Nutrition for Tennis, Part 2
Author: Certified HyperStrike Trainers
Daily Nutritional Needs
Exceptional tennis players require a high-carbohydrate diet to maintain stamina. Stored carbohydrates (i.e. muscle and liver glycogen) are the primary fuel for energy. When the stores are low, focus and performance begin to suffer.
For athletes, the American and Canadian Dietetics Associations recommend 55 to 58 percent of calories be CHO, 12 to15 percent protein and 25 to 30 percent fat (1). These are the same requirements for sedentary individuals. However, there has been a growing body of evidence that protein and fat requirements may need to be altered for active individuals, especially when 15 percent of the diet is protein (2,9,10). In order to avoid muscle loss, the protein and fat requirements have been slightly altered here for the recommended training diet as described below.
The Training Diet â?? In-Season
During the season, the diet should consist of about 60 percent complex carbohydrates, 20 to 25 percent protein and about 15 to 20 percent fat. The goal of the training diet is to provide adequate energy for recovery and tissue repair quickly and efficiently, without adding body fat.
For some it is easier to keep track of grams than calories. For simplicity, if you ate 2,000 calories a day, 55 percent of that is 1,100 calories from CHO, which is equal to 275 grams of carbohydrates (there are four calories of CHO per gram; thus, 1100/4 = 275 g of CHO per day. For protein, there are four calories of protein per gram also).
Record your diet with macronutrient ratios in a food journal. This way, you can keep track of your eating habits.
Some research suggests that protein should be 1.6-1.8 g/kg bodyweight (bodyweight in kg = bodyweight in pounds / 2.2 kg) per day (9) or as high as 2g/kg bodyweight per day in athletes (10). The Recommended Daily Allowance of 0.8 g/kg bodyweight per day protein is based on what is healthy for the average sedentary individual, which is not necessarily enough for athletes.
The additional protein is crucial not only for muscle repair, but also as an additional energy source. Tennis is an intense game, and the body may start using its own muscle as an energy source if it is strained. Because it is so difficult to build and maintain muscle, athletes should be careful not to lose it.
Keep fat intake to about 20 percent of your total calories, consisting primarily of essential and monounsaturated fats. Essential fatty acids are a type of fat that the body cannot create from fish and walnuts. Monounsaturated fats, which are fats with one binding site, can come from olive or canola oils, seeds and/or avocados.
For someone consuming 2,000 calories a day, the fat intake should be about 400 calories. This is equal to about 44 to 67 grams (each fat gram contains nine calories).
You may be tempted to ingest as little fat as possible, however, this is also unhealthy. Keeping your fat intake to less than 15 percent may have a harmful effect by inhibiting absorption of those vitamins that dissolve in fat, and it has no effect on improving your body fat percentage.
The primary purpose of the pre-game meal is to offset fatigue during the game.
There is no one-size-fits-all prescription because different people react differently to the same foods. Athletes should try to find food that wonâ??t cause GI distress and will help to maintain focus and endurance. A few guidelines:
- Eat low-glycemic foods, such as whole grain cereals, certain fruits, sandwiches made with whole wheat bread, etc., approximately two to three hours before a competition. The closer to your match, the smaller the meal. This will help sustain blood-sugar levels.
- Keep protein and fat intakes low because they slow digestion.
- Avoid bulky foods, like raw fruits and vegetables, dry beans, peas and popcorn, which can stimulate bowel movements.
- Avoid gas-forming foods such as vegetables from the cabbage family and cooked dry beans.
- Drink 400 to 600 mL (14 to 22 oz) of fluid two to three hours before exercise depending on tolerance (1).
- Do not try new foods just before a match. Eat foods familiar with your digestive system.
- Some athletes prefer to use their favorite foods, which may give them a psychological edge.
During the Match
Although eating as directed above will allow you to top off glycogen stores coming into the event, you still have to contend with two potential enemies â?? dehydration and rapid glycogen utilization and depletion.
Tennis is often played in sweltering conditions. Court surface temperatures of 122 degrees F have been reported from center court during the Australian Open. When matches drag on three hours or more, players lose a lot of sweat. But fluid intake can be less than sweat losses because players are not prompted to drink by change of ends as they are during matches. Focus on consuming two liters of water each hour to prevent dehydration. Understand that your needs with vary with your environment. Ideally, this will be every 10 to 15 minutes or enough so you never feel thirsty. If you are thirsty, your body has sent you a signal indicating you are already dehydrated. Listen to it!
Glycogen depletion varies with the intensity of the match and aerobic fitness level. Although liquid carbohydrates can help restore lost glycogen, it is never replenished as fast as it is lost.
To remedy both problems, bring a water bottle containing a solution of six to seven percent carbohydrate and electrolytes, such as Cytomax, Heed, Hammer Gel, or G Push. Try to avoid Gatorade, Powerade or any of the common sport drinks seen on commercials because they contain a considerable amount of table sugar, which may lead to GI distress and poor replacement of muscle glycogen.
Still, something is better than nothing. It is important to consume carbohydrates in order to prevent performance decrease. For matches longer than an hour, a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink, rather than water, is recommended.
Post- Game Meal
Consume 1.5 g/kg bodyweight of CHO-rich, low fiber foods and beverages within 30 minutes or as soon as possible after a game and again every two hours for four to six hours to replace glycogen stores (1). This may be difficult when traveling, but failing to do so will encourage under-recovery and potential muscle wasting.
After physical activity lasting longer than an hour, the body best restores lost glycogen when carbohydrates and protein are consumed together in a ratio of 4:1 (6) or 3:1 (7,8), rather than simply consuming carbohydrates alone. Furthermore, the combination of CHO and protein has the added benefit of stimulating amino acid transport, protein synthesis and muscle tissue repair, all of which will further speed recovery and re-energize you for your next competition.
Products such as Endurox R4 by Endurox and Recoverite by Hammer Gel will provide both nutrients. When in a bind another option is drinking 20 oz. of low-fat chocolate milk post-exercise.
It is better to consume the â??mealâ? as a liquid in order to facilitate recovery faster, and follow with a variety of whole-foods between two and four hours later.
Return to the normal Training Diet at the next meal.
DO NOT FORGET the post-game meal!
The importance of replacing fluids that have been lost while playing tennis must be emphasized. Do not underestimate the importance of hydration and its effects on performance and concentration, especially during competitions. When exercising in a hot environment (temperature of 30 degrees Celsius or more), even two percent dehydration impairs exercise performance and increases the possibility of suffering a heat injury.
For every pound that is lost, drink two cups (600 ml) of water. This must be determined by taking weight measurements before and after competition or following the end of the day.
One important consideration with regard to hydration is urine output. Drinking fluids containing sodium may decrease urine output, particularly when dehydration becomes significant (less than two percent of body mass). A low amount of sodium can be found in sports drinks because it improves taste and stimulates thirst. Drinks like this with added electrolytes (like Cytomax and Hammer Gel) may be the best choice for significant dehydration. During long, hot runs, sports drinks with standard sodium concentration may be ideal because studies have shown less fluid is consumed as taste decreases. The ideal sports drink depends on the length of the run and the environmental conditions.
Drinking fluids with a CHO concentration of less than eight grams (like soft drinks, energy drinks and fruit juice) during exercise delays gastric emptying and slows fluid delivery. Therefore, sports drinks or water are the best choices during long, hot runs, especially where fluid demands are high.
Be aware hydration is also necessary for proper digestion of food and cellular metabolic processes. Proper hydration impacts health on an assortment of levels.
To recap: consume sports drinks or H2O over soda, juice, Red Bull, coffee or beer (as if you would!).
Water, and sports drinks. Avoid sodas, beer, malt liquor, Red Bull, or juice. Drinking cold water is the best way to stay hydrated in the heat.
Maintaining good nutrition is difficult if you compete in constant tournaments. Not only must the athlete be committed to looking after fluid and carbohydrate needs between matches, but he or she must do so without a definite timetable.
As soon as a match schedule is known, plan a meal routine that schedules convenient pre-event meals and recovery strategies. When several matches are played in succession over many days, pro-active recovery techniques will be important to maintaining performance through the end of the schedule.
A lack of a nutritional plan can be a critical mistake. For away matches, plan where you will be eating meals and try to organize the menus in advance. While on the road, take control of meals eaten on planes, buses and other travel options. Do not depend on others to have optimal nutrition choices available. Tournament players must learn to be adaptable with their eating plans - having a clear idea of the goals of competition nutrition, but being prepared to handle all possible outcomes in a day's play.
Always carry some high-carbohydrate snacks or meal replacements, such as health bars, ready-to-drink shakes and fruit and yogurt for emergencies. Bananas and grapes are also great â??to-goâ? meals you can pack for a quick natural electrolyte-energy source prior to a match.
The temptation of binge drinking may come more after a match for a celebration of victory, building team morale among teammates or a gathering to ease the pain of defeat. A sensible amount will not hinder performance or health. In general, this means one drink for women and two for men.
But alcohol intake can interfere with the game and post-exercise recovery (3-5).
Get a post-exercise meal and fluids in first before drinking any alcohol. This way, less alcohol will have a tendency to be absorbed into the bloodstream and pass into the small intestine with the rest of the food.
Avoid any alcohol 24 hours post-exercise if you have any soft tissue injuries or bruises.
Alcohol and injuries are a bad combination, and it may actually increase swelling, bleeding and delay recovery (3-5).
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3. El-Sayed, M.S. Effects of alcohol ingestion post-exercise on platelet aggregation. Thromb Res. Jan 15;105(2):147-51. 2002.
4. Peters, T.J., S. Nikolovski, G. K. Raja, T. N. Palmer, P. A. Fournier. Ethanol acutely impairs glycogen repletion in skeletal muscle following high intensity short duration exercise in the rat. Addict Biol.;1(3):289-95. 1996.
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7. Zawadzki KM, Yaspelkis BB 3rd, Ivy JL. Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise. J Appl Physiol. May;72(5):1854-9. 1992.
8. Ivy, J. L., H. W. Goforth, Jr., B. M. Damon, T. R. McCauley, E. C. Parsons, T. B. Price. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol. Oct;93(4):1337-44. 2002.
9. Lemon, P.W. Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. J Am Coll Nutr. Oct;19(5 Suppl):513S-521S, 2000.
10. Tipton, K. D., R. R. Wolfe. Protein and amino acids for athletes. J Sports Sci. Jan;22(1):65-79. 2004
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