Nutrition for Tennis
Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the power of nutrition in supporting your tennis sporting goals. As passionate tennis players ourselves, we understand the importance of fueling your body with the right nutrients to enhance your on-court performance. We'll draw insights from sports dietitians and published scientific papers to provide you with expert advice on the ideal nutrition required to unleash your tennis potential.
Fueling Your Body For TRAINING
Tennis is a dynamic sport that demands explosive movements, sharp focus, and endurance. Training nutrition is vital for preparing your body to meet these challenges. Sports dietitians emphasize the importance of a well-balanced diet that provides sufficient energy, protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and micronutrients to support your training sessions effectively (1).
Carbohydrates serve as the primary energy source for tennis players, and play a crucial role in maintaining glycogen stores for optimal performance. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, and vegetables, help sustain energy levels during extended matches and promote steady blood glucose levels, reducing fatigue and improving concentration. Simple carbohydrates such as a piece of toast, instant oatmeal, or a fruit smoothie all serve as a quick and easily digestible energy source, especially useful for a pre-match pick me up. A fast acting carbohydrate product from Sci-Mx is the Cream of Rice which contains 38g of carbs per serving and an impressive 23 added vitamins and minerals.
- Tennis players should follow a habitually high carbohydrate diet of between 6-10 g·kg-1 to ensure adequate glycogen stores, with women generally requiring slightly less than men (2).
Protein plays a key role in muscle repair and recovery post-match or training session. Tennis players engage in high-intensity movements and require adequate protein intake to support muscle tissue growth and maintenance. Lean sources of protein, such as fish, chicken, beans, and low-fat dairy, are great options. A convenient way to boost protein intake is through protein shakes like the Sci-Mx Ultra Whey Shake, packed with 35g protein per serving and 9.7g of BCAAs.
- Protein intake guidelines for tennis players training at a high intensity and duration on a daily basis should be ~1.6 g·kg-1 (2)
Healthy fats are essential for overall health and well-being, including hormone production and joint health. Incorporate sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil into your diet in moderation to complement your training nutrition.
Vitamins and minerals
The article Nutrition for Tennis: Practical Recommendations, highlighted the significance of micronutrients in supporting endurance, immune health, and overall well-being. Antioxidants like vitamin C and E were found to protect against oxidative stress induced by intense physical activity, while iron and calcium were essential for optimal muscle function and bone health (2).
Adequate hydration is a cornerstone of tennis nutrition and players’ performance. Dehydration has a negative impact on players’ physical and cognitive abilities. Staying well-hydrated before, during, and after matches is essential for maintaining performance, reducing the risk of injury, and facilitating recovery (2).
Prioritizing the correct nutrition and hydration prior to competing is crucial for optimal performance. Aim to have a pre-match meal 3-4 hours before the start of the game. Incorporate a lean protein source, fluids for hydration and simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are easily digested and will ensure your glycogen stores are topped up and ready to fuel your performance. Top up with small snacks leading up to the match if need be, but make sure the snacks are rich in carbohydrates and low in fat and fibre so they are quickly digested.
If nerves are high and players think a solid meal won’t sit well, carbohydrates in a liquid form can be a good alternative. A fruit smoothie or meal replacement drink such as Sci-Mx’s Meal Replacement packed with 24 micronutrients are both quick and easy liquid meal options.
During an intense tennis match it’s vital to maintain hydration levels and electrolytes, as well as glycogen levels. Water and electrolytes should be consumed throughout the match where possible. To help prevent muscle fatigue setting in during play, easily digestible snacks should be consumed where possible. Snacks such as fruit, dried fruit, honey sandwiches or muesli bars are suitable for during match play.
- 30-60 g·hr-1 of carbohydrate should be ingested when match play exceeds 2 hours (2).
- 200 mL of fluid containing electrolytes should be consumed every change-over in mild to moderate temperatures of < 27°C but in temperatures greater than 27°C players should aim for ≥ 400 mL (2)
The food consumed post-match or training session is crucial in determining optimal recovery. Meals for recovery should contain carbohydrates for fuel, and protein for muscle growth and repair. Recovery meals such as pasta bolognese with a side salad or chicken wraps with avocado, cheese and salad are great options. If time is of the essence, a quick and easy solution could be the Sci-Mx Ultra Mass Protein Bar. Our tasty Choc Caramel Peanut bar contains 45g of carbohydrate and 25g of protein. A great choice for helping replenish tired muscles after an intense match.
In the post-match recovery phase, it is crucial to prioritize the intake of liquids, with a particular emphasis on replenishing lost electrolytes due to sweat. To facilitate proper rehydration after exercising in hot conditions, it's advisable for the rehydration drink to incorporate moderately elevated sodium levels, typically a minimum of 50 mmol/l, and potentially include some potassium. While the inclusion of additional substrates is not imperative for rehydration, a small quantity of carbohydrate (less than 2%) may enhance the intestinal absorption rate of sodium and water. It's essential to consume a beverage volume exceeding the amount of sweat lost to compensate for continuous obligatory urine losses (3).
In conclusion, each tennis player will have a unique set of nutrition and hydration requirements depending on their physiology and training demands. We recommend that players work closely with an accredited sports dietitian to best determine a nutritional strategy that will work for them and their tennis goals.
- Food for Tennis (2020) Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). Available at: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/food-for-your-sport/food-for-your-sport-tennis/ (Accessed: 30 August 2023).
- Ranchordas, M.K. et al. (2013) Nutrition for Tennis: Practical Recommendations, Journal of sports science & medicine. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761836/ (Accessed: 30 August 2023).
- Maughan, R. J., & Shirreffs, S. M. (2010, December 1). Recovery from prolonged exercise: Restoration of water and electrolyte balance. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/026404197367308 (Accessed: 30 August 2023).