Nutrition for Tennis players: what you need and where to get it
No doubt, the nutrition you put in your body directly impacts your performance on the court. An effective tennis diet should contain all micronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats.
The thing is, we all process foods differently and so, optimal levels of each vary upon the individual. So this might leave you wondering, how do we know what really is the best nutrition for a tennis player?
What is a healthy tennis diet?
Whether you are a tennis player competing at a global level, or simply play it to feel a bit fitter, getting your diet right as a tennis player can be a tricky balancing act.
For most recreational players, a minimum of approximately 2,500 calories a day is recommended, although some players may require in excess of 3,000 calories. The importance of carbohydrates and protein in performance is well understood, but much less is often discussed about the role of vitamins and minerals.
Vigorous endurance exercise can cause both minor muscle tears and oxidative stress in the body. A supply of antioxidants post-match will help aid muscle repair and reduce oxidative stress as these super-nutrients help the elimination process of free radicals. This process helps to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (aka. DOMS) - allowing you to get back on the court faster and stronger.
Not consuming enough antioxidants may not seem detrimental in the short time, but over time, a lack of these nutrients can lead to prolonged recovery times, more frequent illnesses and greater muscle injuries. No one wants this!
The B Vitamins are the energy powerhouses! They help convert food and stored glycogen into energy during training sessions.
However, our ability to convert food into energy can vary upon our genes. For example, a variant in the MTHFR gene can impair the ability for your body to process and utilise vitamin B9 (folate) by up to 70%.Individuals with this variant are likely to suffer from impaired energy and/or focus.
This variant is present in about 20% of the population. Because our genes aren’t always ‘perfect’ at telling our body how to process and utilise essential nutrients, it is critical that those wanting to be at the top of their game ensure their genes do not hold them back and enough of the nutrient is consumed.
- Zinc is found to be beneficial for hand-eye coordination and is rapidly lost via sweat - making it an essential nutrient for tennis players. A good source of zinc are pumpkin seeds.
- Iron is a key mineral because of its energy carrying capacity. Low iron levels are a particular issue for female tennis players.
- Calcium is a mineral lost in sweat and is a key mineral for strong bone density in tennis players and prevention of muscle cramps. Like iron, calcium intake should be particularly emphasised for female tennis players.
The importance of macronutrients (protein, fats & carbohydrates) also can’t be ignored when it comes to tennis. In a pre-match meal you want to look for high-energy foods that are low in fat, higher in carbs with less fiber, and high in protein. Examples include: porridge, non-fat Greek yogurt, sugar-free fruit smoothies, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, toast, fruits, crackers and lean turkey or chicken.
Fats are used to supply sustained energy throughout a match. Foods high in fat generally slow digestion and may cause an upset stomach if consumed too close to playing so should be consumed several hours before playing.
Research suggests that tennis players need to consume around 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour in a match that lasts longer than 90 minutes in order to perform optimally.
Although we each have individual efficiency to convert carbohydrates into glucose (ie. fuel for the body) - too little carbs is likely to make anyone tired, hungry and unmotivated to train. Nobody wants this!
During tennis, explosive movements like sprinting, stopping, jumping and rapid stroke can lead to muscle damage and tissue to breakdown. Eating protein-rich food helps repair tissue breakdown so it is a vital nutrient for any player.
A Personalised DNA Tennis Diet
Ultimately, our genes, sleeping patterns, stress levels, the types of toxins we are exposed to, the amount of sun we get and many more factors at play when it comes to finding the optimal diet for tennis performance.
One thing which stays a constant throughout our life is our DNA. Even Andy Murray has used the results of a nutrition DNA test to help personalise his diet and prepare him for competition.
At NGX, we analyse these nutrients discussed in a simple DNA test. Once you receive a report of your individual needs for nutrients based on your genetics, you have everything you need to understand the best diet for you- for life.
What’s more, our BodyFuel is also the ideal post-training recovery shake, providing all 30 essential vitamins and minerals in optimal amounts to you. Each scoop provides 27g lean protein, 3g carbohydrates and a supply of fibre and healthy fats.
Blended with some extra carbs (such as a banana or oats) and mixed with coconut water, BodyFuel makes the ideal shake to replenish nutrient stores and provide a dose of electrolytes and hydration.
If you’re interested in joining the NGX Tribe and taking your performance to the next level, take a look at our science here.