Wimbledon, US Open, French Open, Australian Open… if you play tennis, these names should be no stranger to you. Apart from the four grand slam tournaments in professional tennis, each year tennis players can choose from hundreds of competitions all over the world to boost their ranking. Unlike many other sports, tennis is played year-round without a clear on and offseason. This means players can be training and playing continuously, with little time off. Proper tennis nutrition for training strategies can help you stay healthy and support your performance throughout the year.
The Nature of Tennis Drives Fuelling Needs
Tennis is an intermittent sport that involves quick starts and stops, overhead motions and different strokes (1). Players need a well-developed anaerobic and aerobic capacity to support the short, intense runs as well as a high level of skill, coordination, speed and agility to execute accurate shots (2). Professional athletes can spend four to six hours a day and five to six days a week training both on and off the court, to develop their power, agility and on-court endurance (3).
With all that said, there is no doubt tennis is a physically demanding sport. Appropriate training and eating are crucial aspects of fuelling players for upcoming matches and training. If you are training right but not eating right, your performance will still suffer. Whether you want to become the next Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic or Bianca Andreescu, proper tennis nutrition strategies are crucial for playing your best. To learn more, continue reading!!
Tennis Nutrition for Training Days
As mentioned, tennis players like yourself can spend many hours a week training. Your tennis nutrition strategies need to meet your training volume. Intense practises can increase your energy and carbohydrate needs. Carbohydrates, also known as sugar, fibre and starch, are your primary emphasis. Tennis is a sport that relies heavily on carbohydrates to produce energy for multiple short sprints and long matches. Consume sufficient carbohydrates before and after playing to provide energy for practices as well as prepare you for the next practice or competition. In addition to carbs, protein, fluids, and micronutrients are also essential elements of tennis nutrition for training
How much do you need?
In general, eat a diet that includes lots of high-carbohydrate foods like grains and fruit. Some of you may want a precise number. Calculate your carbohydrate needs using your body weight. On a daily basis, aim for 6 to 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight (kg BW). Eat more carbohydrate when you train more intensely.
For example, if you weigh 60kg and you have a light training day, aim to eat 6 – 7g/kg BW of carbohydrate. In total, for that day you would eat:
- 60g x 6kgBW – 60g x 7g/kg BW
= 360g – 420g of carbohydrates for the day.
To achieve a 360g carbohydrate diet, mix and match your food sources. Rice, milk, whole fruit, fruit juice, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn are examples of high carbohydrate food.
- A cup of pasta = 45g carbohydrates
- A medium banana = 25g carbohydrates
- A glass of juice = 30g carbohydrates
- A large potato = 64g carbohydrates
Consider how much you would eat before, during and after your training to help spread your carbohydrate intake. Ideally, 4 hours before a training section, try to eat 1 – 4g/kg BW of carbohydrate. Smaller meals or snacks should be considered if you have less time before practices.
Protein is another essential nutrient. During tennis, explosive movements like sprinting, stopping, jumping and rapid stroke can lead to muscle damage and tissue to breakdown (3). Eating protein-rich food helps repair tissue breakdown (2).
Similarly to carbohydrates, you can calculate your protein needs using your body weight. In general, aim for a range of 1.2 – 1.7g/kg BW. For example, if you are 60 kg aim for 72g – 102 grams of protein each day.
72g of protein can come from a combination of food sources consumed throughout the day.
Some protein examples:
- A cup of cottage cheese = 27g protein
- 3 oz cooked skinless chicken breast = 28g protein
- A glass of milk = 8g of protein
- An egg = 6g of protein
To stay hydrated you can drink your fluids and eat your fluids. Fruit and vegetables are a great source of water!! Tennis requires a high level of concentration, coordination and decision making. Dehydration impairs these critical skills (5). Poor hydration also increases your risk of heat stress, perceived tiredness, and makes you more prone to muscle spasms and cramps (3). Estimated fluid requirements for men are 3.7 litres a day and for women are 2.7 litres a day but individual needs vary widely (6). The best advice? Sip on water throughout the day and drink additional fluid before, and after your training to replace your lost.
Your Personal Hydration Needs?
Ideally 4 hours before, aim to drink 5 – 7 ml/kg BW of water. At 60kg, you would be looking at 300 to 350ml of fluid, or approximately 1 ½ cup of fluid.
Drink according to thirst and take sips in between tie-break changes. This helps you to rehydrate and replace some of your losses through sweat. With high-intensity sports like tennis, consider using sports drinks to provide carbohydrates and replace electrolyte losses.
Not sure whether you are drinking enough? Weigh yourself before and after training! If after training, you have gained weight, it means you are drinking enough. If you lose weight, it means you are not drinking enough. To replenish that water loss, drink 1 litre of fluid for every kilogram lost. For instance, if you lose approximately 1 kilogram after a match, which is 2.2 pounds, drink 1 litre of fluids to replace the loss.
What should I eat after training?
Tennis nutrition for training is critical for preparing your body for the next round of play. Focus on these four recommendations to make sure you are ready!!
- Replenish your carbohydrate stores. The muscles in our body store carbohydrates as glycogen. After prolonged practises and matches, carbohydrate stores are depleted in the body, so focus on restoring them. To do so, eat 1 gram/kg BW of carbohydrate within 20 minutes, this can help accelerate your storage (7).
- Repair your tissues with protein. Consume 10 – 20 grams of lean protein as soon as possible to promote muscle protein recovery.
- Rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes. Drink 1 litre per kilogram of weight you lose.
- Reinforce your immune system to prevent infection. This can be accomplished by doing the above recommendations and include a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
More about Immune Recovery
Vegetables and fruit are good helpers to promote recovery after long matches or practices. They are rich in antioxidants and nutrients which can help repair cells. Not consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables in sufficient amounts in short term, may not seem detrimental, however, over time, the lack of nutrients can lead to prolonged recovery times, more frequent illnesses and greater muscle injuries (3). So, try to eat more fruits and vegetables at every meal or use them as snacks during practices and competitions. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your tennis nutrition strategies. For example, strawberries are a great option to learn more click here!
Tennis Nutrition for Training in a Nutshell
Overall, it is important to note that these are general tennis nutrition strategies for tennis players. Different players have different training volume, needs and tolerance. Eat well-balanced meals throughout the day; focus on fueling and hydrating before, during, and after training; and include lots of vegetables and fruit to support a healthy immune system and help guard against injury. Adjust the strategies based on your training routine and match schedules and practice applying these guidelines on your training days to see what suits you best!
Hold on… what about nutritional strategies for match days? For tennis nutrition guidelines for match days, stay tuned for part 2 of Ace Your Fuel for the Next Wimbledon!
Nutrition planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one-on-one or group nutritional counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. In addition, the Food For Thought Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!
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