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Nutrition & Hydration

“Physical – Nutrition”
Energy Balance and Fuel for the Body

Nutrition is an important part of a player’s overall development. A well-balanced diet that includes proteins, carbohydrates and fats is essential to providing the fuel a player needs for high-level play and competition. A player doesn’t have to become a “health nut,” but you do have to understand how a player’s nutrition choices, as well as the timing of his meals and snacks, affect his physical, emotional and mental performance. Realize that the effectiveness of any sound nutrition program is greatly enhanced when integrated with proper training methods, periodization and adequate rest.

You have to be properly hydrated to withstand high intensity training, such as tennis. The value of water, your body’s most important nutrient, cannot be underestimated. Even a mild dehydration, as little as 2% loss of fluids, which is considered “normal” for humans, can have a detrimental outcome on your tennis performance. You don’t even feel thirsty until maybe at 3% of dehydration. At that time your performance is already impaired.
Tennis great Bjorn Borg once described a tennis match as “a thousand little sprints.” As a tennis player, you have to sustain high level of quick anaerobic movements during prolonged periods, and often in high temperatures. It is very easy to get dehydrated.

Brett Buffington, popular Tennis Professional in Southern California…
Follow these 5 easy tips to always remain well hydrated and stay on a top of your tennis performance:

  1. Prepare well physically and work on your tennis fitness all year around. The fitter you are, the less vulnerable to heat and related issues you will be.
  2. Drink, drink, drink! Drink your first glass of water upon awakening, and keep drinking throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Remember, if you are thirsty, it is already too late and you are not performing at your best.
  3. Increase salt in your food and drinks. As you sweat during your training, you lose a lot of salt electrolytes. Keep replenishing salt through food and drinks (canned soups, vegetable juices, sport drinks, salted pretzels).
  4. If you drink coffee or tea (and yes, it has good benefits for us), keep in mind that caffeine is dehydrating. Remember to drink 2 extra glasses of water for each glass of caffeinated beverage.
  5. Keep your body cool before, during and after your tennis practice.

Players also need to consider that, as with any vigorous physical activity, playing tennis produces a considerable amount of body heat, which can cause a player’s core body temperature to rise. Sweating is typically the most effective and most utilized on-court method for dissipating heat in either hot or cool weather. This poses a significant challenge to many tennis players since the water lost through sweat must be replaced to avoid dehydration and impaired performance. If the fluid lost via sweat is no properly balanced by fluid intake on the court, a tennis player may become dehydrated and overheated, and likely will experience ‘premature’ fatigue and possibly lose the match. More severely, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or even worse, heat stroke may ultimately ensue.

Nutrition and Hydration Tips for Tennis

Tennis players are encouraged to drink 17 to 20 ounces of water within two hours of their match.
By Page Love, M.S., R.D., L.D.
USTA Player Development
Tennis great Bjorn Borg once characterized a tennis match as “a thousand little sprints.” In order to succeed in tennis, players need to sustain the quick anaerobic movements required by the sport for matches that can last several hours.

The competitive tennis season also is held during the warmer months where a high heat index and hot court surfaces are common environments. These conditions make tennis players targets for dehydration and heat illness.

The tennis training diet should be focused on high-energy foods and adequate hydration, timed appropriately before and after multiple competitions. The following guidelines help develop successful nutrition and hydration practices for players.

Pre-Match Eating and Hydration Guidelines

Tennis players need to pay special attention to their pre-match meals and beverage choices, as these foods and fluids may need to last for hours during tournament and multiple match play.

Select pre-match meals and snacks that are:

  • Familiar and known to settle hunger
  • High in carbohydrates to supply energy for muscle reserves, moderate in protein and low in fat
  • Quickly digested (not too high in fiber or fat)

Examples of pre-match meals and snacks rich in carbohydrates are pasta, bread, fresh fruit, granola bars, energy bars and sports drinks.

Meal Guidelines:

LUNCH (3-4 hours prior to competition)
Tofu and veggie burgers
Saltine crackers
1 cup of skim milk
8 oz. serving of Powerade

PRE-GAME SNACK (1-2 hours prior to competition)
Fruit yogurt or banana
Peanut butter or nuts(almonds)
1 cup of water
1 Gatorade energy bar
20 oz. Powerade thirst quencher

Hydration tips before players hit the court:

  • Limit/avoid caffeinated beverages (iced teas, coffee, colas) especially right before and after match play. These may cause additional fluid loss as urine.
  • The night before, fill and chill squeeze bottles or sports jugs and bring to each practice or match. Each player should have a minimum of 2 liters available courtside.
  • Consume enough fluids throughout the day so urine is a light or pale yellow color before starting a match.
  • Drink 17 to 20 oz. of fluid within 2 hours pre-match.

Why do I need them?

  • They are body’s mainsource of energy and help maintain blood sugar
  • They are stored in the muscles to be used as energy between meals and snacks
  • They are an important source of fiber, B vitamins, and iron
  • They bulk up in the tummy and help us feel full

How much do I need?

  • At least 2 servings of carbs (grains) at each meal (3x/day)
  • 1 serving of carbs for a snack (2x/day)

What are some healthy sources of carbohydrates?
Whole wheat grains:breads, pastas, brown, rice, bagels, muffins
Starchy vegetables:corn, peas, potatoes
Legumes / beans:pinto, navy, black, black-eyed peas
Pretzels, popcorn, wheat crackers

Why do I need it?

  • Your body needs protein to build and repair muscles
  • It is the building block of major organs
  • Every enzyme in our body, many hormones, and our antibodies are all made of it
  • It provides a feeling of fullness
  • It is an important source of iron, zinc, and niacin

How much do I need?

  • A 3-oz. serving at meal time (2x/day)
  • A 1- to 2-oz. serving at snack time (1-2x/day)

What are some healthy sources of protein?

  • Lean beef, pork, turkey, venison, lamb, seafood and fish
  • Tofu and veggie burgers
  • Peanut butter and nuts
  • Eggs, milk, yogurt,cottage cheese

Why do I need it?

  • Fat is an important energy source and helps to maintain our immune system
  • It helps manufacture hormones like estrogen and thyroid
  • It is necessary for cell growth
  • It helps us feel full and adds flavor and enjoyment to foods

How much do I need?

  • A minimum of 1 teaspoon of vegetable fat per meal and snack
  • Take your weight, cut it in half – that’s how many fat grams to eat a day (120 lbs. = 60 grams)

What are some healthy sources of fat?

  • Peanut butter and other nut butters
  • Vegetable oils including olive, safflower, peanut, corn, canola
  • Cheese, avocados, olives, legumes, nuts/seeds
  • Mayonnaise, margarine, butter, sour cream,salad dressings
  • Ice cream, cookies, candy bars, muffins, donuts, chips, crackers, croutons

Ex-ATP touring professional, Brett Buffington, now a private professional tennis coach based in “The Jewel” of San Diego, La Jolla, California. Nicknamed “Coach Buff” or Mr. TennisBuff, he is all about trust, respect, love and of course Best Effort…

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