Tennis players can burn 600 to 800 calories an hour when playing a recreational singles match, according to the USTA. Since most tennis matches last several hours, many players burn over 2,000 calories. Without proper nutrition to help replace those calories and rebuild muscle that broke down during competition, players will suffer a decline in performance and an inability to recover.
Fueling Before the Tennis Match
Proper fueling for a tennis match begins way before the first serve. Adequate daily nutrition is imperative for optimal performance. To keep up with the demands of their sport, players should follow the age-old advice of eating three solid meals a day but supplement them with snacks as needed to meet their caloric demands.
Pre-match nutrition is crucial, not only for performance, but also to prevent stomach irritation and gastrointestinal distress. Players should eat a small meal with a moderate amounts of carbohydrates, fat and protein. In the best scenario, this meal should be tested in practice to avoid surprises during competition.
Fueling During the Match
The food and fluids an athlete take in during competition are vital to maintain performance throughout a match. Appropriate supplementation during a match can make or break a player. First and foremost, athletes should always replace water loss, especially in hot and humid environments. Players must continually monitor their hydration levels, focused predominantly on water with electrolyte replacement drinks as a supplement.
If an athlete feels low on energy or experiences a decline in performance during a match, it might be time for a small snack. Fruits and bars generally make good choices, because their high-carbohydrate, low-fat content make them easy to stomach during a match. As mentioned above, athletes should always test fueling strategies before major competitions.
After a match, tennis players frequently don't feel like eating and may not feel hungry for several hours. Yet it's critically important to replace the nutrients lost during competition and begin the recovery process.
Depending on the player and his or her particular preference, the post-match meal should contain carbohydrates and protein with lower fat content than usual. Tennis players should eat at least a small snack within an hour after a match. After cooling down and recovering from competition, they can consume a larger meal. Although it may seem natural to reward hard effort with indulgences like ice cream and other treats, remember that the meal after competition is the first one in preparation for future matches. Indulge and reward yourself, but include nutritious food to help your body recover and prepare for future training.