Getting the balance right
Originally published on 16/04/14
Remember when you ran out of energy during a match? Or when you couldn’t work out why you felt sluggish during training? Getting nutrition right is essential to peak performance in any sport, but especially in tennis where endurance, power and mental agility must be maintained for a sustained period.
With a match potentially lasting over three hours, understanding how food works as fuel is essential. However, it’s not just about what you eat on match day, but all year round.
We’re all familiar with the need for carbohydrates, protein and fat in a well-balanced diet. Carbohydrates provide the energy needed for a long training session or match. These can be categorised as either high Glycaemic index (high GI) or low GI.
High GI foods release their sugar quickly, giving you a quick burst of energy. They include white bread, white rice and pasta, and chocolate. Their effect is typically instant but unsustained and you’ll need another source of energy again soon.
Low GI foods, such as oats, brown rice and wholegrain pasta, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean meat and fish, give a slow, steady release of sugar meaning your energy level will be stable for longer. As a tennis player, you need both high and low GI foods – but at the right time.
And then there’s protein. Not only can protein help modulate the release of energy from food, nudging your food choice to a lower GI, but it’s also the building block for muscles.
Lean white meat and fish provide complete proteins so if you eat meat your diet should contain all that you need, but vegetarian or vegan tennis players need to make sure that they’re eating a good range of plant proteins to include all nine of the essential proteins.
Don't make the mistake of trying to avoid all fats in your diet. We need essential fats as an energy source and to help correct the inflammatory balance in the body.
However, this needs to be controlled by eating the correct dietary fats: Omega-3, found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as nuts and seeds.
This is an excerpt from 'Getting the Balance Right' by Sarah Brown. To read the full article, get your hands on a copy of tennishead Volume 5 Issue 1. Subscribe to the magazine today or download tennishead on iTunes.