The Winning Diet For Tennis Players

Jenny Tschiesche BSc (Hons) Dip (ION) FdSc BANT, top London nutritionists on how to gain peak performance, stamina, and agility through diet.
Whilst most of the big names in tennis will have a personal nutritionist on their team who not only plans the players’ meals but often works directly with a chef and in fact travels with the player, that’s simply not the case for everyone else. Evidence tells us that the better your nutrition plan the better your tennis. What a nutrition plan requires is good planning! This means thinking about what you’re going to eat before, during and most importantly, after the match.

In fact, let’s start with the post-match strategy because recovery plays a huge role in performance. Most of the big players will refer to a “window of opportunity”, a period of 20-40 minutes after a match during which they have been advised to consume a combination of protein and carbohydrates. There’s a good reason for this advice. Recovering well gives you the best chance to play as well as possible the next day and it even helps you lower the risk of injury and illness.

What to eat/drink post-match?

The reason you must include carbohydrates post-match is to restore your muscle glycogen and to help restore blood glucose at the fastest rate possible. You must also include protein as it helps to repair muscles. That post-match window is optimal because it’s the time during which cells are particularly sensitive to the effects of insulin and muscles are most susceptible to recovery and growth. Whilst you may see some of the big names in tennis consuming specially made-up recovery drinks, most of their recovery nutrition will happen away from the court. However, the good news is that it is possible to replicate the carbohydrate-protein combinations and ratios of some of those recovery drinks and foods by making your own post-match snacks.

Here are some examples:

  • Peanut butter and jam sandwich
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Low-fat Greek yoghurt with honey
  • Fruit smoothie with low-fat Greek yoghurt, berries, and ripe banana
  • Chocolate milk
  • Edamame and a piece of fruit

Also, don’t forget about hydration after a match. Whilst everyone’s rehydration needs vary, you may find this is the ideal time for either a shop-bought or home-made sports drink that is designed to provide you not only with hydration but also electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that you may have lost through perspiration while playing. To make your own, simply combine 200ml of concentrated orange juice with a litre of water in a pinch of salt.

What to eat prior to a match?

Before a match, it’s a good idea to eat foods that digest easily, that will also provide lots of energy, so fresh fruit, especially bananas are a great option, so too are mangoes and pineapple. Also, think about energy bars or prepare some smoothies which will also tick the box for hydration. Rice cakes with various low-fat toppings would be a great option as well so perhaps some cottage cheese and pineapple.

Should you eat during a match?

The thing with tennis is that you never know quite how long a game is going to last. You might spend hours on the court, or you might be there for just one hour. So, you’ll need to make sure that you have with you plenty of water, but if the game is going on longer than an hour you will want more than water. This is when a sports drink would come in handy and remember you can make your own – see above. However, if the game lasts hours, then you’ll want small mouthfuls of easily digested, high-carbohydrate foods to keep you going, such as a ripe banana, some malt loaf, or some chocolate rice cakes.

 Do you need to supplement?

When you’re playing lots of tennis you will find your body may need some extra support from supplements. There are three supplements that I would recommend. The first is fish oil, which contains both EPA and DHA, they are important for reducing inflammation. Now, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you will want to use algal oil which is the best non-fish source of EPA and DHA. The second supplement I would recommend is vitamin C which is an antioxidant that supports the immune system. This is available from Nutriburst in the form of the Triple Immunity gummy. Also in this gummy is zinc, which is the third nutrient I would recommend. It’s involved in most enzyme systems within the body and can be lost via sweat, thereby making it an essential nutrient for tennis players.


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