By Page Love, MS, RD, CSSD, and Allison Foley, Dietetic Intern
Holiday ALTA team socials can be a challenge to navigate while trying to stick to your sports nutrition regime. Kicking off the day with a friendly match is a great way to build up an appetite for all the holiday festivities, but don’t forget your energizing breakfast before! How do you make sure to fuel your body well throughout the day to avoid overeating? Here are some tips to make this holiday both healthy and enjoyable.
Breakfast on a holiday
Fueling at the beginning of the day is important, especially if you are planning to hit the courts. Pre-fueling at breakfast will provide immediate energy for your morning workout or match. Some excellent options include oatmeal with blueberries, toast with peanut butter and a glass of your favorite fruit juice, or a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese and a banana. Eating breakfast on a holiday will not only fuel your match but help you to not overdo it at the holiday meal or party later. And, opting for whole grains that digest more slowly will provide fuel all day.
Worried about not being hungry before the big meal? Fear not, a simple snack early in the day will help curb excess cravings. Having an adequate source of carbohydrates before the match is key to maintaining your energy levels. A small bag of pretzels or a high-carb energy bar is an easy snack to grab, and these typically contain carbohydrates that are great for quick digestion and energy for on the court as well as helping with cravings later. Chocolate milk and even holiday hot chocolate is a great way to both rehydrate and refuel your body after training, but a protein shake (or a lean source of protein) also would be great for muscle recovery and aid in decreasing cravings later.
Hydration on a holiday
Hydrating before a match is vital to maximize performance and help with overall thermal regulation. Having a glass of juice at breakfast, non-caffeinated teas, or regular water are great options for increasing fluid intake and helping you to feel full. Staying hydrated also helps to increase digestion functions and allows your body to absorb nutrients more readily from your meals and snacks later in the day. Be mindful that increased alcohol consumption can increase your rate of dehydration and negatively affect your cravings. Having a full glass of water in between servings of alcohol can help you to stay hydrated as well as decrease alcohol cravings. Keeping a bottle of water with you throughout the day, both on and off the court, is a great way to prevent dehydration and reduce the potential of lingering lethargy effects the next morning as well.
Sports nutrition savvy appetizer ideas
Worked up an appetite from the match or cooking all day? It can be hard to resist a spread of appetizers while chatting with friends and family, especially if there are some holiday favorites at the party. One easy tip is to grab a small plate and only take a small amount of the dish you want to try. You can always go back for more, but this way you can portion control more easily. Another idea might be to bring a healthier appetizer to snack on while socializing, but try to avoid heavy fats or oil-based dips or spreads. Try one of these lighter recipes if you prefer to make your own spread! Make your own protein-packed charcuterie board with raw and dried fruits, low fat cheeses, nuts, and whole grain crackers. Or try a handful of crispy parmesan chickpeas (from MyRecipes.com). Chickpeas are an excellent fibrous complex carbohydrate snack. Also try a lighter spin on the deliciously classic Artichoke Dip (from Cooking Light) made with low fat Greek yogurt and silken tofu.
Now that you have some ideas of how to keep your body fueled for the match before the meal, it’s time to get back out to the courts and enjoy the lovely fall weather. Make sure to build up an appetite so there’s room for a little dessert too!
Page Love is a consultant for the ATP and WTA professional tennis tours and an avid ALTA participant. For more information about sport nutrition for tennis, contact her at nutrifitga.com. Allison Foley is a dietetic intern at Meredith College based in Atlanta, was a former junior player, and is planning on having an Alpharetta-based nutrition practice in the future.