It is no surprise that a wholesome and healthy diet, more often than not, has a telling impact on athletic performance.
A full-fledged tennis match consists of 5 sets. Unless, of course, one of the players doesn’t get to win any of the first three sets and the match is finished in three straight sets. Even then, this sport is arguably, one of the most taxing on the body. You have players stretching their bodies and playing their hearts out on the court (never mind the scorching sun under which Roland Garros is played). With improved technology and no player willing to concede even an inch, wearying 5 setters have become rather common. Who can ever forget the 2010 Wimbledon 1st round men’s singles between American John Isner and French qualifier Nicolas Mahut! The match, amidst all interruptions and rain delays, went up to 11 hours and 5 minutes, with the last set stretching more than the previously concluded game. Such can be the demands of this beautiful sport and without a body in top fighting shape, it can get extremely difficult not to vomit and pass out on the court. That’s precisely what used to happen to Novak Djokovic before he got into a gluten-free diet and started sticking to it for good.
That brings us to the interesting part of the article; what should tennis players eat right
before and after their match in order to keep their body in best shape.
Right before a match:
On a given match day, nothing beats the goodness of a wholesome breakfast that includes complex carbs such as oatmeal, whole wheat and fruits that don’t rank high on the calorie meter. Complex carbohydrates build up steady reserves of energy that will help you power through the matches later in the day. Drink a glass of milk, an egg or some Greek yogurt and you have the protein fix as well. However, getting your proteins will surely assume more importance after you’ve played a grueling match. This is because lean protein, apart from being filling, helps you to build muscle mass. A high sugar breakfast should be an absolute no-go right before a match. This is because once you’ve eaten something sugary, the pancreas immediately releases insulin to keep the body’s sugar levels in check. This initial burst of insulin isn’t good news for your body and can crash your system right in the middle of a match. Also, a breakfast about one a half to two hours prior to the match can hold your body in solid stead.
While the match is going on:
Think about the sapping contest between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final. The match extended for 6 hours, indicative of severe depletion of glycogen reserves.
A banana can be just the perfect food to snack on midway through the match as it keeps the body’s blood sugar levels steady while boosting energy in a much sustained manner. Keep the water bottles handy. Often due to the pumping adrenaline, you don’t get to realize that your body is losing out on copious amounts of water and electrolytes. And the only way to cover up for that is to replenish yourself every 10 to 15 minutes during the match. Coconut water can give you just what you need at that point of time.
After the match is over:
A balanced meal is crucial to your muscle recovery after a tiring contest. Stick to a meal that’s balanced on the protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrates front. Whole wheat bread/pasta or chicken breast served with brown rice could be a great alternative as a post-match recovery meal.
Tennis foods you can stack up on daily:
- Oysters, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, almonds, beans and other foods rich in zinc
- Citrus fruits ton help muscle repair and recovery
- Egg yolks, tomatoes and other choline rich foods
- Sardines, salmon and other fish rich in healthy Omega 3 fatty acids
What do the top tennis players in the circuit eat before and after their matches?
# Rafael Nadal
On being asked what he eats typically before playing those belters, Rafa said that he’s always been a sea-food aficionado. And after decimating his opponent with a flurry of forehand winners, the Spanish matador goes towards the chocolates and olives section.
Opinion: With sea food, it is always difficult to know what you get. The farm-raised varieties are usually packed with contaminants. Swordfish, tuna and other variants loaded with mercury should be definitely avoided.
# Novak Djokovic
The 30 year old Serb came real close to achieving a career Grand Slam after his French Open win in 2016. Novak, or ‘The Djoker’, the moniker that he’s kind of made his own, owing to his hilarious impersonations of fellow sportsmen on court coupled with almost clinical annihilation of his rivals, generally eats a gluten-free oatmeal or muesli for breakfast on a match day. Pumpkin seeds and a handful of walnuts and almonds follow. And finally, a heavy protein along with his lunch seals his diet deal on a day he steps foot on the court.
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