You always hear that in order to become truly better at something, you have to push yourself to the limit. In tennis, this is a very common thing to hear in clubs and academies. The thing is – have you ever accidentally pushed yourself beyond your limits?
I have. And doing so will actually set you back a few steps, as the only thing you’ll find beyond your limits are probably cramps, dehydration, and utter exhaustion. So how does one find the right balance between working hard but not overtraining? The answer lies in snacking. Proper nutrition is key to keeping your body from crashing, and since you can’t really have a 4-course meal on a tennis court, eating the right snacks during a tennis session is extremely important.
The best snacks for tennis matches or practices are ones with high simple carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, a small amount of protein, and low to no amounts of fat and fiber. These snacks will give the player energy quickly and will be digested quickly, not wasting unnecessary energy with complex digestion.
It is not only important to know what foods to eat, but at what point during a match you should do so, and how much you should actually eat. Below we’ll cover everything you should need to know about the optimal snacks for tennis players.
Why Should You Snack During A Match?
You must think of your body as a car – in order to go anywhere, it needs fuel. And the fuel your body needs comes in the form of food. It doesn’t matter if you have an incredible meal before the match: if the match starts going the distance (2, 3 hours), your body will run out of fuel.
Slowly your legs will not be moving as quickly as before, you’ll become more irritated and less patient during points, and you will start making more careless mistakes. And this is when your opponent will step up his or her game. Personally, this used to always happen to me after the end of the first set. My energy levels would be low which combined with the longer changeover (making me cooldown) would be the perfect recipe for disaster.
While you need energy from food, you can’t really eat big portions during a match. Have you ever tried playing tennis with a full stomach? Not fun. And this is where snacks come in handy – these bite-sized portions will give you just the right amount of energy to endure a long tennis battle.
What Makes A Snack Good For Tennis?
As mentioned earlier, a good snack for a tennis match or practice will be one filled with minerals, vitamins, and simple carbohydrates, with a small amount of protein, and very little to no fat and fiber.
There is a huge misconception these days that you should not eat carbohydrates and should focus mostly on proteins – but this is not true, especially during a tennis match. While this may be a decent strategy if you’re looking to build muscle and lose weight, it won’t take you too far as a tennis player.
High-protein foods cannot be easily transformed into energy, which means that you will not get that extra boost you need. High-fat foods can be more easily transformed into energy, but they are not recommended because they might give you an upset stomach and chances are that they will make you feel sluggish. Finally, high fiber foods are not recommended because… well, they might make you need to poop.
The answer lies in simple carbohydrate snacks. Simple carbohydrates will give you the fastest energy possible, and they are very easily digested. We’ll show you some examples of great snacks in a bit.
When Should You Snack During A Match or Practice?
Knowing when to snack during a tennis session is just as important as what to eat. As a general rule, considering you had a nice meal between 1-3 hours before the match, you should snack after every 40 to 50 minutes of physical activity. So if you play a 3-hour match, you should snack around the 45-minute mark, then 1:30, then 2:15.
10 Best Snacks For Tennis Players
If you follow the advice we’ve given you above, you can come up with dozens of great snacks for a tennis match or practice. However, in order to make your life easier, we’ve listed our 10 favorite snacks for tennis players:
#1 – Bananas
Bananas are one of the most common snacks chosen by tennis players. Besides being a fully natural snack, it provides very quick energy in the form of fructose and it helps to combat cramps, as it’s also full of potassium.
#2 – Pretzels
Pretzels are also a great option for snacks during a tennis match. They taste awesome (haters gonna hate), they will not upset your stomach, and they are a great source of energy.
#3 – Energy Bar
This is something you have to be a little careful with. Energy bars can be absolutely outstanding sources of energy, but you need to make sure you choose the right ones. If you don’t, you’ll end up with nothing more than a sugar rush and a sugar crash.
Some energy bars are pretty much just a candy bar with a fancy package. You should choose bars that have good ingredients and that don’t contain too much sugar. Personally I love the Cliff bars as they taste great and give me good energy, but there are several different good options out there.
#4 – Energy Chews
Energy chews are a good option for tennis players who get an upset stomach if they eat something on court. These are full of carbohydrates, but they also contain vitamins and minerals in them. However, they are mostly made out of sugar, so we recommend you use them as a last resort.
#5 – Protein Bars
Protein bars are similar to energy bars, except that they have a higher amount of protein in them. This means that they will make you feel more full, which can either be a good or a bad thing depending on who you are. If choosing a protein bar as a snack, make sure you choose one without too much sugar but with enough carbs.
#6 – Crackers
Crackers are very similar to pretzels in the sense that they are easily digested, are fairly light, and can give you great amounts of energy. I personally enjoy Goldfish crackers, but there are a huge number of good options out there.
#7 – PB & J Sandwich
The good old PB&J sandwich is also a nice alternative as a tennis snack. If choosing this option, choose white bread and steer away from adding too much peanut butter. Otherwise, your sandwich will have too much fat in it and might make you feel sluggish. I know that having a full-on sandwich on court might be a bit odd, so these little bite-sized PB&J snacks are a great alternative.
#8 – Trail Mix
A good trail mix is an awesome alternative for a mid-match snack. Make sure to choose one without too much chocolate and nuts (those have high-fat content), and focus on the ones with high carbohydrates like the one above.
#9 – Dry Cereal
Cereals are not just for breakfast – they can be a great source of energy during a match. You can find them in small packages like the one above, and eat a little every changeover. While this one is made with whole wheat grains, they should not be too heavy on your stomach. There are several options out there – just pick one without too much sugar.
#10 – Rice Cakes
Finally, the last snack option is rice cakes. Choosing a rice cake like the one above is a great decision if you’re looking for energy but still looking for an overall healthier choice. These are usually made with whole wheat (that means more fiber), so they can be a little harder to digest.
Choosing the right snack for a tennis match can give you the edge to finish the match strong and defeat your opponent. Remember that you should choose something with a high content of simple carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, low protein, and little to no fiber and fats. You should eat a little at a time, and make sure you’re eating something after every 45 minutes of play. By following this advice, you should never end up pushing yourself beyond your healthy limits!