To follow up on my previous post about hydration, let’s focus on what you should and shouldn’t eat when preparing for a match, starting with the pre-game diet.
The best way is to start preparing a few days before the game, ensuring your body is fuelled with the best possible energy – focusing on storing carbohydrates to maintain the reserves of glycogen and staying hydrated.
As a general rule, you should stick to a high-carb, low-fat diet such as white bread, rice, pasta, non-sugary cereals, fruit, veg, etc. Add a bit of protein, which is easy to digest and with little fat, such as turkey, fresh cheese, skimmed yogurt, etc.
Avoid eating any ‘new’ food, as you don’t want any surprise reactions like pain or bloating.
As always, leave out junk food, sugary snacks/drinks, fatty foods such as sausages, fried or battered food, pastries, and avoid high amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
On the day of the match, drink plenty of water (or isotonic drinks). If the game is in the morning, eat a proper dinner the night before which will serve as your ‘main meal’ before the game, and leave enough time to digest before going to bed. Then, don’t skip breakfast as it will be your extra chance to load up on carbs before playing, but keep it a bit light. If the game is in the afternoon or evening, make sure you eat 2-3 hours before.
Again, think foods rich in carbohydrates, without much protein and little fat – eat slowly and chew food thoroughly to avoid that heavy feeling.
“Two hours before each game, I eat pasta with a light sauce, I’ve been doing that for 20 years” – Roger Federer.
During the game, a snack is always a good idea if you need to keep your energy levels up. A banana works but takes a bit longer to ‘start working,’ therefore, the best snack is probably dates, thanks to their instant release of energy.
“Due to the high carbohydrate content and the optimal amount of fiber, the date is probably the ideal source of energy during a match.”
What to eat after a game
After a game, you need a quick and immediate carb snack – dates, gels, or an energy bar. In addition to the carb, you also need to add some protein, which can be done by drinking a protein shake.
And finally, make sure you eat a proper post-match meal and don’t leave it later than 2 hours after playing. This time, go for a high proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and high-quality fats such as potatoes, rice, noodles, salmon, tuna, and eggs.
If you want to read more about what to eat before a tennis game, check out the e-book called Tennis: Disciplined for maximum performance by Jan Fischer and Joshua Kleiner.