Tennis players are very interesting creatures – they all have very, very particular rituals. If you have ever watched one of Rafael Nadal’s matches, you might have witnessed some of his very interesting habits: picking a wedgie before every point, fixing his hair in a very particular way, and making sure his water bottles are ALWAYS aligned. Or maybe you might have witnessed Sharapova facing the wall before every point
The point is: each tennis player develops a set of rituals they perform on the court during matches and practices, and most of the times these rituals will be different from player to player. However, there is one ritual you will see among a very large number of tennis players: eating bananas during tennis matches. And why is that?
The 4 reasons why tennis players eat bananas during matches are: 1) they are a good source of carbohydrates, giving the players the energy they need; 2) they are full of potassium, which helps to prevent cramps during long matches; 3) they are natural and filled with vitamins; and 4) they are a quick and easy snack, perfect for changeovers.
While it may seem strange that most players end up choosing the same food to eat on court, we’ll cover the reasons behind it below. And if you think you might want to add bananas to your own on-court diet, this will hopefully help you make up your mind.
It’s A Good Source Of Carbohydrates
During a tennis match, tennis players use a LOT of energy running side to side, and they need to replenish that energy somehow. The easiest way to do so is by eating full of carbohydrates – which our bodies can easily transform into energy. Foods filled with protein, on the other hand, cannot be easily transformed into energy, while foods filled with fat can take a long time to be turned into energy, also taking a long time to digest, and possibly causing indigestion.
Within the category of carbohydrate-filled foods, there is an important distinction between low glycemic and high glycemic foods. The score a food receives in the Glycemic Index reflects how quickly the food can be absorbed into the body and transformed into energy. The GI is measured between 0 – 100, and foods ranking above 60 are considered high (very quick energy), while foods with lower scores are considered to provide longer, more steady energy.
Bananas are not only full of carbohydrates, but they score a 51 in the Glycemic Index, which means that they have a good balance between the quick absorption and the long-lasting energy.
Eating high GI foods might give you a burst of energy very quickly, yet you will likely crash early. Foods that rank too low on the index, on the other hand, might take too long to give you energy and at that point the match might as well be over. Bananas are a very well balanced food, and this is one of the main reasons why tennis players choose them as part of their diets.
It’s Also Full Of Potassium
One of the distinctive qualities of bananas is that they are full of potassium. The reason why potassium is a very important mineral for tennis players is that it helps to combat cramps during long and exhaustive matches.
During long matches, tennis players lose a very large amount of water and electrolytes (through sweat), which can lead to dehydration and – if the player is pushed far enough – muscle cramps. These are extremely painful and severely hurt your game as you’re not able to run at full speed and begin losing control of your movements.
I’ve personally gone through a full-body cramp during a match once in Colombia and had to get carried out of the court. Not fun.
There are other foods that contain a large amount of potassium (coconut water, avocados, watermelons, and pomegranates), but bananas are usually preferred over them as they are more practical.
It’s Natural And Full Of Vitamins
The third reason why bananas are a preferred snack by tennis players is that it is natural and contains a lot of vitamins. When you are a professional athlete, you need to really treat your body as a temple, and it is significantly better to eat foods that are natural rather than processed.
Bananas contain not only vitamins (B6 and C), but several different minerals, which include potassium, copper, magnesium, and manganese. While these vitamins and minerals can technically be obtained from supplements, it is much better to get them from natural sources.
It’s A Quick And Easy Snack
Finally, one of the most appealing qualities of bananas for tennis players is that they are a quick and easy snack. They require no preparation whatsoever, they are extremely cheap, and the peel is a natural “package”. This makes bananas a perfect snack to eat during changeovers, since players can take a bite or two out of it then just “close it” and save it for the next changeover.
At the end of the day, changeovers only last 90 seconds, which needs to be enough time for players to drink something, rest, and maybe eat something. It’s obvious that they don’t have time to spare, so bananas end up being a very handy snack.
Are Bananas The Best Snack For Tennis Players?
In the past, bananas were the preferred snack for essentially every single pro tennis player out there. However, recently players have begun to use special supplements that provide them all the required nutrients they need. So which one is best?
When playing at the ultra-high level at the ATP and WTA, players need to get an edge any way they can. With nutrition being so incredibly important for athletes, it makes sense that these top pros would rely on something more advanced than bananas and that tailors to their own nutritional requirements.
However, these supplements can cost a lot of money – while bananas usually cost less than a dollar. For recreational and lower level professional tennis players, bananas are still considered the top snack for matches and practices, especially when those go the distance. If you’re interested in what are some other great snacks for tennis matches, you can check out our Top 10 Best Snacks for Tennis Matches guide here.
The Banana Controversy
Just as a side note: during the 2020 Australian Open, French tennis player Elliot Benchetrit asked a ballgirl to peel his banana. The umpire interjected and told him that peeling bananas was not part of her duties, and that he should peel his own banana.
Benchetrit got a lot of backlash for doing this – but he claims that the reason behind his request is that he had cream on his hands and couldn’t peel it himself.
Nutrition is incredibly important for tennis players. At the end of the day, how far your body can go will depend on the type of fuel you consume. Making smarter choices when it comes to food can be one of the best (and easiest) ways to improve your game. And eating bananas on court can be a great start!