You are what you eat -- on court and off

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It’s February already!   How did that happen? Wondering what happened to those resolution about a healthy diet and lifestyle?

If you're back into the same work/home/exercise routine, perhaps you're not really achieving the goals you had hoped you would.  Sounds like the answer might be to concentrate on your personal diet in conjunction with all that exercise.

Nutritional therapy is a practice which works with you as an individual to provide support to the different systems within the body by focusing on diet and lifestyle changes.  You might have trouble with lower back pain or feel low on energy and constantly rundown as a result of the wrong foods entering the body -- or this could be a sign of food intolerance.  Isn’t it better to give yourself a chance and get to the bottom of the problem, rather than just hope it gets better eventually?

So what is nutritional therapy all about?

We've all Googled 'eating better,' and there is an abundance of research to tell you what you should be eating.  But it's confusing and can be off-putting. Do you really have to eat cups of goji berries to feel fantastic?

With nutritional therapy, you can dedicate  time to uncovering and unpicking long term food habits, and instead create good habits that can fit with and enhance your lifestyle and exercise -- including tennis. We are all individuals, so understanding what nutrients you are missing in your diet is essential.  Creating a meal plan that you can stick to and that incorporates what you are missing in your diet is essential if you want to feel better and achieve more when you exercise.

What can I do to enhance my performance?

Your nutritional status will depend on a variety of individual aspects: the lifestyle you lead, your age, goals and practising environment, e.g. weather conditions, all play a part. But here are some basic tips to get you started.

Carbohydrates and Protein

Carbohydrates taken during exercise have been shown to increase muscle glycogen stores, prevent a hypoglycemic response (blood sugar control), and have a positive impact on the central nervous system.

Protein has wide benefits, including maintaining energy for longer as well as enhancing rates of muscle protein when consumed up to 2 hours after exercise.

Natural supplements

Enhanced performance has been linked to beetroot juice which contains nitrates and assists in blood flow.  Vitamin D also helps bone health and muscle strength through helping the control of calcium. It has also been linked to mood: exercising outside with the benefit of natural light will not only increase your vitamin D stores but also assist in natural sleep circadian patterns.

Avoiding injury

If you are exercising regularly, there is always the risk of injury. To ensure you can do the best for yourself and reduce this risk, consider the natural content of food.  The phytonutrients and subsequent anti-inflammatory compounds in natural food are plentiful and, when consumed in good supply, assist in preventing injury. To get the best range, try a ‘rainbow diet’ which incorporates as much colour as possible: red and orange veg for beta-carotone; red and purple fruits for vitamin C; and dark green leafy veg for chlorophyll (the stuff that makes it green), which is the ultimate phytonutrient hit. The bitter the better as this taste, which may be unusual for us, is actually more beneficial for the liver and for fat breakdown.


Snacking the right way is important as it can sometimes be inevitable -- waiting for match play or on the run between work and the gym.  A packet of crisps will not sustain you through a PT session or a long one-to-one coaching session.  Try something like a banana, wholemeal pasta or a quick bit of scrambled egg instead.  There's nothing worse than flagging when you need to shine.

Thinking smart about the food you eat means you can easily gain the benefits and see positive effects in your exercise performance.

Vanessa Bostock, Dip CNM ANP, Nutritional therapist
Ref: “Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and post exercise recovery,” K. Beck, J. Thomson, R. Swift and P. Hurst, Open access J Sports Med 2015; 6: 259-267

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Halton Tennis Centre
Chestnut End, Halton
Aylesbury HP22 5PD, UK

Tel: +44 (0)1296 623453

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