Staying hydrated and eating smart are two of the most important ways to prevent cramps, heat related illnesses and low energy during a match.
WHAT TO DRINK: If you have an important match coming up, you can prepare your body by drinking lots and lots of fluids. Hydrate the night before the match, the morning of the match, and all the way until it is time to play. Once you begin to play, hydrate with a sports drink, such as Gatorade or coconut water, that contains electrolytes, such as sodium. These electrolytes are lost in sweat and need to be constantly replenished. It is recommended that you consume 250 calories per hour of exercise to maintain a high level of energy. I like to use a gas tank analogy to describe proper hydration. Don’t wait to “refill your tank” until you are empty, or dehydrated. Drink water before you feel thirsty to prevent dehydration.
WHAT TO EAT: The night before, eat a meal that is rich in carbohydrates, such as pasta. Carbs are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen. Glycogen is the body’s most accessible form of energy. If you run out of glycogen during your match, your body “hits a wall” and must resort to fat as its source of energy. This will slow you down and prevent you from playing your best tennis. Sodium is not the only electrolyte lost in sweat. Potassium is lost as well, so if you get hungry during a match, eat a banana. It is packed full of potassium, fiber, and vitamins such as vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
It is vital for athletes to fuel their bodies with the proper foods and drinks. A balanced diet gives your body what it needs for peak performance.
About the Author:
Gino Carosella is the Director of Adult Programs at the Nassau Tennis Club in Skillman, NJ.