New recipes from around the world for better tennis this summer!
By Page Love, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, USPTA and Dietetic Intern, Vivechana Parajuli
Knowing what to eat, and when to eat & drink (on and off the court) can make a difference between winning and losing a match. Tennis players should focus on consuming whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy oils to play at their best. These nutrients have an immediate effect on performance, delaying feelings of fatigue, and reducing a player’s risk for injury and illness. By exploring food through a prism of culture, time, and place, we can build a deeper appreciation of how food from all over the world can meet our performance nutrition needs. Long-term nutritional plans during training often differ from what players eat right before a match. Therefore, expanding your variety with foods from around the world can enhance your training diet! Here are some practical meal choices to expand your sport nutrition horizon!
Try Asian cuisine
Asian cuisine is healthy and high in important complex carbohydrates, which are important for a tennis player’s muscle energy sources. The common dishes involve soups, lentils, lean curries, vegetables, salads, lean meat, pickles, and yogurt. All these ingredients are great for fueling and healing for the sport nutrition needs of tennis players. For example, Dal Bhat is mainly rice served along with lentil soup and vegetable curry or chicken. This meal is perfect pre- or post-match for tennis players. Lentils provide a large amount of vegetable protein as well as complex carbohydrates. This legume contains multiple vitamins and has many therapeutic benefits. Just a small amount of lentils eaten a couple of times per week helps prevent and reduce anemia, mental fatigue, general weakness, diabetes, cancer, and cholesterol.
Easy lentils recipe
2 Tablespoons ghee or oil
1 onion chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic minced
2” piece of ginger grated
1 teaspoon coriander seeds crushed
½ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 cup red lentils washed
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 cups cooked white rice or serve with dal
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions until golden brown.
- Turn the heat to low and add in the ginger, garlic, crushed coriander seeds, red chili powder, and turmeric. Stir to combine for about 3 minutes or so.
- Add in the red/yellow lentils and mix well with the onion mixture.
- Add in the water and bring it to a boil
- Add in the salt and reduce heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
- Stir in the fresh cilantro and remove from heat.
- Serve with white boiled or steamed rice.
Pre-match power fruits
One of the most important factors for performance and pre-match nutrition, and one of the best things you can do for your body, is to load up on power foods before a match. When you’re gearing up for an important match, look for foods that are moderate in protein, high in carbs, low in fat, and low in fiber. This helps you to digest easily and offers a fast-acting power-up on energy.
Go for a pre-match smoothie this summer. As a tennis player, you can enjoy smoothies to stay healthy and cool throughout the summer months. Smoothies have become a great, quick breakfast alternative for those summer match mornings and are a fantastic way for players to get loads of nutrients with little time and effort, and quickly fuel for match play. Some excellent examples of super smoothies for better tennis are as follows. Try equal components of dairy, fruit/vegetable with a serving of complex carbohydrates and 1-2 Tablespoons of healthy oils.
Almond milk + berries + celery + spinach + oats + avocado
Milk + banana + carrots + canned pumpkin + peanut butter + chia seeds
Yogurt + beetroot + ginger + apple + spinach + cooked quinoa + avocado
Try Mediterranean cuisine
Summer is the perfect time to try a Mediterranean diet because the eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, nutrient-dense fish, whole grains, and olive oil while limiting sugar, red meat, and saturated fat. This diet also is a great source of fuel for tennis players! Mediterranean diets can boost athletic performance in just a few days. This eating plan offers a range of benefits, from cardio-protective effects to being great carbohydrate fuels and a recovery source for tennis. Unlike other fancy/fad diet, the Mediterranean diet’s main goal is to provide plentiful, colorful choices that help with decreasing inflammation, which means less muscle soreness and quicker healing if you are injured. You may even be able to decrease some of that ibuprofen and help your bounce back more easily on its own. Try this scrumptious Mediterranean bowl meal for a high-energy lunchtime boost for after work/school ALTA tennis play!
Mediterranean chickpea salad bowl
Chickpeas are a powerhouse ingredient that is part of the Mediterranean diet because they are both carbohydrate-rich and protein-packed, as well as fiber-rich which means longer-lasting energy sources.
2 cans chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 cucumber diced
1 Tablespoon flaxseed (optional)
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup red onion, diced
4-5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
lemon vinaigrette to taste
- Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl.
- Pour the lemon vinaigrette over the salad and give it a gentle stir.
- Transfer the salad to a large bowl and serve.
Try Latin cuisine
No matter how competitive your tennis play, your body needs energy to power you through any competition — especially the playoffs! Depending on the duration of your match, you should be able to enter the game with enough stored energy for the full match if you fuel up with Latin meal choices.
Power-packed burrito bowl
This bowl is well-balanced with protein, carbs, and healthy fats. You can make this recipe higher in fiber by swapping out more legumes or quinoa for part of the rice. Quinoa is so versatile and can be used in so many dishes. It also works great as a rice substitute and is more stocked in fiber and protein. Loading the bowl with vegetables also gives you an antioxidant punch, which will help with quicker recovery and reduce inflammation.
If you want to make Quinoa Chicken Burrito Bowl, you need chicken broth (instead of vegetable broth) and chicken breast. Preheat grill. Season and grill the chicken. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.
1 cup dry Quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth, or you can just use water too; note the Quinoa/liquid ratio is based on cooking directions from the Quinoa brand
1 cup corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
3 limes cut into wedges
1 bunch of romaine lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
5-6 cherry tomatoes, cut into half
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup salsa, any kind you like.
- Add dry Quinoa and vegetable broth or water in medium saucepan
- Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.
- Cook Quinoa 15 minutes.
- While the Quinoa is cooking, chop the ingredients.
- When Quinoa is done, add cilantro, green onion, and salsa.
- Squeeze juice from 2 limes into Quinoa, stir well.
- Add corn, black beans, and tomatoes, stir well.
- Add lettuce to bowls and spoon Quinoa mix over top.
- Add avocado on top. Enjoy!
Page Love is an avid ALTA participant and sport dietitian/nutrition advisor for the WTA and ATP professional tours, served on the USTA sport science committee for 25 years. You can reach her at nutrifitga.com. Vivechana Parajuli is a dietetic intern with Life University Dietetic Internship Program. She completed her undergrad from Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas in 2021 en route to becoming a registered dietitian working in wellness in the near future!