The Importance of Nutrition and Hydration When Playing Tennis

It does not matter at what level you play your sport. Whether you are a beginner, an amateur playing with your colleagues every weekend, or a competitive player, competing in regional or even national competitions, there are two factors that link us all.

Hydration and nutrition are key components that link all of us. Understanding the true complexities of the subject, and how there is more to it than a bowl of pasta before the game starts, will stand you in greater stead with regards improving your game.

Apple and Tennis Balls

A Thousand Little Sprints

It was Bjorn Börg who once said that a single tennis match was actually more like “a thousand little sprints”. Think about this for a second. When I am playing tennis, I am always moving, always busy with something, but it is not always the same thing. It is a game of tempo, of pace changes, but not the gradual kind. The sudden and explosive nature of tennis can fluidly merge into a lengthy and graceful exchange, which means your body needs to adjust from sudden sharp movements, to a more stamina based sprint.

Preparation for this sort of game is difficult, and it takes a professional approach. Even if you are just looking to play a game at your local courts on a Sunday afternoon, or playing something more competitive, ensuring that you are properly prepared from a nutritional standpoint is imperative.

Eating my Five a Day Is Enough, Right?

There is a lot more to sports nutrition that just eating your five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. There is a certain element of truth in the five-a- day statement, but there are good and bad fruits. There are proper and improper ways and times to eat them.

Pre-Game Nutrition

Before I play a game, I always like to follow roughly the same meal plan. It might be boring, but I only play for fun, and so it is not as though I am eating this seven days a week. If that was the case, then I would definitely change things up now and then.

My pre-match meal is usually high in carbohydrates, and relatively low in protein. That is important. You don’t want a high protein meal before you play. That will make you sluggish. The carbohydrates will give you energy.

 A selection of healthy foods

Pre Game Nutrition

Also, I start my pre-game nutrition routine the night before. I have a nice plate of brown rice and chicken, with some steamed vegetables. On game day you want to eat easily digested food to avoid any discomfort during the game.

For lunch, as I tend to play all my games in the mid to late afternoon, I like a nice chicken breast sandwich, a small helping of mayonnaise and a little salad. I also have a glass of milk, a glass of water (or maybe a sport drink) and normally an apple, although I do like to rotate my fruit choices.

I never drink tea or coffee on game day. I know there are lots of pro’s and con’s about this, but it is my personal experience that I play better without tea or coffee.

I will normally have another banana and a glass of water before my match starts, but not so much that I will be bursting for the toilet during the game, and unable to concentrate.

It is also important to eat and drink while playing

Nutrition is something that needs to be considered at all times, even while the game is going on. You don’t sit down between sets to take a sip of latte or a swig of cola and a bit of a mars bar.

I always like to have at least a 16oz bottle of sports drink Courtside when I am playing. Maybe more in the summer months. I am not saying you should drink it all, but I like to make sure I have enough. Bananas are another key component of my game time nutrition. The high potassium content in the fruit helps to stave off the nasty cramps that can creep up on you during those long games.

Post-Game Protein

I play at a club, and no matter where we play, the group always gets together, back at our home stomping ground and heads out for a meal together. I always take a chicken Caesar salad. The high protein count in the chicken, especially in the salad I get, is the perfect post workout / post game replenishment. Plenty of water is also a must. I think on a game day, I drink around 3 to 5 litres of water, depending on the time of year. In the summer it is much closer to five, but in the cooler months or the less intensive game days, it will be around the three of four litre mark.

 Bananas and a Tennis Racket

I’m No Expert, But It Works for Me

I have no degree in sports nutrition, but I love sports, I am not a specimen of the physical ideal, but I can run around with the best of them. My plan and my advice are just that, it is what has worked for me, and I truly hope that it will work for you.

Give it a try, play around with the foods and drinks, see what works best for you, but understand that there is more the playing good tennis than just knowing how to hit a ball. Knowing your body is key, and ensuring it is properly fuelled for the task ahead will mean you are always prepared to go the full five sets.

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Tennis SportsNutrition

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