By Page Love, MS, RDN, CSSD, USPTA & Nancy Anderson, MPH, RDN, CSSD, Nutrifit, Sport Therapy, Inc.
Appropriate nutrition is essential for tennis players to meet the demands of their day and to have enough energy to play tennis after school or work. Players can better prepare their minds and bodies to manage their increased stress load when they remain optimally fueled throughout the day. School or work lunches are ultimately the pre-match/practice choices for these afternoon and early evening fuel needs. With the start of school also comes the daily challenge of packing a healthy lunch that you or your kids will actually eat. Just remember some simple guidelines when putting together a balanced lunch: About half of your plate should be comprised of fruits and/or vegetables, one-quarter lean protein, and one-quarter whole grains, with low-fat dairy, cheese or yogurt on the side. You can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choosemyplate.gov for more information on basic portion and nutritional needs.
Packing the pre-tennis and post-tennis snacks
You or your child also will need a pre-tennis snack to be timed one hour before you hit the court. The ideal choice here will be a hydrating beverage and complex carbohydrate snack such as higher-carbohydrate energy bars (Clif Bar, Power Bar, Pro Bar brands), lower sugar granola bars (Nature Valley, Kashi Bar, Cascadian Farms bar brand), pretzels or PB pretzel nuggets, or hummus and pita chips. Also consider adding a bland fruit side such as banana or melon.
After you walk off the court, consider having a liquid protein course within 45 minutes to maximize your recovery. Optimal choices in this case are chocolate or strawberry milk or a protein recovery beverage of your choice that contains 10-25 grams protein in solution.
Ideally plan on getting your dinner recovery meal within one or two hours after your play as well – with a similar balance to what has been described above for food group choices in the lunch, but with normal cooked dinner variety.
Plan on meal prepping once or twice a week to get yourself and your family ready for the sport nutrition demands of the week. According to a recent U.S. News and World Report article, meal prepping increases your chances of staying on track with a healthy meal plan. Sit down with your family one night per week and pre-plan your lunches and snacks for that week. Let your kids make some of the choices in the menu and even consider family shopping trips to encourage varying your sport nutrition menu plan.
Peanut Butter and Fruit Roll-Up: Spread 2 Tbsp. peanut or almond butter on a whole-wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with chopped banana, apple or strawberries. Add 1-2 tsp. of mini chocolate chips, if desired, then roll and slice in half. Serve with a granola bar, baby carrots and a low-fat yogurt.
Pasta Salad with Tortellini al Pesto: Cook any type of tortellini according to package directions. Toss with green peas and pesto. Include a piece of fruit, 1/4 cup of almonds and a pudding cup.
Lunchbox Pizza Quesadillas: While heating a whole-grain tortilla in a pan over medium heat, top with pizza sauce, turkey pepperoni and mozzarella cheese (you also can include veggies!). Serve with edamame and sliced apples.
Bento Taco Bar: Along with 1 or 2 soft taco tortillas, include a healthy assortment of taco fillings, such as ground turkey, cheese, lettuce and pico de gallo in separate compartments. Add some diced pineapple and milk to complete the meal.
Burrito Bowl: Mix together 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup black beans, and 1/2 cup corn with either ground chicken or turkey, 1/4 cup salsa, and optional cut-up peppers and a green lettuce base. Top this off with 2 Tbsp. of guacamole and 2-4 Tbsp. of low-fat shredded cheese.