| By Irina Belfer-Lehat
Photo credit: Stockbyte

Proper nutrition is one of the most important components of a competitive tennis player. An athlete cannot achieve his or her full potential at any sport without fully understanding how their body works and what is needed in order to sustain the energy and prevent exhaustion, dehydration and cramping during athletic competition. Remember … it’s always the fittest athlete that comes first to the finish line.

High school varsity tennis players often fail to compete at their highest performance due to simply not eating and drinking enough during the school day and after the match. Players complain of headaches and exhaustion, symptoms that are frequently mistaken for hunger and dehydration.

More and more, athletes all over the world rely on the importance of proper nutrition and hydration prior to an event. Athletes achieve peak performance by eating and drinking a variety of specific foods. High school players should not be different. As a nutritionist and mother of a high school player, I often observe girls competing on empty stomachs or fueled only by junk food. I also do not see girls drinking enough water before, during and after their matches.

Here are some simple nutritional recommendations to improve your game:

►Always bring two lunches to school. Eat your first lunch at regular time and your second 90 minutes prior to a match or practice session. A turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with a slice of avocado and tomato is a perfect light lunch that will provide enough fuel and the proper vitamins to get you through.

►Bring extra snacks to school and try to munch on them every two to three hours. A granola bar, celery, carrots, banana, apple, dry fruits, nuts or dark chocolate are ideal for this type of situation. These snacks will provide enough fiber and potassium to prevent fatigue, cramps and headaches.

►Drink at least two 16 ounce bottles of water during the school day and make sure to have Gatorade and additional water for the game. You will need to drink eight to 10 ounces for every hour spent on the court after the game for recovery. This is very important!

For more information and specific meal plan options, please contact me by phone at (917) 769-8031 or e-mail irinalehat@gmail.com.

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.