The Stay FRESH Tennis Diet
By Jacqueline Bergman, PhD.
Playing tennis at the club level, whether socially or competitively, requires you to eat like an athlete – well, because you are an athlete. Here are some rules of thumb regarding nutrition and the active tennis player.
Fuel up with healthy carbs
Carbohydrates get a bad rep these days. However, carbs are absolutely essential to reaching peak athletic performance. Carbs are seen in the science community as THE energy nutrient. Interestingly, the brain can only get refueled through carbs. Another cool thing about carbs is that our body can store 1600 calories worth in the liver and muscle, known as glycogen. These stores are handy for in-between meals to fuel the brain. They can also be utilized during anaerobic activity for a blast of quick energy. However, because the body can only store 300 carb calories every hour, you cannot carb-load all at one meal (the excess calories will be converted to fat!). It is best to feed on carbs in a slow and steady manner the day before the match.
Rebuild with lean protein
Protein is the building blocks for every single cell in the body and it supports the very important immune system. Athletes need even more protein because after activity, you get cell damage as well as muscle strains and protein jumps in to provide recovery of this inflammation. If you don’t eat lean protein on a regular basis, you could be prone to injury.
Extinguish damage with antioxidants and inflammatory rich foods
So what is inflammation? It’s your body’s response to an intruder or injury. The immune system sends out a rush of white blood cells to the area to attack the intruder and to repair it. Antioxidants should be consumed regularly to help the repair process along and turn off the repair switch when the inflammation is gone. They also help prevent sore muscles and strengthen the immune system.
Antioxidants are brightly colored fruits and vegetables (phytochemicals). As we breathe in oxygen and are consequently exposed to toxins, it is inevitable that we experience cell damage in the form of inflammation. Eating foods rich in antioxidants helps decrease that inflammation, which can be the foundation of diseases later on such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, mental disorders, and more.
Space out meals every 2-3 hours
They key to all of this is to space out your eating times to every 2-3 hours. This way you are constantly replenishing our carb stores and repairing damage. If you only eat 3 big meals per day, you could be going over your calorie needs. But if you eat smaller meals every 2-3 hours, you are likely closer to your body’s specific caloric need.
Hydrate throughout the day
Water is a very important nutrient. It makes up 60% of our body weight and is integral to healthy cells. And it has zero calories!! It aids in toxin elimination and helps create peak cognitive ability so you can make decisions quickly. If you get irritable or spacey, you may not be hydrating enough.
So how much is enough? Aim to drink about 66 ounces of water per day. Athletes can lose up to that much with every hour of exercise. Fresh fruits and vegetables also contribute to water intake, while providing nutrient-dense food sources of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
Use the FRESH approach to hit a healthy peak performance on the court.