It is recommended that athletes eat a well balanced diet made up of all the food groups. In tennis, this would be three main meals per day, with appropriate snacks in between. Ideally, there should be no significant gaps in the day (4-5 hrs.) without some level of (controlled) food intake.
Due to individual requirements e.g. playing standard, age, body composition, it is difficult to provide generic figures for the amount of carbohydrate, protein and fat needed within the diet. Carbohydrate remains a crucial aspect of the diet, providing the energy needed to fuel training and matches, so should be present in all meals. However, the choice of carbohydrate is important, with classical starchy carbohydrates e.g. pasta, rice, potatoes, focused during the day; specifically before, during and after training. Carbohydrate intake should be controlled in the evening, with vegetables providing the focus.
Protein intake remains a key element of the nutrition strategy, particularly to maintain a positive protein balance during the day. Protein should be consumed with every meal, and ideally within any snacks consumed during the day. Specific attention is required immediately post training and match play (within 30-60 min) with regards to facilitating recovery. Protein consumed with carbohydrate is known to improve recovery; therefore this should be a key focus for the tennis player’s diet.
As many matches are played in hot and humid environments it is not only important for an athlete to maintain fluid intake, but also to replace sodium and electrolytes lost through sweat. Drinking little and often is the standard recommendation, whilst the colour of urine (pee) is used to monitor hydration during the day. Urine colour should be pale/clear in colour; if it is yellow/dark then it is likely exercise will begin dehydrated and this will adversely affect performance. All players should carry a water bottle around with them during the day.
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