Australian Tennis Open: 7 healthy-living tips from a professional tennis player
By Akam Anyangwe
The Australian open is under way. We all marvel at the fitness of the tennis super stars. Running continuously and hitting the ball at extremely high speeds, for 2hours and longer – for most of us normal people, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. So, how do Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and the other competitors manage to build their stamina and stay so fit?
Turns out to be easier than we might think. I had a personal chat with a prominent tennis professional who shared tips on fitness and nutrition followed by many leading tennis professionals. Here are his 7 tips:
1– Discipline: Discipline is the most important characteristic of a successful person in any field.
2– Training regularly: Exercise is the master key to a healthy cardiovascular system. There´s no way around this. Whatever form of training you do, just do it regularly, at least 4 times a week.
3– Eat natural foods that are fresh and avoid processed food. This is a basic rule for all professional athletes. Processed foods tend to be pumped with preservatives and chemicals which prolong the shelf-life, but are harmful to the body. Eating healthy means that you have to take the time to prepare fresh and natural foods.
4– Holistic nutrition: Maintaining a balanced nutrition is a prerequisite to elevate your level of fitness. The following nutrients must be incorporated into your diet:
- Antioxidants: They protect the body against oxidative stress, thereby reducing damage to cells. Many tennis pros rely on the consumption of polyphenol-rich dark berries. The secret tip is to regularly consume beverages made using polyphenol-rich fruits like blackcurrants and elderberries, but also bilberry and aronia berries. Some studies show that elderberry may increases the production of nitric oxide in the body, a molecule which opens up arteries, increases blood flow, and reduces blood pressure. Other sources of antioxidants include vegetables. Many players also drink green tea daily.
- Omega-3s: These essential fatty acids are potent anti-inflammatories. Clinical Studies show faster recovery of damaged tissue, as well as reduced joint pain. Indeed, the once tri-athlete turned professor, Tim Mickelborough, in a study published in 2015, showed that omega-3s from New Zealand green-lipped mussels reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, and enhance healing of damaged muscles. Omega-3s are also abundant in fish, flax seeds and walnuts.
- Proteins: The nutritional value of proteins is particularly high for professional athletes. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, help repair as well as strengthen muscles. Beware: the source of proteins is very important. Ideal is a low consumption of red meat and a high consumption of white meat, like chicken, and fish. Lentils and nuts are also healthy sources of proteins.
- Calcium, Iron and magnesium: These minerals are important for muscle contraction, as well as the transportation of oxygen and other metabolic functions. Calcium is abundant in dairy products and dark leafy vegetables, Iron in pumpkin seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Magnesium is found in dark leafy vegetables and, here comes a secret tip used by some professionals, the Haschberg elderberry, a unique variety of black European elderberry. Magnesium is of particular importance. It is a cofactor for over 300 enzymes in the body, and a key player in the utilization of oxygen.
5– What to eat before a match: The pre-match diet of a professional tennis player usually includes some fiber-rich breakfast cereal with fruits and milk. Another option is a wholegrain sandwich with a tuna salad. Make sure to let about 2 hours pass after a meal before engaging in sports. Running around while your system tries to digest food isn’t a good idea.
6– What to eat during a match: During the high energy-burning tennis matches, berry-based sports drinks are the best option. They provide high levels of antioxidants, some carbohydrates for energy, and they rehydrate the body. Many professional players also eat bananas or apples, as well as muesli bars during matches.
7– What to eat after a match: When the match is over, the body is running short on energy and the immune system is not working at full capacity anymore. Replenishing the lost fluids is the first thing to do. Once more, a berry-based beverage comes in handy. An elderberry-based drink can even help fight off viruses of the upper respiratory tract, while the body regains its balance.
A milk and fruit based smoothie provides a quick source of nourishment. Do not wait too long before eating something after sport. Getting nourishment within an hour is advisable.
Professional athletes incorporate these items in their daily meals. Coupled with regular training, it gives them an edge in athletic performance.