Fall in love with carbohydrates-Carbs are a very good source of energy and all tennis players should try to aim for a carb-filled diet. Carbs such as breads, cereals and pastas should be the basis of almost every meal. About 75% of your meals should consist of grains, vegetables and fruits…while the other 25% should include lean meats and protein. Most of your carbs should come from whole wheat breads/bagels, brown rice, cereals, pastas and oatmeal.
Always eat breakfast-Skipping breakfast is the most common nutritional mistake. Always eat a healthy low-fat breakfast (cereal, milk, granola, whole wheat toast, peanut butter and yogurt). Eating a proper breakfast sets you for a very energetic day.
Eat often-Keeping your body fueled will maintain your energy levels. You should feel hungry every 3-4 hours. For example…if you eat breakfast at 7, you’ll snack at 10, have lunch by 1, afternoon snack at around 4, supper at 7, and perhaps another snack at 10. Don’t count calories…but be aware of what you are eating. An active woman for example should consume around 2400 cals/day and an active man should consume around 3000 cals/day.
Pay attention to the key nutrients-Try to eat B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin)…they will keep your energy level up. The vitamins also help in the breaking down of food. Women should try to have an adequate calcium intake to strengthen bones. A sufficient amount of iron is also needed to replenish loss of supplies with food like lean meats, chicken, fish and bean.
Drink water before and after-Maintaining hydration is CRITICAL. If you do not drink enough, you will suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke and severe dehydration. You can die from these if the case is to a certain degree. Also, it is just as bad to drink too much water since it is possible to die from drinking too much. If you drink a lot in a short period of time, your body can drown in its own fluids. Not common…but it has happened before. Sports drinks are very good for during and after play – try to drink about 4 ounces of water on each change over and 16 ounces after play. Try to stay away from coffee, soda and other caffeinated drinks before and after play since they are dehydrating. However, if you need a real burst of energy during your match drink a little bit of Pepsi with a lot of water.
Sodium-Salt is very important in replenishing your body after sweating. You can use sport drinks to help balance out your electrolytes or you can eat some salty food like pretzels. Salt will also help gain your energy.
Keep eating carbs-Consuming a sufficient amount of carbs will keep your energy levels high and will allow you to play for that 5-set marathon. Energy drinks, energy bars and bananas are very ideal.
Knowing what is right for you-Try to experiment with certain drinks and foods during practice to see how your body reacts to the specific intake. Do this because you will learn a lot more about your system and what food makes it work the best on the court.
Recovery-The ‘window of recovery’ is considered the 30 minutes to 2 hours after play has ended; this is when muscles refuel the best. In this time frame, try to consume at least 100 calories. Keep in mind that you do not need to consume a lot of food. An ideal ‘window of recovery’ snack would be a sports drink, a protein smoothie, and an apple and cheese stick.
Say “No” to the Bull-Energy drinks are known to help restore awareness and energy levels. These drinks will do all of this, but in turn they will give you a huge crash after. Most people cannot handle sports drinks and they are too much of a risk. Energy drinks will have certain effects on the body. They are useful in pulling all-nighters…but they are not ideal for sport participation. Instead of taking an energy drink have a soft drink instead. It will dehydrate you, but it will give you the burst of energy that you need without the huge energy low. Just to illustrate how powerful and dangerous ‘some energy drinks can be, there was a young female long distance runner who consumed some energy drinks before her race. Halfway through her competition, she died because her heart exploded. Some people just can’t handle energy drinks.