| By Irina Belfer-Lehat

Many people claim to be nutritionists … you can find one almost anywhere ... from a local vitamin shop, to a health food store or even your local gym. My goal is not to discredit them, but it does take approximately four years of college and one year of residency to become a licensed dietitian in the state of New York. Whenever consulting someone who is a “nutritionist,” one should always ask for a valid New York State License. My specialty is in broad nutrition, from weight management and diabetes to renal and cardio disease, but my primary focus is on sports nutrition. As a registered dietitian and mother of a competitive junior tennis player, I can relate how proper nutrition is important to an athlete. 

On many occasions, I observe kids and adults who do not know what to eat before and after tennis drills or they experience match fatigue, cramps and poor stamina. There are a lot of misconceptions on what to eat or what to avoid eating before the match. While some parents stuff their kids with heavy meals to sustain energy, there are others who do not allow any meals prior to a match.

Just like having tennis and a fitness coach, a competitive tennis player needs to consult with a sports nutritionist. A change in diet can significantly improve athletic results. Novak Djokovic’s gluten-free diet completely changed his game and even seems to have improved his breathing issues. Proper caloric, liquid and electrolyte calculations are crucial for any athlete. Although a parent cannot control the outcome of a match, they should certainly provide all the necessary tools to maximize their child’s success on the court, and proper nutrition is a big part of this winning formula.

Irina Belfer-Lehat

Irina Belfer-Lehat of Nutrition Solutions Co. is a New York State-licensed dietitian and certified dietitian-nutritionist. Irina Lehat RD Nutrition Solutions offers group classes starting in September, for kids in kindergarten through high school. Small groups, affordable prices! Mention this article and receive 20 percent off any services. For more information, call (917) 769-8031, e-mail irinalehat@gmail.com or visit www.irinalehat.com.