The diet of a tennis player is a lot different to that of the average person’s regular diet. This is due to the nutritional requirements of the human body as it is pushed through the rigorous training schedule that is involved in tennis. With the advances in science and knowledge surrounding food and its benefits, players and coaches are striving to be at the forefront of nutrition in order to gain any advantage they can.
The modern tennis player understands the need not only to train and play hard on the court, but also, to prepare themselves in every single way, they know that, regardless of talent and training, they will never reach the highest level of performance if they do not fuel their bodies to cope with the strain. Taking that into account it becomes imperative that the correct tennis diet is not overlooked.
Eat Big, Play Fast
Top tennis players need to be fast, powerful, agile and have massive endurance levels and as such, they need the muscles to power these traits. In order to build the required muscles you will require plenty of protein in your diet. It is important to remember that you should always stick to your diet, don’t just use it at competition time; a good tennis diet is built over time.
A well balanced diet for a tennis player must consist of all the necessary components that make a healthy body, so you will need to take in nutrients from all of the food groups in order to keep up good levels of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, healthy fats and water. You can help yourself in this process by choosing fresh food rather than processed food, as fresh food will hold more of the required nutrients.
Carbohydrates to Combat Fatigue
Tennis player’s use up an incredible amount of energy during training and matches, so you will need to increase your intake of carbohydrates in order to power your muscles and combat fatigue. On average a professional male tennis player can burn up to 1500 calories during a match, so it is extremely important to refuel correctly. Carbohydrates are ideal for this as any high carbohydrate food will provide you with nutrients to replace what was lost and also fibre and energy to keep you going.
Recent studies have shown that the optimum amount of carbohydrate intake is 7-10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates are bread, potato’s pasta, rice and breakfast cereal. You can also find carbohydrates in things such as chocolate, but this should only be used to give yourself a quick boost of energy and should not be part of your regular diet.
Protein in your Tennis Diet
As mentioned previously, it is also vitally important to have a good intake of protein. This is essential to build up the muscles you will need to power your body throughout the game. Protein is broken down into amino acids, which not only help to build muscle but also aid the development of haemoglobin. Protein is also a key tool in quick recovery and injury prevention.
As a tennis player you should be consuming two to three servings of protein rich foods per day in order to keep healthy levels within your body. Protein rich foods are things like, fish, eggs, cheese and oatmeal cereal.
Fruit, Vegetables and Fluid Intake
As well as protein and carbohydrate rich food, a good tennis diet should consist of plenty of fruit and vegetables as these are a natural source of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you will need to maintain your fitness levels for the tennis season. A healthy diet for a tennis player should consist of three to five servings of fresh vegetables as well as at least four servings of fruit per day. As a guide, half a cup of cooked vegetables would be equal to one serving.
As well as your intake of solid foods, it is essential to keep yourself fully hydrated at all times. Even if you don’t feel thirsty you should be consuming fluid throughout the day. Tennis players should be looking to consume 80 ounces of water on a daily basis. Professional players will drink copious amounts of water throughout the day and night preceding matches, as it will ensure that their bodies are functioning at peak rate at all times.
As well as water, you should also be supplementing your fluid intake with sports drinks, as they will replace the sodium, protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes that you will lose during competition. These sports drinks are essential to replenish stocks of these nutrients immediately and can prove invaluable during the change of ends.
When it is suggested that a healthy diet should contain fats, there is often a pessimistic standoff. Fats, by very nature sound unhealthy, but in order to maintain a healthy tennis diet, they are essential. Consuming the right amount of healthy fats will slow down the absorption of carbohydrates in the body, which in turn will prolong the energy supply that you have build up in your diet. This becomes essential during long matches.
Ideally, healthy fats should make up fifteen percent of your daily calorie intake, in order to get the optimum effect. Foods which provide a good source of healthy fats are nuts, fatty fish such as mackerel and eggs.
Are Supplements Necessary?
It is also beneficial to use supplements alongside your healthy diet, in order to maximize your body’s ability. Supplements such as creatine can provide help for men in their quest for high intensity bouts of physical activity that will occur in the longer format adopted by the male players in grand slam tournaments. Although it is important to remember that creatine itself does not increase endurance and can increase weight gain, so you should tailor your diet to suit your intake of creatine. Before committing to prolonged use of creatine supplements you should seriously look into the facts surrounding it. There are arguments both for and against its use and necessity in a healthy diet. There are reported side effects to its use, such as, kidney disease, heart problems and even male erectile dysfunction. Although there is no concrete proof of any of these issues, it is certainly something to think about before undertaking this course of action, especially when you can achieve the same goals through hard work and a healthy diet alone.
Whether you play tennis socially as a hobby or you want to become the world number one, the benefits of a healthy diet, tailored to your tennis requirements cannot be underestimated. With the right amount of nutrients and a specific diet, you can get the best out of yourself and improve every aspect of your life.