Tennis is a tough sport. You are out there alone on the court with all eyes on you. You’ve got some stuff on your mind, right? Hydration and nutrition might be one of the last things you are thinking about, but it can make all the difference. In Texas, hydration should be a top priority. I once heard a wise exercise physiologist say that our bodies are like leaky bags of water. Keep this in mind to help you understand the importance of hydrating.
From the humidity of Houston to the dry, hot summer temperatures out West, fluids should be your friend. The temperatures are rising and summer will be right around the corner. As a sports dietitian working with top NCAA tennis players, I have seen athletes hydrate the wrong way and the right way.
Here are 5 hydration tips to make your life easier.
1. Hydration is an all-day activity.
· Drink water throughout the day, not just after practice or a match.
· Check your urine color to make sure you are drinking enough. It should be clear to light yellow throughout the day.
2. Don’t wait to hydrate until you are thirsty.
· Kids need to drink 3-5 oz of fluid every 15-20 minutes during practice and matches (2-3 large gulps of water).
· Adults need 4-6 oz of fluid every 15-20 minutes during practice and matches (3-4 large gulps of water).
3. Use sports drinks when active for longer than 1 hour.
· Plain water is all you need for a casual practice lasting less than 1 hour.
· Typically a sports drink will be needed during competition.
4. Rehydrate immediately after practice and matches.
· Drink 16-24 oz (or more if you are soaked with sweat) for every pound lost during activity.
· Refuel with a low-fat chocolate milk or a sports drink and a piece of fruit, especially if you have another match in a couple hours!
5. Eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
· Produce isn’t only a source of vitamins and minerals, it’s also a great source of water!
· Cucumbers, oranges, and bananas are great after practice snacks.
Next time you watch the pros, take note of what they do between points. Proper hydration can delay fatigue, prevent heat illness, and speed recovery. You’ve seen Nadal with his water bottles all lined up and ready for the changeover, right? Follow his lead and do the same!
Caroline Sullivan is a Houston-based Registered Dietitian and specialist in sports dietetics. She has served as a dietitian for several NCAA Division 1 top-25 teams including work with basketball, football, tennis, and track & field. She is a member of the USTA-Texas Sports Science Committee.