| By Irina Belfer-Lehat

Tennis is an intense physical sport that burns a lot of calories. During the tennis season, it is very important to follow nutritional guidelines that will help an athlete to perform at their highest potential. Tennis is not a timed sport, therefore nobody can predict when a match will be over. An athlete must be prepared all the time before, during and after the match. The best way to prepare is to hydrate and load up prior to your match, eat small snacks that are high in electrolytes at changeovers, and reload within an hour after completion.

When in season, food planning and the timing of meals are key to success on the court. By properly maintaining energy, an athlete will not only keep their blood sugar steady and avoid the ups and downs of energy on the court, but also prevent many injuries.

No diets during the season please! Don't avoid carbs, skip meals or snacks, or avoid electrolyte fluids! Specialty diets must be strictly supervised by a doctor or nutritionist.

Athletes benefit the most from the amount of carbohydrates stored in the body. In the early stages of moderate exercise, carbohydrates provide 40 to 50 percent of energy requirements. Carbohydrates yield more energy per unit of oxygen consumed than fats. During digestion, the body breaks down carbohydrates to glucose and stores it in the muscles as glycogen. During exercise, the glycogen is converted back to glucose and is used for energy.

The ability to sustain prolonged vigorous exercise is directly related to initial levels of muscle glycogen. The body stores a limited amount of carbohydrates in the muscles and liver. If the event lasts for more than 90 minutes, you will run out of your energy source and will "hit the wall.”

Players that play both doubles and singles must eat double the amount of carbohydrates and lean protein (even more for men) in order to sustain energy.

Sample Meal Plan
High Performance Diet of 2,200-3,000 Calories (15-20 percent fat)

►One-and-a-half cups oatmeal (216 calories) with four tablespoons of raisins (120 calories)
►​One tablespoon of Flax Seeds (40 calories)
►​Two slices of whole wheat toast (180 calories)—Girls can skip this serving
►​One tablespoon of peanut butter (80 calories)—Can be added to oatmeal
►​One cup of orange juice (112 calories)
►​Two cups of water

Snack number one
►​One bran muffin—Girls can skip (112 calories)
►​One banana (105 calories)
►​Handful of almonds (100 calories)
►​One cup of water

Sandwich: Two slices of whole grain bread (200 calories)—Girls can try light whole grain (140 calories)
►​Three ounces of sliced turkey (135 calories)
►​Leaf lettuce (three calories)
►​Three slices of tomato (22 calories)
►​One teaspoon of mustard (four calories)
►​One cup of grapes (58 calories)
►​One cup of vegetable juice (53 calories)
►​One cup of milk or almond milk (90 calories)—Girls can skip 
►​Two cups of water

Snack number two
►​One cup of low-fat yogurt (Girls 110 calories/Boys 240 calories)
►​Six saltine crackers (78 calories)
►​One apple (81 calories)
►​One plum (36 calories)
►​One cup of water

►​Four to five ounces of grilled chicken (213 calories)
►​One large baked potato or sweet potato (139 calories)
►​One teaspoon of butter (50 calories)
►​One cup of cooked broccoli (39 calories)
►​One-and-a-half cup of a tossed salad (39 calories)
►​Two tablespoons of vinegar and oil dressing (114 calories)
►​One cup of milk (90 calories)—Girls can skip

Snack number three
►​One piece of angel food cake or dark chocolate (161 calories)
►​One cup of strawberries (45 calories)

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.