Food for tennis
Between training, match time and recovery, sustain energy levels with a nutritious diet.
Tennis is a high intensity sport that combines speed, agility, concentration and endurance. The game relies on anaerobic energy systems coupled with a tough aerobic capacity to assist with recovery, stamina and tolerance to heat. In training, throughout matches and during recovery, what goes into our bodies plays a key role in performance and can be the difference between soaring or slumping mid match.
Players with a heavy training load have increased energy and carbohydrate requirements, so a diet rich in nutrient-dense carbohydrate meals is important. Pasta, rice, bread, cereal, vegetables, fruit and dairy products should all be regular fixtures in a player’s daily diet.
Sports Dietitians Australia recommends that after an intense training session, players should aim to have 50-100g of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of training. This may be an 800mL sports drink, three medium-sized pieces of fruit, two muesli bars or four Weet-Bix with low fat milk. Recovery snacks should always be combined with enough fluids to replace what you may have lost in sweat throughout a session. A simple way to know how much fluid to drink is to weigh yourself before and after a session and note the difference. 1.5L of fluid for every kilogram lost is a good ratio for replenishment.
For maximum energy, a pre-game meal should be eaten 2 or 3 hours before you hit the court. Avoid unfamiliar foods, stick to low-fibre and low-fat options and opt for something high in carbohydrates. Sports Dietitians Australia suggests cereal and low-fat milk, muffins or crumpets with jam or honey, pasta with tomato-based sauce, or fresh fruit, yoghurt and a low fat milkshake.
During break times, gauge your own energy levels and use the time to recharge and reenergise. Drink plenty of fluids, have a banana on hand and throw some muesli bars in the sports bag.
Follow the post-training nutrition advice and eat a carbohydrate-rich recovery snack within 30 minutes of completing a match. Sports drinks, cereal with fruit and milk, a salad sandwich, muesli bars or fresh fruit are easy options. Within 3-4 hours of wrapping up a match, a lean protein meal to help muscle tissue repair and growth is important.
What does tennis ace Novak Djokovic nosh on?
The days of tennis pros filling up on steak and potatoes like Bjorn Borg famously did are long behind us. Elite athletes follow rigorous diet plans and have raised the bar in terms of fitness and nutrition. Serbian star Novak Djokovic follows a strict gluten free, dairy free and limited sugar diet, outlined in his 2013 book, Serve to Win. Early in his career Djokovic was known for collapsing during tournaments and blames it on his undiagnosed gluten intolerance. The book highlights the impact his dietary overhaul has had on his playing since converting three years ago. It also shares Novak’s 14-day food plan that focuses on vegetables, beans, white meat, fish, fruit, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils and healthy oils.
For more information about tennis nutrition visit sportsdietitians.com.au