I’ve seen it before: the player on the far side of the net starts to drag. The opponent, fitter with more energy, picks up on it and starts to elevate up their game. You know how it ends. So, how do you become the opponent who has the energy and fitness? Fueling during a match can make a big difference. Here are 3 very important reasons to chow down during a tennis match.
1. Tennis drains all your resources.
This is a unique sport in which your body uses all of its fuel sources. Your body relies on more than one energy system to make sure your body has the energy and power to perform. Because your body is pulling from all places, it is easy to deplete yourself of everything.
2. When you finally feel hungry or thirsty it may be too late.
Have you ever heard: when you are thirsty it means you are already dehydrated? You may have already lost 1-2% of your body weight when you finally feel thirsty. In addition, since you have a lot to think about in a tennis match, you may not ever really feel hunger or thirst although your body is running on fumes.
3. Heat and humidity can be rough.
Whenever I have watched a visiting team from the North play a Texas team, I know what the result is likely to be. They are not used to the heat and humidity. Know that you are not immune to it either. You have to stay ahead of your hydration. Start before you ever get in trouble. An initial sign of dehydration can be fatigue.
Here’s what you do to prevent hitting a wall of exhaustion when you are playing:
· Think small bites and drinks throughout the match.
· Try a banana and a sports drink. Eat a small bite of banana and a gulp or two of sports drink at each change-over. A banana and a 20 oz of sport drink should last throughout the match.
· Hate bananas? Try an energy chew (check your local sporting goods store). Avoid the caffeine loaded drink or chew, look for something that resembles a jelly bean. Try a low fiber granola bar or sports bar.
· Remember small bites take you a long way.
Continue to watch what the pros do. You never see them chowing down on a turkey sandwich, but you will see them take a gulp of sports drink, then a gulp of water, and a bite of banana. Works for them, it’ll work for you!
Caroline Sullivan is a Houston-based Registered Dietitian and specialist in sports dietetics. She has served as a dietitian for several NCAA Division I top-25 teams including work with basketball, football, tennis, and track & field. She is a member of the USTA Texas Sports Science Committee.