On-Court Nutrition

We all know of the need to DRINK during long, hot tennis matches; but what of the need to EAT?  What are some of the alternatives for getting much-needed energy and sustenance while on the court?

The Old Banana

The staple for many players (and provided by tournaments) is the old banana.  One average banana contains 110 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of protein. Bananas are naturally free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Bananas provide a variety of vitamins and minerals including potassium, which is important as it helps maintain fluid levels in the body and regulates the movement of nutrients and waste products in and out of cells.

Glycogen Needs

According to OptimumTennis.net, “During the match, tennis players use so much energy resulting to glycogen deposit depletion. The tennis diet during the match should be able to replenish the used-up glycogen. The type of diet that has the capacity to replenish used-up glycogen at the maximum rate is complex carbohydrate drinks.”

What should you eat/drink?  “To an extent, it depends on how well you tend to eat in general and how long and hard you play,” says Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., an applied physiologist and assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia who’s also a member of the USTA Sports Science Committee. “If you follow a healthy diet, you’re not playing for too hard or for too long, and it’s not too hot, you’re probably fine just drinking water and having some kind of high-carb meal a few hours before your match. But if those conditions change, sports drinks and some special foods may be beneficial.”

What food/drinks to YOU use during long, hot matches?

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9 thoughts on “On-Court Nutrition

  1. Hi George ,
    I’ve commet s on these subjects often.
    The “information” from the quoted sources/people is out of date with the research from the last 15 years. I don’t want to suggest anything with the exception of, if you truly have an interest in these subject , go to the true authority which is Tim Noales, one of the foremost sports medicine and exercise science researcher In the world .
    All of his research points away from he current “conventional wisdom” and it’s eye opening info. As a personal experience , I ran a half marathon in the Texas heat with no real water, in a fasted state and no carb loading non sense the night before. If interested please take a look … there is much to be discovered 🙂

    Sorry George … had to put my 2 cents in lol

    Marc, so you are saying the “new thinking” is don’t drink and don’t eat? george

  2. For the longest while — since the late 1980’s as I recall — I have been a Powerbar eater on the tennis court when I have needed a boost of energy.

    I know that these bars are artificial and are high in calories, but since my goal is to run as hard, long and fast as I can to burn calories anyway, I have never been too concerned about that. I mostly have felt that I need the extra burst of energy that they seem to provide or else I sometimes have a tendency to get sluggish on the court in mid match and when that happens I can lose motivation to move my feet, to stay on my toes, and otherwise to just run fast and hard. My reaction time can also slow down when this happens.

    Anyway, recently, I have discovered that it is pretty near impossible to buy Powerbars anywhere in the usual places that I would get them even up to a few months back. All of the local supermarkets and drug store chains used to carry them, but for whatever reason they do not stock them anymore. I have been wondering if the company is going out of business or has discontinued this particular product, but there is no information about the matter at all on the company’s website or elsewhere on Google.

    All of which brings me to the point of this comment. In recently talking with my tennis coach about what to do if I cannot get Powerbars any longer, I asked what she uses on the court to keep her energy up. She is a very high level senior tournament player, who has been both nationally and internationally ranked #1 in her age group in the past. If anyone would have the answer to my question, she would.

    I was expecting to hear her tell me to just eat bananas or some other brand of energy bars, but she surprised me: Chocolate milk and walnuts. Apparently there are studies that indicate consuming chocolate milk is the fastest way to recover from a prior athletic endeavor, such as playing a first match in a tournament when you now need to play a second match shortly after. And eating walnuts on a regular basis has many nutritional advantages, including reducing inflammation, improving brain function (and preventing brain fog), supplying necessary vitamins and minerals, etc.

    So, last weekend I played two fairly intensive doubles matches in a single day, both for USTA league play. Before I started, I bought a half gallon of chocolate milk and started sipping from it before and on changeovers throughout the first match. Then I did the same throughout the second match which started about an hour and a half after the first match concluded. I also nibbled on walnuts throughout the day. Looking back at the end of the day, it seemed as if my energy level remained on the high side throughout the day and I did not get nearly as fatigued by the end of the day as I otherwise might have before — even if I had been consuming Powerbars.

    I still want to experiment with the chocolate milk/ walnuts idea a bit more before convincing myself this is the Holy Grail, but so far it has been promising.

    Marty, i too have heard that Chocolate milk is a great post-match drink; but have not heard about during matches. thanks, george

  3. Ha !
    I’m not saying anything 🙂
    If there’s interest and people are looking for solutions…not solace…than please make a point of reading about Tim Noakes. Again one of , if not the worlds authority on exercise and sports medicine. He blew up conventional methods so hard, that the South African Medical community wanted his head. $ long years they took they fight to him and just last year appealed again.. he was vindicated and the courts decided in his favor this past june. He’s brought real solutions to the diabetes epidemic going on currently…..

    For all you retired …this really is fascinating reading and there’s much to be learned.
    THere’s also a neat level of intrigue and vested interests that are part of the entertaining side of this whole story.

    Hope that helps a bit with your question George 🙂

    Marc, thanks. george

  4. George,
    This is a great topic. I am currently playing singles and doubles in Tucson City tournament. Over 100 degrees. I have always taken bites of something and some swallows of liquid when I switch sides. I am currently taking water, gatorade, bananas and energy bars with nuts in them on the court. Yes I take a cooler. When someone ask me about my cooler I tell them I have packed my lunch they better pack theirs. 🙂

    I have heard the best thing to drink is coconut milk but haven’t acquired a taste it. Has anyone else heard that?

    Randy Beerman

    Randy, yes, coconut WATER is a known good source of potassium and other nutrients. thanks, george

  5. I take salt tablets and potassium pills while playing.
    In addition to lots of water, I also find peanut butter easy to digest and helpful later on in a long match.

    John, how do you eat your peanut butter on the court?? george

  6. Water is numero uno. When you feel you need some muscle glycogen replenishment, fruit is the best. I’ll take along some blended dates, watermelon or coconut water. If the match is very long… may go to some ripe banana (with the freckles).

    Tom Avery

    Tom, why ripe?? thanks, george

  7. The sugars are more readily available and assimilated by the body, you do not want bananas with green on them, they’re still starchy and harder to digest.
    Best regards, Tom

    Tom, thanks! george

  8. George-
    In answer to your question about how I eat my peanut butter on changeovers, the answer is simple: one tablespoon out of the Skippy jar….gets a few looks from teammates and opponents, but I find it pays big dividends a little later on in a match. It’s protein and a little sugar.

    John, thanks! george

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