How many calories should a tennis player eat in a day?
Playing tennis can be an extremely intense experience for your body – you’re losing electrolytes, burning glycogen from your muscles, and sweating buckets of fluids. It’s no wonder you’ll need to examine your diet – food is the fuel your body will rely on during, after, and before a vigorous match.
But how much do you really need? According to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the governing body for world tennis, your needs can vary, depending on the level at which you are playing.
At the more extreme end of the spectrum are the professionals and Wimbledon champions – think Serena Williams, Andy Murray, and Novac Djokovic. All of them are giants in the world of professional tennis and all of them have to abide to very strict diets when in training.
The ITF recommends that these players consume somewhere between 3000 and 5000 calories a day!1 That’s jaw-dropping when you consider that most women are advised to eat no more than 2000 calories a day, with men being allotted an extra 500, bringing their total up to 2500.
Now the chances are, if you’re reading this, you are not a professional tennis player. If anything you could be a complete novice, in which case I would definitely NOT recommend trying to consume so many calories, unless you’re considering taking up sumo wrestling on the side.
Instead what you should do is look at the types of foods these players are eating and adapt their eating habits to suit your own needs.
Breakfast with Heather Watson
Heather Watson is currently Britain’s No.2 female tennis player and so far, she’s managed to make it through to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon’s mixed doubles tournament. Aged 25 and with a bright career in front of her, Heather recently shared some details about her diet whilst in training and I found her breakfast to be particularly interesting.
In this article with the Daily Mail, Heather admits that she is not a breakfast person but she makes an effort to eat each morning anyway because she acknowledges how important this meal is. This may be relatable for quite a few of you – breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it certainly isn’t the most popular, with many opting to skip it entirely!
What does Heather eat?
Heather seems to kick off breakfast with some fresh fruit and toast, normally followed by some eggs and avocado.
How can you adapt?
Heather’s breakfast is incredibly healthy, combining complex carbohydrates with antioxidant-rich fruits and healthy fats. I’d definitely recommend that you include a portion of fruit with this meal – try to opt for fruits that are rich in vitamin C, such as blueberries, blackberries or even the supercharged goji berry!
Make sure you include a portion of complex carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread or oats, as these are essential for supporting your energy levels and your production of glycogen, which your muscles will need, especially if you are participating in a match.
Finally, although I like Heather’s inclusion of eggs and avocado, if you are not going to be working-out, I would perhaps only choose one or the other.
Poached eggs with spinach on wholemeal toast
Chocolate and coconut overnight oats
Pre-match lunch with Andy Murray
Currently the World’s No. 1 male tennis player, Andy Murray is perhaps the most famous tennis player on the planet, with a list of Grand Slam wins under his belt, including Wimbledon.
In recent years his diet has definitely undergone some change – Andy has admitted that prior to some of his earlier games, he used to munch on pizza!2 Nowadays though, the star admits to taking things a bit easier on the carb front before a match. Last year at Wimbledon, he decided to cut out pasta completely from his prematch meal.3
What does Andy eat?
According to an article by the Herald, it appears Andy has traded in his pre-match pizza and pasta for brown rice and salmon.
How can you adapt?
Unless you’re playing a particularly ferocious game, I would not recommend having a separate meal before playing a match in addition to lunch.
However, Andy Murray’s pre-match meal can be adapted for lunch – brown rice is an excellent complex carbohydrate and it can be very effective for curbing your appetite and keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
The clear winner on this plate though, in my opinion, is definitely the salmon. Salmon is incredibly rich in protein as well as essential fatty acids, helping to feed your muscles and your brain! This fish also contains an abundance of B vitamins, potassium and selenium!
Nevertheless, if you are vegan or vegetarian, I would recommend substituting the salmon for a portion of tofu, which is also high in protein. Adding some veg to your plate probably wouldn’t hurt either – green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are high in iron, helping to fight fatigue and support your production of red blood cells!
Potato cakes with smoked salmon and papaya chutney
Tofu & vegetable satay stir fry
Drink plenty of fluids
Drinking plenty of fluids is very important, especially if you manage to catch some respite during a game. You will likely be sweating buckets meaning that you are losing valuable electrolytes and fluids.
It’s crucial that you drink plenty of fluids regardless so definitely keep a water bottle handy during your game. It’s also vital that you try to replenish your levels of fluid-retaining electrolytes – even professionals such as Andy Murray acknowledge how important it is to try and make sure that the ‘stuff you are drinking is replacing what you’re losing.’
Try taking a sachet of our Balance Mineral Drink along with you to your game. This delicious, strawberry-flavoured drink is brimming with electrolytes and trace minerals, helping to combat dehydration and fatigue. It’s simple and easy to use – just add one sachet to some water and gulp it down!
Snack with bananas (and other fruits!)
If you’ve ever watched a Wimbledon game on television, the chances are that you’ve noticed one fruit in particular is very popular with players. While the audience get to smother their strawberries with thick dollops of cream, the players have to be satisfied with the humble banana.
Everyone from Serena Williams to Rafael Nadal has been spotted with a banana in their hand on court, but why? Well this fruit may not be as glamorous as strawberries, but it does contain ample amounts of potassium – a key trace mineral that can get expelled from the body via sweat.
Potassium can help your muscles to contract and it supports your fluid levels. Not so humble after all!
I’d definitely recommend snacking on a banana mid-game, but if you want to vary your diet, dried fruit would also be an acceptable substitute. Or, if you want to add a little more protein to your snack, you could try spreading a nut butter on top of your banana slices!
My favourite nut butter is definitely Meridian’s Cocoa and Hazelnut butter – it tastes incredible and has a real chocolaty flavour that satisfies my sweet tooth.
Cinnamon & almond banana bread
Cashew & banana smoothie
Dinner with Johanna Konta
Johanna Konta is a professional tennis player and is currently ranked the No.1 female player in the UK. With 11 singles and four double titles to her name, she is one of the biggest names in the business and is considered to be hugely influential in the sport.
Traditionally, Johanna tries to achieve a good balance of complex carbohydrates and protein in her diet, stating, ‘it’s essential for me to include a mix of carbs and protein in all my meals ahead of a Grand Slam.’ The tennis star has also credited a lot of her success to her clean eating regime and her intake of fish, eggs and passion fruit, although she also enjoys the odd tub of ice cream when she isn’t playing.
What does Johanna eat?
When training or competing, Johanna tries to stick to a source of protein in her meals, which can range from pork to chicken, in addition to a form of complex carbohydrates such as potatoes and a side of salad.5
How can you adapt?
You will notice that Johanna’s diet is comparable to Andy Murray’s – both athletes try to get a good balance of protein and carbohydrates. If you have had salmon for lunch, though, I would recommend chicken for dinner, instead of a fish option just to keep things varied.
I would also lower your intake of carbohydrates if you are not involved in a vigorous match – a small serving of potatoes or alternatively a colourful salad should be enough.
If you are vegetarian or vegan however, you should try to seek out another source of plant-based protein – lentils, chickpeas and quinoa for example.
Curried lentil potato casserole
Spinach & potato curry