| By Irina Belfer-Lehat
Photo Credit: Stockbyte

Following proper nutrition preparation will guarantee improved tennis performance. Packing your lunch box with proper snacks and fluids will help you to avoid fatigue, cramps and get you ready for any early matches, late matches or even multiple matches. Here are some easy tips on what super snacks and drinks to have in your bag when playing in a tournament:

►Freeze some water and Gatorade the night before and pack it with your snacks and drinks. It will help to keep your refreshments cool and fresh.

►The myths about Vitamin Waters and other “smart waters:” They have empowering flavor names like Endurance, Energy, Essential and Focus, and give the illusion of a healthy, hydrating and rejuvenating miracle elixir. The bottles are beautiful, colorful and the text on them is snappy and clever; however, they do not provide proper electrolytes and often are full of sugar that can lead to a further dehydration. Low calorie Gatorades, such as G2, do not provide proper hydration either. Regular water and Gatorade are the best sources of hydration.

►Fiber is a super nutrient that keeps you full for a long time, look for snack bars that have more than five grams of fiber in them. I like Fiber One snack bars because they provide nine grams of fiber and less than four grams of fat. Always keep extra bars in your bag.

►Fruits are super snacks. Not only do they provide all kinds of vitamins and minerals, but the potassium in fruit helps prevent muscle cramping. Bananas and oranges are the best sources of potassium and are easiest to have on the run. Here’s a tip … peel your orange in advance to avoid a mess on the court.

►Good news for chocolate lovers … in addition to being a feel-good food, it is loaded with antioxidants and minerals such as zinc. Zinc is proven to work as an anti-stressor and provides a quick fuel release to your brain. Dark chocolate (greater than 70 percent), provides up to 9.6 milligrams (64 percent RDA) of zinc per 100 gram serving (most bars are 50-100 grams). A small piece of dark chocolate is a must-have in your bag.

Always remember to drink plenty of water and eat small, frequent meals during your tournament days! Let an expert analyze and personalize your diet.

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.