Tennis is a lifestyle more than a sport – and for good reason. Tennis takes power, endurance, and dexterity that has to be earned on and off the court. Performance on the court is strongly linked to long-term factors. One of the most important of those factors is nutrition, and one of the best things you can do for your body is to load up on power foods before a match.
The way you eat affects the way you build muscle and endurance in the long-term, but also how much energy you bring to a single match. Long-term nutritional plans during training often differ from what players eat right before a match. This is why tennis players typically plan their diet around their training and matches.
Professional tennis players like Eugenie Bouchard often have a team of dieticians and nutritionists behind them to help them shift their nutritional needs around their schedules. For those of us without a full team to lean on, there are some simple guidelines for what to eat right before a match to help play your best and perform like the pros.
Our top 6 recommendations for pre-match meals and snacks are:
1. A turkey or chicken sandwich with veggies
2. A yogurt parfait with berries and granola
3. Bananas and fresh fruit
4. Pasta with butter
5. A bagel with low fat cream cheese
6. A brown rice bowl with protein and veggies
Pre-Match Power Foods Guidelines
If you’re looking for something else to power-up before a match or tournament, there are plenty of options. The reason the foods we’ve recommended are so effective is because they fall into a few important categories. When you’re gearing up for an important match, look for foods that are:
- HIGH in carbs
- MODERATE in protein
- LOW in fat
- LOW in fiber
Foods consistent with these guidelines are easy to digest and offer a fast-acting power-up on energy. You won’t feel too full or sluggish as your digestive system kicks in, but you will get a solid hit of nutrients you can burn right away.
Carbs vs. Fat
Complex carbohydrates are ideal while preparing for a match, and in your recovery period. Carbs are a quick source of fuel, while fats are slower-burning. You may eat a high fat diet while training or between matches, but just before a tournament, it’s carbs that will offer you on-the-spot power behind your swings. Fats and fibers take longer to digest, meaning you need to expend more energy on digestion, and won’t get that power-up you need.
When to Eat
Timing is also important when you’re planning your pre-match power foods. Try not to eat right before a match, as your body will have to expend energy on digestion, making you feel lethargic. Let your body have enough time to fully digest your meal, so you have those carbs ready to convert straight into energy. Plan to eat a full meal 3-4 hours before your match, and then snack as necessary to stay fueled. And, of course, don’t forget to hydrate!