Sometimes having a great game isn’t enough. You may be an excellent player, but you won’t get the most out of it if you don’t eat the right thing at the right time. There are three distinct stages in every tennis player’s match play agenda: before a match, during a match, and after a match. Your nutritional needs are different for each stage. To give yourself the best chance of success, you need to vary your eating habits to cater to your energy needs and at what time.
1) Pre-match Stage - The day before the match you need to build up your glycogen reserves, which is the body’s reserve and storage center. Chicken, pasta, beans, and rice are recommended during this stage. Don’t eat anything out of the ordinary because you may be nervous and therefore your stomach may be sensitive. Loading up on carbs for the first time or trying something new isn’t smart. Be sure to hydrate more and boost your sodium, because you loose when you sweat.
2) Match Day – Tennis requires intense bursts of energy. If you can tolerate it, you need a 400-calorie meal, which may include complex-carbohydrates and protein based foods for energy. During play, the only drink you need is water. For a snack, choose a banana or a fig bar, something that will be quickly available to use for energy and won’t upset your stomach.
3) Post-match – Athletes need protein to build muscle. For the first few hours after the match, load up on protein. Meats like turkey, fish, or chicken are recommended. Protein will help repair your muscles. The sooner you can eat, the better. Your body needs to recover as soon as possible to prepare for the next match. Lean red meats are also good, but be sure to stay away from hamburgers.
Steven White is the author of…
Teaching Tennis: Protocol for Instructors