We always tell our players – “The better your diet is, the better the tennis player you will be” Simply because the food you eat before playing goes directly to feed your body so you have adequate energy to play well. Then we need to consider repairing your body after exercise, a good diet aids in a quicker recovery. The food you eat needs to maximise your energy stores so that you can meet your energy demands throughout your game and afterwards. It also needs to supply quality nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats to help muscle and connective tissue repair.
If you play the game of tennis, then you know how demanding it is, recovery plays a massive role in performance, no one plays well when they feel crappy, sore and fatigued. The off court evolution of tennis has been massively boosted over the last 5 years, mainly due to guys like Novak, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and many others.... Players have been willing to open their minds and try new things and find specialist help for various weaknesses in their health and fitness. A good tennis diet is high on the list for most players these days. It should be high on your list too!
I feel this has had a big impact on the physical evolution (physicality) we have seen over the past few years. Novak declared he was following a gluten free diet and that it made a big difference to his energy levels. Until that point I'm sure the majority of tennis lovers had no idea what gluten was and how it can affect some people, but due to his willingness to explore his health options it has encouraged coaches, parents and players to look into what they put into their bodies and how food affects them.
So what should a tennis player eat?
It is best to eat a meal high in carbohydrates, a palm sized amount of protein and small amount of fat, 2-3 hours before playing tennis, to allow adequate time for your body to digest the meal and utilise the nutrients for your game. If needed, you can consume a high carbohydrate snack 1 hour before playing tennis, if you know you get hungry and need an extra boost.
Post playing, the top three goals are to replace glycogen stores in your muscles and liver, replace the lost electrolytes and fluids that have been lost via sweating, and a high protein snack 30mins after a workout or match to assist your body in recovering. This will repair your muscles and connective tissue, as well as to support your immune system.
It is essential to eat something within 30 minutes after finishing playing, no matter what time of day it is – this is because your glycogen stores have been used up and need to be replaced. The best food to replace these stores is carbohydrates – but your muscles will also need some protein to help them recover. If you know it will be a few hours before you get to eat a proper meal, take a protein powder with you that have some carbohydrates in it, so that you can refuel straight away (The Protein powder we recommend is Clean Lean Protein by Nuzest) or a high protein snack. (Below we have attached two of our favourite protein snacks you could try)
As a general guide, your meal after you play should consist of foods in a ratio of 4:1 of carbohydrates to protein. Look at food labels to determine how much carbohydrates and protein are in foods, but as an example a smoothie with protein powder and fruit in the correct ratio is a good post-match meal.
Pay attention to your food intake for one month and you will really notice your energy levels, muscle soreness, tennis fitness / strength levels dramatically improve. You will be very surprised. Give it a go. Remember, “You are what you eat”
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We have been the biggest advocates of fresh coconut water for many years. It is the best sports drink for tennis. We use coconuts (oil, water, milk and flesh) for nearly everything and anything from;
- Cooking oil
- Body wash
- Moisturising cream
- Upset belly
- Thirst quencher
- Hydration Coconut water is one of Nature's perfect fluids—it is hard to say enough good things about it. It's the perfect replacement for juice, soda or sports drink. After playing tennis, practicing or training for tennis, it is the perfect way to hydrate yourself.
If you are only training for tennis for 30 mins a day at a moderate to high intensity, water is the best way to hydrate yourself. However, if you have been training for tennis for 60 minutes or longer, at a high intensity, then it's a good idea to drink coconut water to replenish your fluids.
Coconut water is one of the best and safest option to rehydrate yourself after tennis training. If you are prone to get an upset belly or feel bloated after drinking sports drinks, coconut water is a great alternative. It's all you need, it contains electrolytes, and is sodium enriched.
Coconut water is very similar to our own blood plasma. Because it is so sterile when it comes out of the coconut, and completely compatible with the human body. Physicians over 60 years ago have actually used coconut water as an IV fluid. This was very common practice in remote regions of the world where medical supplies were limited. If it was used intravenously, you can appreciate how safe and beneficial this natural beverage is.
Perfect Electrolyte we call it Mother Nature's Gatorade
Fresh coconut water is used to prevent dehydration from strenuous exercise, vomiting, or diarrhoea It is one of the richest natural sources of electrolytes. You lose electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium) when you sweat, which must be replenished with food and fluid intake.
Coconut water has five electrolytes your body needs:
1. Potassium: coconut water contains 295 mg, which is 15 times the amount in the average sports drink.
2. Sodium: The most important positive ion in fluid outside your cells, and also the one most depleted with exercise, as you lose sodium through sweat and urine.
3. Magnesium: important for maintaining the electrical potential of your cells, proper muscle function, and preventing calcium overload.
4. Phosphorous: Plays important roles in bone health, but also in transferring energy throughout your body, helping your muscles contract, and regulating nerve function (partners with calcium).
5. Calcium: Important for bone health (partners with phosphorous).
So Much More Than a Sports Drink
So next time you step off the tennis court, searching for a cool, refreshing drink after a tennis workout, crack open a coconut and see why we at tennis fitness love it so much.
Of course, drinking it fresh from the coconut, as opposed to bottled, is the ultimate choice. But not always possible. So please remember to read the labels of coconut water, to make sure it's as pure and unprocessed as possible. Should read 100% coconut water. We recommend Nakula Coconut Water.
Ideally, you are getting your essential nutrients from the food you are eating. But when you’re playing tennis for hours each week, your body may need some essential supplements for tennis players to support your body and help it recover, as well as support your immune system as high intensity exercise has the effect of suppressing immunity. Every player is different and not one size fits all, its best you see a health practitioner to get individualised advise but here are the 4 supplements we recommend to our players:
1. Magnesium – As the second highest electrolyte in our body, it often gets depleted from a poor diet or sweating during exercise. It is best taken in powdered form.
2. Fish Oil – These amazing supplements contain both EPA and DHA, which are fatty acids essential in reducing inflammation within the body that may be present due to high levels of training. Ensure your fish oil supplements are pure and free of mercury.
3. Vitamin C – An antioxidant that supports the immune system and reduces the symptoms of the common cold in athletes. Take 1-2g up to 5 times daily, in divided doses throughout the day when you first feel a cold coming on.
4. Zinc – Involved in most enzyme systems in the body but can be lost via sweat, thereby making it an essential nutrient for athletes. The good news is that it is often in magnesium supplements – just check the bottle! By Dina Friedman – Naturopath at ‘The Fitness Naturopath’
If you have any medical history/condition we suggest you consult a health professional to discuss an more individualised approach. Supplementation is not the only answer to a better healthy development of tennis players, it is a piece of the puzzle that will assist alongside long term good healthy eating and drinking habits. Eating a good healthy balanced diet is and always should be the priority for all tennis players.
To get our favourites: Three recovery snacks recipes, Nutritionist Smoothie recipe and game day breakfast recipe please
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