Competition Nutrition – What, When and How Much?

One of the most popular questions asked during Wimbledon, What is in that drink the players are drinking?”

Answer: It is a precise formula made up predominately of carbohydrates and electrolytes (salt and minerals).

The next question is usually, Why are they drinking that?”

Answer: When you play tennis for longer than 60 minutes, you begin to deplete carbohydrate and electrolyte stores. If you fail to keep those stores topped up, you will get tired quicker; your concentration levels will lower, and your reaction time on court will get slower.

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It’s essential to maintain the same intensity and focus on court for the duration of the match if you want to win it…

Professional players keep their carbohydrate and electrolyte stores topped up via a drink formula because it’s the easiest way to maintain intensity and performance. Sometimes, they will consume food in the form of a banana or an energy bar, but here’s why consuming liquid nutrition on court is the best option:

  1. It’s physically more practical than eating a big meal
  2. It will digest faster, therefore the nutrients can be utilised by the body quicker.    
  3. Consuming food can sit heavily in the gut and therefore slow you down on court as a consequence.

So now you know you MUST consume both carbohydrates and electrolytes during tennis matches that last longer than 60 minutes, what’s the best practical strategy to do this?

1) Here is how to top up electrolytes:

 

Consuming water with added salt
 

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Coconut water is a good alternative to plain water as it naturally contains electrolytes with some additional flavouring.
 

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The ideal way is to consume sports drinks. Sports drinks contain a very specific solution to comprise the correct water to electrolyte ratio, with the added benefit of a pleasant flavour. Three companies I recommend are: Gatorade, Powerade and Lucozade Sport.
Squash or cordials are not recommended, as the electrolyte levels are too low.

2) Here are good sources of carbohydrates to keep your stores topped up:

  • Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, Lucozade)
  • Sports gels (SIS, High 5, MyProtein)
  • Fruit
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Energy bars (Cliff bar, SIS energy bars, cereal bars)
  • Jam sandwich

My recommendation: consuming a sports drink is OPTIMAL because it contains both carbohydrates AND electrolytes in ONE drink.

I would recommend consuming primarily liquid nutrition on court for ease. With that being said, it’s personal preference therefore if you would prefer to consume food instead, that is perfectly adequate.  

Real world application: It’s best to consume your on court nutrition in small amounts regularly, rather than all in one sitting. This reduces the stress on the digestive system.

Individual recommendations will be different depending on the context and person, but previous blogs outline average quantities of carbohydrates and electrolyte (hydration) strategies needed to maintain optimal tennis performance.  

Side note: It’s best to try your on court nutrition strategy in training first because you don’t know how your body will react to particular foods during intense exercise, and you don’t want to be caught short during a competitive match.

Yours in Health,

Steph

Former Totally Tennis performance player Steph Catlin has founded Food Is Life, a sports nutrition consultancy business based in Basingstoke. If you would like to learn more about how to achieve your personal nutrition goals and for specific personal advice please contact Steph directly via foodislifeuk@gmail.com via her website www.foodislifeuk.com or visit her social media channels FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Read more nutrition advice in previous posts  Is Nutrition The Missing Puzzle Piece to Your Ultimate Tennis Performance?Do You Suffer With Performance Dips During a Tennis Match and Protein Isn’t Just For Body Builders

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