The saying goes: “You are what you eat.” But you are also “How you eat” and “When you eat.” A tennis training diet should be focused on high-energy foods and proper hydration. The adequate portions of your diet should be timed appropriately before and after competition. Some hydration tips include:
►Limiting or avoiding caffeinated beverages (iced teas, coffee, colas), especially right before and after a practice or match.
►Having two liters of water/sports drink courtside for your practice or match.
►Drinking 17 to 20 oz. of fluid within two hours before your match. Consume five to 10 oz. of fluid every 15 to 20 min., especially at changeovers, for optimal hydration and performance.
Water, water, water! Your body is composed of 60 to 70 percent water. When you become dehydrated, your thought process becomes impaired. Lack of adequate water also has a profound impact on your energy levels.
Carbohydrates (whole grains, cereals, vegetables, fruits, beans, rice and pasta) are arguably the most important source of energy for athletes. Under-consumption of carbohydrates, particularly in the pre-and post-match time is very common. I see the same nutrition mistakes made over and over that often mean the difference between winning or losing your matches!
Vitamins that enhance your energy:
►Thiamin (Vitamin B1) is essential in helping the body convert carbohydrates into energy. Foods that are good sources of thiamin include beans and peas, whole grains and sunflower seeds.
►Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and niacin also help us use the energy obtained from our food more effectively. Sources of riboflavin include yogurt, mushrooms and whole grains. Niacin food sources include mushrooms, whole grains, tuna, salmon, chicken and beef.
►Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) assists in protein metabolism. Foods high in pyridoxine include spinach, bananas, soybeans, sunflower seeds, tuna and beef.
Minerals that enhance energy
Several minerals also assist in energy metabolism. These minerals are phosphorus, zinc, iodine, copper and chromium. Here are some food sources for these minerals:
►Phosphorus: Dairy products, poultry, fish, eggs, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
►Zinc: Poultry, fish, eggs and whole grains.
►Iodine: Salt-water fish and dairy products.
►Copper: Seafood, nuts and seeds.
►Chromium: Egg yolks and whole grains.
In addition to these foods, you want to maintain a varied diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources for good health and energy. With all of these foods, you want to use moderation in the size of your portions, since overeating also drains your energy.
Time your high-energy meal (two to three hours prior to your match), monitor your nutrient intake, maintain and replenish fluid levels, and consume a post-exercise meal (carbohydrates plus protein) within two hours after play. The post-exercise meal also improves your ability to train consistently. Fuel up properly and have fun! Good luck!