Let’s talk nutrition. I know, I know, it’s not a sexy topic but eating during training and competition is absolutely essential. However, I’ve found that most people feel pretty lost about what to eat and when. Even the greatest players in the game need a little help. Last night Caroline Wozniacki got a warning for coaching from the stands because her dad-coach told her to eat something on the changeover.
He was right. Athletes MUST replenish calories expended on the court. This is especially true in tennis, because you are exercising through continuous quick bursts of energy. Thinking of your body like a machine helps me understand these principals. What goes out must come in…or something like that! Tennis Express is committed to helping the whole player, so we have tons of products available to cover your nutrition on the court.
First up, a few facts about sports nutrition:
- There are six major classes of essential nutrients found in food: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water
- Adequate hydration intake via water consumption should take place before an event, particularly if the event will be of long duration or conducted under hot environmental conditions (aka every tennis match ever)
- During most athletic competition, the only nutrients that should be replaced are carbohydrate and water. Carbohydrate may provide additional supplies of the preferred energy source during high-intensity intermittent and prolonged exercise, while water intake may be critical for regulation of body temperature when exercising in warm environments
- For those athletes who must compete several times daily and eat between competitions (like in a tennis tournament), focus on carbohydrate-rich foods or fluid and moderate protein intake
- A liquid meal may be assimilated more readily than a solid meal
- Sports drinks are generally referred to as carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement fluids, and may be consumed before, during, and after training and competition
- Sports gels and candy normally provide carbohydrate, but may contain other substances such as vitamins, minerals, and caffeine. Their primary purpose is to provide a source of easily digested carbohydrates for energy during training or competition
So, what can you do to ensure proper nutrition and hydration during your next practice or match? I’m glad you asked!
Hydration is the most important factor. If you become dehydrated during play you may experience the following signs: thirst, dry mouth, sleepiness, tiredness, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat. All of these will make it nearly impossible to continue play, so STAY HYDRATED!! Thirst is actually a late sign of dehydration, so if you’re thirsty take a drink. No exceptions.
A good general rule is to drink 500mL of water for every one hour of vigorous exercise. That’s 16.9oz – the exact size of a standard, common water bottle. Basically, drink one bottle per hour. I recommend buying a reusable bottle like the Hydro Flask 24 oz Standard Mouth Bottle. It holds 24oz, which is enough for about 1.5 hours of exercise. For long matches or practices, bring two bottles. Available in 14 different colors, you’re sure to find the right bottle to keep your water cool for 24 hours. This product includes a lifetime guarantee, so you know it’s made to last and won’t get damaged in your bag.
Sodium is the main electrolyte depleted in the body when you sweat, so finding a sports drink or mix that replenishes electrolytes is a great idea. I’d recommend the GU Energy Labs Drink Mix, because they don’t use any sugary sweeteners or unnecessary additives. This stuff is pure hydration – but with a little flavor! To be honest, sometimes we just get tired of drinking plain water. Tennis Express offers five delicious flavors of Drink Mix, so try them all, pick your favorites, and never leave the house without them!
Second most important is carbohydrate replacement. As you’ve read, liquid calories are more easily assimilated into the body, so let’s examine the wonderful world of GU Energy Labs! The Stroopwafel is an incredible, new product perfect for athletes needing to increase their carbohydrate intake during competition. They even have gluten free options! Of course, these require opening a package and chewing which won’t work in some circumstances. What you always have time for is Energy Gel. A top seller among serious athletes, Energy Gel is available in a huge variety of flavors, so there are sure to be many that appeal to you. Some varieties include caffeine, so they should not be given to junior athletes. Every packet contains 100 calories dense in nutrients like carbohydrates, sodium, and branched-chain amino acids. These will maximize carbohydrate absorption, diminish stomach stress, hydrate, reduce mental fatigue, and decrease muscle damage. Consuming one packet every 30-45 minutes of exercise is just what the trainer ordered!
The last thing to discuss is recovery. Carbohydrates are for before and during training or competition; Protein is for after. Each Quest Nutrition Bar contains 20g of Protein and a high-fiber content. Available in more than 10 delicious flavors, I wish you luck trying to pick just one favorite. I think I’ve decided on Chocolate Peanut Butter. Or S’Mores. Or White Chocolate Raspberry. Ok I’ve decided nothing about flavor. I have decided that right after a workout, the best thing to consume is a Quest Nutrition Bar to get the protein needed to recover and build muscle.
To train like the pros you need to eat and drink like the pros. Take your hydration and nutrition seriously and your body will surely feel the difference. Shop for these products and more at TennisExpress.com. Remember – order today and we’ll ship today! Comment below with your favorite nutrition choices and how they’ve improved your game. Good luck on your fitness journey!