To eat well is a healthy and relatively simple lifestyle choice that everyone should try to adopt. If you are already active in your tennis community, chances are that you are already familiar with healthy eating habits and how it affects performance on the tennis court.
The simple fact that you don’t need to go far or visit specialized alternative stores to find the healthiest and most nutritious food is a great advantage here in Vancouver and the lower mainland. In fact, most of us should eat food we are already familiar with, and we have easy access to at our local grocery store, lucky enough Vancouver is famous for having so many options for Healthy Food Stores!
While good nutrition habits are beneficial to everyone, it is extremely valuable for high performance athletes (which includes tennis players). The reason behind this is that so many aspects of the game are influenced by what we eat, specially if we look at scheduling involving practices, match preparation, playing the match and recovering after match. All these steps are influenced by what we eat.
WHAT YOU EAT DEFINES WHAT YOU ARE
The bottom line is that high nutrient-dense foods are associated with lowering the risk to develop diseases and increases energy levels and healthy wellness. Having the chance to absorb all the nutrients we need helps our body to function optimally, which is excellent when we are training and competing.
A simple rule to follow is that we must always choose real fresh food instead of eating anything processed. Processed foods are usually modified a few (or many) times before they are ready for consumption- these would include being dehydrated, cooked, ground or adding preservatives or chemicals in order to make them last longer. These processes often decrease the levels of nutrients from the original food.
WHAT SHOULD WE EAT?
Overall there are several nutrients we should be trying to consume in order to have a “good health habit”.
Benefits: Lower Blood Pressure, Reduces Triglycerides, Reduces Inflammation, Assist Recovery.
Foods rich on Omega-3: Fish (Salmon, Sardines, Tuna), Seeds (Flax seeds, Chia Seeds) and Nuts ( Walnuts, Cashews)
Benefits: Makes up the building blocks of organs, muscles, skin, and hormones. Your body needs protein to maintain and repair tissues. Aids in muscle development, strength and repair
Foods rich in Protein: Red Meat, Chicken, Fish, Eggs, Lentils and Nuts
Benefits: Helps build and maintain strong bones. Promote Bone Development, Good Nerve and Muscle Function,
Foods rich in Calcium: Dairy (Milk, Yoghurt, Cheese), Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (Spinach, Kale, Collards), Fortified Cereal such as Corn Flakes and some (Sardines)
Benefits: Our body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles.
Foods rich in Iron: Red meat, Seafood, Pumpkin Seeds, Beans, Nuts.
Benefits: protect against oxidative stress in the body, which can damage cells
found in berries, other fruits and vegetables, green tea
Foods rich in Antioxidants: Dark Chocolate, Strawberry, Artichokes, Pecan, Blueberry, Kale.
EATING BEFORE WE PLAY
Even though there is no “right” way to fuel our body for training and competition, there are some basic guidelines that can help us work out what we should be doing.
Carbohydrates (“carbs”) are the main source of energy. A complete meal before activities should include not only carbs, but also protein and fats. A great meal prior to practice and match would include:
- High-fibre, low-sugar cereal with milk and fruit.
- Wholegrain bread or roll with lean protein (chicken or tuna) with a portion of vegetables (salad)
- Moderate portion of Pasta or Rice.
It is important to time the meal as to ensure when you go into the court for practice or match, there is enough time to let the meal to digest. Ideally, eating up to two hours before activities is enough to prevent any discomfort caused by digestion.
As most of you know, playing tennis tournaments means we are never sure when we will be able to go to the court. If more than 2 or 3 hours passes between eating and playing, it is important to top up the energy stores to have enough in the tank to play.
Carbohydrate rich snacks such as fruits, cereal bars or liquid meals (smoothies, chocolate milk) are perfect for situations like this.
EATING DURING A MATCH
A lot of people don’t like eating while being physically active. The feeling of undigested food in the stomach is very uncomfortable.
Enter Sports Drink. They are a great alternative for these cases as they act as a source of fuel in the absence of food and are rich in carbs.
In case there is a need to eat during practice or match the best choices are bananas, granola bars or small portions of wholegrain sandwiches with jam and peanut butter.
EATING AFTER A MATCH
After a heavy practice or intense match, our energy store level tends to drop and our immune system becomes compromised. Our fluid levels are drained through sweating and muscles tend to sustain micro traumas from the physical effort on court.
Eating is the best way to quickly replenish our energy reserves.
A balanced meal focused on addressing all the issues mentioned above will enhance our body’s ability to heal and recover. Milk Based Drinks such as smoothies not only help rehydrating, but is rich of protein for muscle repair, carbs to restore energy and antioxidants to increase immune system.
To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible.
If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. If you want to develop all the aspects of your game, contact us.