10 nutrition tips

1. Diet right. “The first thing I ask my players is, ‘Are you playing at your optimal weight?’” says Kristine Clark, Ph.D., R.D., the director of sports nutrition for the Penn State Athletics Department. Being overweight will drag you down, but if you’re not strong enough you might want to put on muscle. “Knowing how many calories you need to consume each day will help you set your priorities and figure out where to add or cut calories,” Clark says. Determine the calories you need each day by multiplying your body weight on a scale from 16 to 20 (16 if you’re relatively inactive, 20 if you’re very active). By this method, a highly active 140-pound player needs about 2,800 calories a day to maintain his or her weight.

2. Make carbs count in your diet. Repeat after us: Bread and pasta are not my enemy. In fact, if you’re on the court several times a week or active in other ways, carbs are your muscles’ best friend. “Carbs in the form of starch or flour are the primary fuel for muscles,” says Page Love, R.D., L.D., president of Atlanta-based Nutrifit Sport Therapy and a member of the USTA Sports Science Committee. “Without enough carbohydrates, you’ll feel lethargic and lack power on the court.” But all carbs are not equal. Refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta provide less fiber than their more nutritious whole-wheat cousins. Depending on your activity level, aim to have six to eight servings (one portion is equal to one-half cup cooked pasta or one slice of bread) of foods like whole-wheat bread and pasta each day.

3. Pick up your protein. You can’t live on bread alone, so it’s important to get adequate protein in your diet. If you’re active, you’ll want to eat about 0.5–0.7 grams per pound of body weight per day, Clark says. For a 180-pound man, that translates to 90–126 grams of protein a day; for a 140-pound woman, it’s 70–98 grams. “Most of our female athletes don’t come anywhere close to that,” Clark says. “In order to reach those goals, you should be including some good forms of protein in every meal.” About one-third of each meal should come from protein like eggs, meat, or dairy.

4. Don’t be scared of salt. Unless you have a medical issue like hypertension, adding salt will help decrease your risk of muscle cramps, says Leslie J. Bonci, R.D., director of the sports-medicine nutrition program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Sodium helps keep fl u-ids balanced in and around your cells and prevents fl uid from accumulating in extra-cellular spaces, which can lead to muscle cramps. Try salty foods like pretzels, pickles, crackers, or soup, or add condiments such as soy sauce to your meals. Sports drinks can also help you keep your sodium levels balanced.

5. Start your day off right. Translation: Don’t skip breakfast—even if you’re playing first thing in the morning. If you don’t “break the fast” when you wake up, you risk not having the energy you need to perform at your best. “Within one hour of waking up in the morning, you should get some-thing into your stomach—preferably a small meal that combines some protein and carbohydrates,” Bonci says. Easy examples: a bowl of cereal and low-fat milk or peanut butter on whole-wheat toast. How much you eat depends on how long you have before you play. If you’re on the court in an hour, keep it to less than 200 calories; if you have two or three hours, you can bump it up to 300 or 400.

6. Hit the court ready to run. An hour before a practice or match, drink 16–20 ounces of fl uid and eat a small snack of about 200 calories, such as peanut butter crack-ers or a handful of trail mix, Bonci says. When you’re on court, drink another 20–40 ounces each hour. If you’re playing in a tournament, fi ll your bag with cereal bars, cut-up fruit, or trail mix so you have a nutritious snack within reach.

7. Stay hydrated. A surprising number of tennis players are dehydrated even before they toss their first serve. In hot condi-tions, even a 1-percent dehydration level can affect performance, says Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia and a member of the USTA Sports Science Committee. “When your body is even slightly dehydrated it has to make adjustments, which can have negative effects,” Bergeron says. “Play or training will feel more difficult and you’ll fatigue earlier.” Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after play. Weigh yourself before and after playing; for every pound you’ve lost, drink 20–24 ounces of fluids to make it up.

8. Nix the energy drinks. Sugary soda, Red Bull, and coffee give you a temporary jolt, but energy drinks ultimately have a negative effect on your performance. “You may feel like you get a boost, but that burst is short-lived,” Love says. “You’ll experience a sugar high for 15–30 minutes, but most matches last three to five times this duration, and eventually you’ll start to crash.” A better option: sports drinks like Gatorade, which have carbs for fuel, fluids for hydration, and no caffeine, which is a diuretic.

9. Don’t skimp on dairy. One easy way to sneak more protein into your diet is to down a glass of chocolate milk after a match. “The nice thing about milk, especially for women, is that it contains many bone-building nutrients, like calcium, whey protein, and vitamins A and D,” says Susan M. Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., the author of Power Eating (Human Kinetics) and an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Washington. In fact, one recent study found chocolate milk to be just as effective as preformulated recovery drinks in helping muscles recover after a workout.

10. Eat before you shower. “From the moment you put your racquet down, the clock starts ticking,” Kleiner says. In the race to refuel your muscles, the best time to eat extra carbs to help muscles recover is the first 15–45 minutes after exercise. Ideally, you want a 3-1 carb-protein ratio, like in a shake or energy bar, to maximize recovery and make playing the next day easier. Tennis Magazine



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