Your in-match fuel keeps you playing at a high level throughout your match. The amount of fuel you need each match depends on the intensity of your match and the length you’ll be playing.
The higher the intensity, the more you need to feed yourself throughout the match. You’ll start every match strong because you ate a high quality pre-match meal, but with every point you play you’ll quickly utilize that great pre-match fuel. If you don’t replace that fuel, fatigue will set in and your performance will drop.
Just think of the last time you played a long tennis match without re-fueling, most likely your level kept dropping each set as the match continued.
That’s an in-match fueling problem.
This is a big reason why high sugar sport drinks and sugar gel packs were initially created and are used in sports, as a way to get the instant energy to keep playing. Even though those sugar drinks and gels work for a moment, they spike your blood sugar levels, which triggers the onset of low blood sugar, followed by an energy crash.
High sugar sport drinks and gels are never the answer. During your match you need to continually fuel by eating PFC every 3 (a balance of protein, fats and carbs every 3 hours).
Now, of course, you can’t pull out some chicken and rice in the middle of a match, which is exactly why protein shakes and bars are your best choice for in-match fuel.
Protein Powder/Shakes Guidelines:
The powder needs at least 20 grams of protein per serving. There must be more protein in the powder than carbs and fat.
The protein source needs to be or a combo of: whey (hydrolyzed, isolate, or concentrate), micellar casein, egg white, or plant based and not contain soy protein. It can have trace amounts of soy in the form of soy lecithin, which has very little soy and is a binder in shakes.
Avoid soy protein, it’s a cheaper type of protein, difficult to digest and has a lower amount of nitrogen per gram than the other recommended types of protein powders. In addition, most soy is GMO based (genetically modified).
The powder needs to be gluten-free.
The powder needs to be low in sugar and use a natural sweetener (like stevia).
Some brands I recommend are: Zen Fuze Protein Shake, Power Crunch Proto Whey Powder (with hydrolyzed whey, made by BNRG), Egg White Protein Powder and Vega One Nutritional Shake made by Vega (plant-based powder).
Protein Bar Guidelines:
Each bar has different flavors, so choose the flavor you prefer.
The protein in the bar needs to be within a five gram range of the total carbs. For example, if the food label shows twenty grams of carbohydrates, you can eat a bar that has anywhere between fifteen and twenty-five grams of protein. Staying within this five-gram range ensures the bar will be correctly balanced. If the bar has more than five grams more carbs than protein, do not eat it will most likely spike your blood sugar.
The protein source needs to be either whey (hydrolyzed, isolate, or concentrate), micellar casein, egg white, or plant based and must not contain soy protein. It can have trace amounts of soy in the form of soy lecithin, which has very little soy and is a binder in most protein products. Avoid soy protein, it’s a cheaper type of protein and has a lower amount of nitrogen per gram than the other recommended types of protein bars. In addition, most soy is GMO based (genetically modified).
The bar should to be gluten-free.
The bar needs to be low in sugar, preferably high in fiber “and use a natural sweetener (like stevia). Some bars use small amounts of sucralose (fake sugar). If sucralose causes you to experience digestive challenges, avoid it.
The brands of protein bars that meet these guidelines are: Power Crunch made by BNRG, Quest made by Quest, Rise Protein made by Rise, Kirkland Protein Bar, made by Costco and Vega Protein Bar (plant based)
One last thing I want to quickly cover is electrolyte replacement. We all know how much we sweat during the summer tennis matches. This amount of perspiration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance and greatly affect your performance.
Always have these two things in your tennis bag:
Electrolyte tablets and gels (can get online or at sporting goods store): These tablets or gels are zero to low calories and provide a full spectrum of electrolytes to ensure protection.
Low Sugar Sport Drinks: Gatorade, PowerAde, Vitamin Water and other brands now offer natural and low sugar recovery drinks that kid athletes love and are loaded with electrolytes.
Simply choose the low sugar sport drinks that have less than 12 grams of sugar and are under 50 calories. And, of course, the more natural and dye free, the better.
Mark Macdonald is a world renowned nutrition and fitness expert, best-selling author, television personality, international teacher and speaker, and entrepreneur who has coached everyone from celebrities to athletes to business executives to busy moms.
He is the founder of Venice Nutrition and the IBNFC: International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaching, author of the New York Times Bestselling books Body Confidence and Why Kids Make You Fat...and How to Get Your Body Back, as well as a featured health expert for many national media outlets.