Tennis Nutrition: The Secret to Big Match Success

So, you've put in the hard work and arrived at the final. But if you really want to win, you've got to do a bit more than just turn up and play.

Like most things, preparation is vital and winning tennis matches is no different. There are things you can do to increase your chances of winning and there are things that will de-rail you before you know it.

Unfortunately, too many people do the latter.

One of the most underused keys to big match success, especially at the club level, is tennis nutrition. It's actually pretty easy to do well because there are only two things you need to keep an eye on: hydration and glycogen stores.

Hydration

If you are presently dehydrated, it can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to get you fully hydrated again. The problem is that most people don't even know that they are dehydrated--or worse, they think they are not.

Your thirst mechanism works on a delayed system so that by the time you feel thirsty your organs have been in need of water for two to three hours.

When you begin to feel thirsty, you are already about two-percent dehydrated. Even as little as one-percent dehydration has been shown to impair performance by 10-percent!

And don't think that drinking a liter of water in one go will sort the problem out--your body can only deal with so much water at any one time. Too much and you'll be spending more time in the bathroom.

The best way to tackle this problem is to drink on a regular basis. For some of you it may mean setting your phone/watch alarm to ring every 15 minutes for you to take a few sips of water, so keep a filled water bottle with you at all times!

The Day Before the Match

The best way to ensure good hydration the day before your match is to start your day with a glass of water.

After that have more water or a diluted fruit juice (50-percent water and 50-percent juice--all juice should be fresh, i.e. not from concentrate and without added sugar) with or around breakfast. Keep on sipping throughout the day every 15 minutes to 30 minutes as a maximum.

If you are going to do some light exercise (remember, not too much), increase your water intake to 250 ml at least every 15 minutes and certainly more if in a warm climate.

You shouldn't need any extra electrolytes, as you'll get those in your foods throughout the day. However, if you want to make your own sports drink, use sea salt NOT table salt.

Stop drinking about two or three hours before going to bed. Good quality sleep is extremely important and you don't want to wake up in the middle of the night for a call of nature.

Avoid Dehydrating Products

Most people know that tea and coffee dehydrates, although one cup should be fine. For the most part you should try to avoid them.

Sugar also dehydrates, so limit or avoid it altogether (not including fruits, of course). Also avoid taking a sauna--this may be relaxing, but it is also dehydrating.

Summary:
  • Start your day with a few sips or more of water
  • Water is your drink of choice and you need to keep on sipping every 15-30 minutes
  • Any fruit juice should be diluted with 50-percent water and all juice should be fresh, i.e. not from concentrate and without added sugar
  • Avoid all dehydrating liquids and foods (foods would be all those high in salt including the healthy olive! So don't over do it by eating a whole bowl!)
  • Stop drinking two to three hours before going to sleep
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