Tennis is a racquet-and-ball sport normally played on a grass, clay or hard surface with matches lasting anywhere from 60 minutes to five hours. Matches are played over 3-5 sets for men and 3 sets for women. Tennis is a highly skilful game that requires speed, agility and a high level of physical fitness, and thus requiring long hours of training on various elements of match play. The physiological demands of elite tennis competition are significant; during tournaments and matches, players may have a number of games over the course of a few days to weeks. The diet of a tennis player should contain sufficient energy for day-to-day activities while also meeting the energy requirements of matches and training. It should be rich in micronutrients, essential oils and antioxidants, each of which are essential for energy metabolism, a strong immune system and avoiding injury.

Sport-specific physiological demands

As a high intensity sport, the majority of activities are in the form of repeated sprints, jumps, quick changes in direction and repeated powerful strikes of the tennis ball (at the highest level serves can reach speeds of over 130 mph). Due to the explosive nature of the sport, the majority of energy comes from anaerobic pathways, but having a strong aerobic base is also important. VO2max testing on competitive tennis players range from 44–69 ml/kg/min, the higher end of which compares favourably to endurance athletes. Average heart rates during matches lasting over 1 hour have been observed to be greater than 145 bpm. To be as competitive as possible, players must maximise their power-to-weight ratio, which is in part a function of optimum body composition. This means having a low body fat percentage (e.g. <10 %) and a muscular physique. Players often spend as much as 4-6 hours in training a day usually involving both on-court and off-court activities, such as resistance training and various forms of running.

Nutritional considerations

The daily diet of a tennis player can potentially have a huge effect on match day performance. Achieving energy balance and having the appropriate intakes of carbohydrates, protein and fats relative to your training and performance goals is essential. During match-play, a player should strategically plan fluid and fuel intake during breaks in play to maintain energy and hydration levels throughout the entire match. Recovery nutrition should begin immediately after the match with a source of fast-digesting carbohydrate and easily-digested high quality protein to replace depleted glycogen levels and facilitate the repair of damaged muscles. Because of the high impact on joints, a joint care supplement such as OmniJoint, or an anti-inflammatory formulation such as OmniFlex, may be an important supplement to improve recovery and aid in joint maintenance.

Protein needs

Strength is an important feature of elite tennis players, as athletes must be able to maximise ball velocity, reduce the risk of injury and move explosively on the court. Functional strength training is therefore an important component of top tennis players training strategy. Intensive strength increases the daily requirement for protein, and should play a role in adequate recovery from both matches and training. Protein can be sourced from lean meats, fish, dairy, nuts and pulses or from high quality protein supplements like PRO GSH Whey, WHEY TRU and Casein TRU.

The importance of carbohydrate

There are three main times where carbohydrate (CHO) plays an important role in any high intensity sport that involves repeated sprints, and the subsequent depletion of muscle CHO (glycogen) stores. For maximising performance; i) CHO should be consumed in the lead-up to competition, ii) during breaks in play, iii) immediately after games and training to promote recovery. If inadequate levels of CHO are consumed at any of these time points, high intensity performance is likely to suffer.

Preparing to play

Strategies to increase glycogen stores in the days leading up to competition can be used to increase energy levels and thus performance. Carbohydrate supplementation is particularly beneficial for exercise bouts lasting more than 90 minutes. Foods which are good for pre-event fuelling (2-4 hours) are slow-digesting carbohydrates which include pasta, brown rice, whole grains, fruits and sweet potatoes. A carbohydrate-rich supplement such as FUEL LOAD can be used by athletes who struggle to consume sufficient carbohydrate from solid food before training and matches. FUEL LOAD provides easy-to-digest CHO with a low glycemic index (GI) in the form of isomaltulose (Palatinose), and can be used daily as a means of easily increasing daily CHO intake, or specifically to increase CHO intakes on the days preceding matches. This will help to ensure the hockey player is hydrated and fuelled before their session.

In-match nutrition

Given the opportunity to rest for 90 seconds every two games provides athletes with the potential to hydrate and refuel at regular intervals throughout a match. Hence, preparation and planning of the appropriate foods/fluids to consume during this time is essential. Consuming a fast-digesting source of carbohydrate in the form of a sports drink can extend time to fatigue and ensure that energy levels are maintained throughout the match. Some players choose to eat fruits and high carbohydrate snacks for energy, but an isotonic sports drink is just as affective for providing energy to the body, and may be more suitable than solid food as it reduces the risk of gastrointestinal distress. A suitable sports drink also supports rehydration and replaces electrolytes that are lost through sweating. CHO CHARGE (available in caffeinated or decaffeinated form) can be used by tennis players during breaks in play as a fast source of energy, and an effective means of getting fluids on board. The general guideline for CHO intake during exercise is 30-60 g per hour. This would amount to 30-60 g of CHO CHARGE mixed in 1 litre of water which should be drank in moderation during breaks in play, personalised to your own individual rates of sweat loss. Hydration is one of the most important goals for tennis players, particularly as tennis is often played in warm or humid conditions. Tennis players often sweat over 2.5 litres per hour, which would equate to 2.5 kg of body mass loss if not replaced with fluid intake. Exercise performance has been found to be reduced when athletes are dehydrated by as little as 2% body mass, which for a an average 70 kg player would be only 1.4 kg. Strikingly, a reduction of 5% body mass can reduce performance capacity by as much as 30%. Tennis players must aim to maintain fluid balance by regularly consuming a suitable fluid, preferably in the form of a CHO-electrolyte drink such as CHO CHARGE. The combination of electrolytes and carbohydrate promotes the absorption of fluid better than plain water mainly due to the presence of glucose and fructose.

Post-match nutrition

Consuming adequate fluids and carbohydrate as soon as possible after a tough match or training is essential for recovery. Athletes must aim to replace depleted glycogen stores and replace lost fluids. A protein source that supplies amino acids to repair damaged or fatigued muscles is also required. Recover Ace Endurance is designed specifically for endurance sports and can be used to immediately after training and games to replace glycogen stores and facilitate muscle repair. Due to the hectic schedules and frequency of matches in season a recovery product is an important asset for tennis players. ROS Nutrition’s Recovery range contains the precise types and amounts of the nutrients (mainly protein and CHO) athletes require to aid the best possible recovery from training (whether court- or gym-based) and matches.

ROS Recommends

Goal Why? ROS product
Recovery product Restore fuel stores and support optimum muscle recovery RecoverAce Endurance
RecoverAce Strength
Quality protein intake Essential for maintenance of optimum body composition Blue Label Whey
Target Whey Protein
Calcium Caseinate
Amino acid supplementation Facilitate training adaptations Aid growth and repair ISO BCAA Max 1500 mg
CHO loading and increasing CHO intake Maximise muscle glycogen stores that are critical for performance RecoverAce Endurance
Fuelling during competition Ensuring adequate hydration levels will reduce the negative effects on mental and physical function CHO CHARGE Caffeinated
CHO CHARGE Decaffeinated
Multivitamins and minerals Ensure adequate intake of essential micro nutrients Accovit Performance
Essential oils Meet the daily requirement for EPA & DHA Acti Omega
Acti Krill 500 mg
Joint care Helps to maintain optimum joint and bone health OmniJoint Original
OmniJoint Omega 3