Tips And Techniques For Tennis Players: Play Like A Pro! Nutrition

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Tennis is one of the greatest individual sports there is. The simple game of lawn tennis has origins dating back hundreds of years, when the upper class played fully regaled in their finest outfits. It has grown into one of the most popular sports on the planet.

These days, it’s hard to find a good-sized public park without a tennis court. Because of this, it’s now easier for anyone to take up this sport. There are also many accessible programs aimed at bringing the sport to the masses, eroding the stigma of tennis being a “country club” sport.

It takes an excellent athlete to excel at tennis. Although learning the proper techniques of hitting the ball over a net is important, of course, if you are interested in playing like a professional, that’s not the only thing you should focus on.

Practice is always going to be important to improving your game. But by following these tips on nutrition, fitness, and movement training, you may very well bypass your competition and find yourself playing like a pro!

Nutrition

Tennis can be an arduous game, played normally in the summer months, and for most people, on a hot cement or clay surface. If you want to play like a pro, you’ll need to maintain your body like a pro. And part of that is hydration and nutrition.

Also, because the game is a series of little sprints, like the great Bjorn Borg once said, a tennis player needs to pack in the energy fuel when they’re playing. And with the hot and humid conditions, it’s important to watch out for heat illness and dehydration.

Page Love, a registered dietician with the United States Tennis Association, suggests that tennis players should stick to the following guidelines in order to maintain energy, hydration, and health out on the court.

It is important, however, to take in consideration any health concerns that you have before changing your diet (allergies, diabetes, etc.). Consult your doctor or your own dietician if necessary.

Hydration

What a player eats or drinks before a match is just as important as what is consumed during a match, as it can stay with them through the whole event. Here are some tips for hydration before a match begins:

  • Fill sports jugs or squeeze bottles before a match or a practice the night before. If it’s not provided, you should have at least 2 liters of fluids available next to you on the court.
  • Drink between 17 ounces and 20 ounces of fluid within two hours before the match begins.
  • You can tell if you are drinking enough fluids if your urine is pale or light before beginning a match.
  • The night before a match and after playing, avoid or limit caffeinated beverages (coffee, sodas, non-green teas). Caffeine is a diuretic and can cause more fluid loss than gained.

While you’re playing a match or practicing, don’t be fooled into thinking that your thirst is the only indicator of your hydration levels. Tennis players perform at their best when they consume fluids every 15 minutes and during changeovers.

Consuming 5 ounces to 10 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes is the best rate for maintaining performance and hydration. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes and ratio of 17 grams of carbohydrates per 8 ounces of liquid are the best source of fluids during this time.

It’s been shown that consuming carbohydrates from sports drinks can help players maintain their accuracy and power for their groundstrokes and serving during a longer rally or match. The ratio of carbs to liquid listed above (which can be found in the sports drink Powerade) helps absorb the nutrients quickly by the muscles. It’s also important to have the sports drinks on hand because of the amount of sodium lost while sweating out on the court.

Meals & Snacks

Like any liquids you may consume before a match, it’s also important to watch what you eat before matches or practices.

Foods that you eat earlier in the day can stay with you a long time, and that can be good or bad. Eat right, and you’ll have the energy to be sustained during a match. Eat poorly, and you’ll feel weighed down or become sick to your stomach.

The best pre-game snacks and meals for tennis players are:

  • Quickly digested (not too high in fat or fiber)
  • Low in fat, moderate in protein, and for energy reserves, high in carbohydrates
  • Familiar to the player, and known to curb their own hunger
  • Examples of the kinds of foods that are great for a pre-game snack or meal that are rich in carbohydrates are energy bars, fresh fruit, granola bars, pasta, bread, and sports drinks

Here are some good examples of what to eat before a match or a practice:

  • Pre-game snack
    One Gatorade energy bar, a banana or fruit yogurt, a 20 ounce bottle of Powerade sports drink, and one cup of water. This should be consumed one or two hours before a match or a heavy practice.
  • Pre-game meal
    An apple, Saltine crackers, grilled chicken or turkey sandwich with mustard (no mayonnaise), an 8 ounce serving of Powerade, and one cup of skim milk. This should be eaten three to four hours before a match or a heavy practice.

There are some vitally important things to consider following a match or hard practice, mainly to do with replacing electrolytes and stored muscle fuel lost during competition:

  • Replace 150 percent of body fluids lost (or, 20 ounces per pound of weight loss) within two ours of the end of a match or practice.
  • Avoid high-fat and high-protein foods immediately following a match. This can lead to dehydration.
  • Eat carbohydrates as soon as possible following a match. This should be done with 30 minutes. The best way to do this is by drinking a sports drink as you’re leaving the court.
  • If you’re playing in a tournament, consume a healthy mix of proteins, fluids, sodium, and carbohydrates so you can quickly recover. By drinking sports drinks with electrolytes and lightly salting food, this will help your body recover the sodium it lost during the match.
  • Eat a lean protein source and a high-carbohydrate meal within two hours of a match ending to help maximize your body’s muscle energy stores and support protein production in your muscles.

Here’s a couple of ideas for a post-game meal:

  • Chicken stir-fry, steamed vegetables, 2 or 3 cups of Chinese steamed rice, 2 or 3 cups of Powerade, or an energy drink, or low fat-milk.
  • *Salad with low-fat dressing or vinaigrette, 2 or 3 slices of garlic bread (light on any butter topping), 2 or 3 cups of pasta with a marinara sauce with a little meat and light in fat content, 2 or e cups of Powerade, or an energy drink, or low-fat milk.

These suggestions for pre and post game meals should be combined with an overall healthy lifestyle. Be cautious when taking supplements, and never fall for fad dieting or dangerous drugs (steroids, diuretics, etc.) to achieve your health goals.

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