| By Irina Belfer-Lehat
Copyright: Getty Images/Credit: Burke/Triolo Productions

Tennis is a unique sport that involves intense physical activity for a prolonged period of time. Nobody knows how long one's match will last until the final point is won. Thus, it is vital for every tennis player to have the aerobic capacity to have endurance and tolerance. As discussed in my previous articles, nutrition plays a very important role and should be part of every athlete's preparation.

It is not a secret that most of the professional tennis players on the tour have their nutritionists working with them as a part of their team—evaluating, calculating and personalizing a meal plan is part of their jobs.

In this article, I have prepared a sample meal plan for the day before and for the hours leading up to your match. Please note that this is a general, basic meal plan that may or may not work for your body type or intensity. It is always recommended to be evaluated by a registered dietitian before following a meal plan.

Start by loading up on carbohydrates two to three days prior to your match. Adding just an extra serving of carbohydrates will definitely help you with your endurance. Pasta, potato, rice and bread are all great choices. Avoid heavy sauces, creams, excessive sweets and fried foods as they will make you tired.

Sample meal—day before the match
►Breakfast: Three or four pancakes with Greek yogurt and strawberries, with a glass of low fat milk.

►Midmorning snack: Banana and a granola bar.

►Lunch: Whole wheat bread with oven baked turkey or chicken topped with your choice of vegetables, and a side of pasta salad (hot or cold), and orange or grapes.

►Midday snack: Fruit smoothie with milk or soy milk. Blueberries and bananas are very high in potassium, and I would recommended to incorporate them into your smoothie.

►Dinner: Baked fish or chicken (four to five ounces cooked), a baked potato with sour cream or brown rice, a salad, dark chocolate ( >70 percent cocoa).

This plan provides approximately three meals, two snacks, four to five servings of fruits and vegetables, two to three servings of Calcium, 10 to 12 servings of carbohydrates, and four to five servings of protein (1,800 kcal, 60-65 g protein).

Remember to drink a minimum of two liters of fluids daily for proper hydration.

Day of the tournament
Generally, your last big meal should be at least three hours before the match. However, it does not mean that you don't snack or drink after your last meal. Small, frequent, light snacks are very important to keep your energy levels up even throughout the day. A good example of this type of snack would be a banana, an orange, a snack bar with protein, and/or a yogurt with granola.

Please have a registered dietitian help you to estimate your caloric, protein and fluid needs, and prepare you an individualized meal plan that would help you to be a better tennis player.


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.