By Page Love, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, USPTA, And Caroline Walker, Dietetic Intern
It is that time of year again when we need to warm ourselves with liquid nutrition to enhance both our tennis performance and strengthen our immune systems with key winter foods stocked with anti-inflammatory nutrients. Often in the winter, it is more challenging to find higher quality produce. But have you ever heard about eating from the rainbow? With the chart below you will see what nutrients different-colored produce provides that will boost your immune system and help to building muscle. Aim to choose at least two colorful fruits and three colorful vegetables daily to better meet your antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral needs. Fruits fit well before tennis for quick energy fuels as part of breakfast meals or pre-match snacks. Bland fruits such as melon, berries, and banana are easier on the gastro-intestinal tract right before play and even on court. Most vegetables can be consumed before or after play, but cooked vegetables in soups are easier to digest, and soups provide important liquids for hydration.
Consider soups that are packed with all the major food groups we know enhance tennis performance such as proteins for rebuilding muscles, grains/starches for muscle fuel sources, vegetables to meet antioxidant needs, and spices that also enhance immune function as well as add needed electrolytes for sweat losses. Whether it be pre- or post-match, consider a soup that includes all of the food group categories for a balanced meal that fully meets your nutrition needs. Denser soups, such as chilis, stews, and lentil/legume-based soups, will help you meet your full energy needs especially from complex carbs and proteins.
Often, people choose soups that don’t have proteins or starches, which causes you to miss key macronutrients that are needed for pre- and post-play. Stews that are brothy but contain a lean meat or protein source and a starch base like potato, squash or legume, are perfect pre-match meals. Also, lentil- or legume-based soups are full of complex carbohydrates that are great pre-play muscle fuels. Chilis that are denser in meat, fiber, and spicey ingredients are more suited for post-play and recovery. Red foods, such as tomatoes, beans, and lean meats, are excellent recovery sources packed with anti-inflammatory nutrients and proteins to help rebuild muscles.
Refer to my Winter Soups Worksheet (SOUP Meals Handout) to build your own performance soup. Make sure to choose ingredients from each category to make a well-balanced and adequate macronutrient meal.
Use a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetable Approach, Even in the Winter Months:
Red — Heart-healthy, improves memory/ brain function
Orange — Promotes healthy skin and eyes, builds immunity, high in beta carotene, a precursor for vitamin A
Yellow — Strong antioxidants, promotes healthy skin and eyes, heart-healthy
Green — Strong antioxidants, improves digestion, supports healthy nails and bones
Blue — Anti-inflammatory, promotes healthy brain function, heart-healthy
Purple — Anti-inflammatory, promotes healthy brain function, heart-healthy
White — Builds strong bones, heart-healthy