of recovery, however, is hydration. Continue to hydrate and fuel until your body is rested and ready to go for the next match.
According to the USTA website, there are 3 categories of meals/snacks recommended before a match:
- Carbs (right before/during)
- Carbs + protein (before)
- Carbs + protein + fat (night before) (after)
Carbs = Gatorade sports drinks, energy chews, fuel bars or energy gels; fruit; granola bars; cereal + milk; rice cakes; air-popped popcorn
Carbs + Protein = Gatorade protein shakes or protein bars; chocolate milk + granola bar; cottage cheese + fruit; hard-boiled egg + pretzels; apple + nut butter; turkey jerky + grapes; bean- or broth-based soup
Carbs + Protein + Fat = sandwich (bread + meat + cheese + veggies); yogurt parfait (Greek yogurt + fruit + granola + nuts); smoothie; hummus + pita chips + veggie sticks; peanut butter & jelly sandwich; breakfast burrito (tortilla wrap + scrambled eggs + cheese + veggies)
In addition to nutrition, it is also crucial to hydrate. Many professional tennis players rely on Gatorade or Pedialyte to hydrate the night before all the way through the tournament. Your body is 60% water, so at least 16-24 ounces of water is needed before physical activity and to prevent cramps and heat sickness.