| By Irina Belfer-Lehat
Photo credit: Stockbyte

Many people claim to be nutritionists … you can find one almost anywhere—from your local vitamin shop, to a health food store or even your local gym. My goal is not to discredit them, but to educate the public that it takes a real college degree, one year of residency and a very complicated RD exam to become a registered dietitian in the State of New York. Whenever consulting someone who claims to be a “nutritionist,” one should always ask for a valid New York State License. My specialty is in broad nutrition, from weight management and diabetes, to renal and cardio disease, but my primary focus is on sports nutrition. As a registered dietitian and mother of a competitive junior tennis player, I can relate how proper nutrition is important to an athlete.

On many occasions, I observe kids and adults who do not know what to eat before and after tennis drills or they experience match fatigue, cramps and poor stamina. There are many misconceptions on what to eat or what to avoid eating before a match. While some parents stuff their kids with heavy meals to sustain energy, there are others who do not allow any meals prior to a match.

Just like having tennis and a fitness coach, a competitive tennis player needs to consult with a sports nutritionist. At many sophisticated tennis clubs, coaches guide athletes on proper hydration and diet. I haven't seen a staff nutritionist at our local tennis clubs as of yet and perhaps it's a good time to change this. A change in diet can significantly improve athletic results and prevent many injuries. Novak Djokovic’s gluten-free diet completely changed his game and even seems to have improved his breathing issues. Proper caloric, liquid and electrolyte calculations are crucial for any athlete. Although one cannot control the outcome of a match, an athlete should certainly use all the tools necessary, such as proper nutrition, to better control it. Make a proper nutrition a key part of your wining formula!

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.