Game, set and match: your match day nutrition guide
With the summer competition season upon us, many of us are looking forward to a time full of watching and playing our favourite sport. It’s all well and good indulging in the traditional Wimbledon accompaniments (think Pimms and the beloved strawberries and cream), but when it comes to improving your game nutrition is key. Perhaps you have a big match ahead, or a full day of games planned? Here is our guide on what you should be fuelling your body with, how this should change throughout the day, and the best way to help your body recover from an energy draining match.
Get up and go
It’s an age old saying, but still holds so true: breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. This is especially true when it comes to your match day. Breaking the fast with a substantial, balanced meal is essential to kick your body into game mode. Begin your day with a combination of slow releasing carbohydrates and satiety inducing protein. Protein is essential, not only to stave off any annoying mid-match stomach grumbles, but to support and repair muscles which may be sore from training. It’s best to avoid high fat foods here, as they can cause stomach upset and will not give you a quality energy base from which to start from. Amino acids are often referred to the building blocks of proteins, Monica’s Health Mag do a great review about the best Amino acids for your game.
Stuck on what to go for? Porridge made with egg whites or protein powder is a great option: sweetened with natural berries for a dessert like breakfast that will satisfy any sweet tooth. For those who prefer savoury options, opt for poached or scrambled whole egg or egg whites with a whole wheat bagel or a couple of slices of wholegrain bread. If you’re in a rush an energy packed reduced sugar jam or banana sandwich can suffice: a classic for a reason!
So you’ve made it to the court’s, your opponent is ready and waiting for the match to begin. You haven’t got long, so it’s important to choose quick release foods which will not sit on your stomach. Stock up on carbohydrates which can give you the explosive you need to slam your opponent. Bananas are a great natural source of sugars which can deliver on this front.
During the game you may only have time for a couple of chews or a quick bite. Although artificial, energy gels, particularly those with tart cherry, are particularly beneficial when you have little time to spare between sets. Cherry juice specifically works to prevent muscle fatigue, aid recovery, and therefore improve the performance of those who are training for endurance. When you’re out on court for a long time, it is these quick sources of energy which could win, or cost you the match.
It may seem obvious, but staying hydrated is a must. Try to take a drink every 15 minutes to restore and replenish any water and electrolytes lost during your match. Dehydration can slow your reactions, skew your judgement, and ultimately lead to fatigue, so always keep a big bottle of water just on the sidelines for easy access.
The victory meal
Game set and match. Now it’s time to refuel. After a long game or tournament, it’s essential to refuel your body for optimum recovery. Here, your focus should be protein which is vitally important for muscular recovery. You needn’t be so wary of high fat or heavy carbohydrates here: it’s your chance to restock and work to improve your body’s strength. Enjoy a large portion of your favourite lean protein (fish, chicken, lean beef, tofu etc.) with a moderate amount of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. And don’t shy away from seasoning: include a natural source of salt in your meal to make up for that lost in sweat during your match.
So there you have it, a full match day of meals! Your performance will always depend on the fuel you are putting within your body. Stick to whole foods, and clever timing and you will no doubt eat your way to victory this summer! Want to make your body the best it can be for match season? For more expert advice and supplement information visit the Healthspan Website.
BSc Biomedical Science (Physiology), semi professional level tennis player, and health enthusiast: a Healthspan writer with a wealth of experience and knowledge, with a sharp serve!