With Summer well under way, many of you have likely experienced the pain of the scorching heat while spending hours on the court on a sunny day. The heat can bring thirstiness, lightheadedness, and simply an overall lack of energy. While it can be frustrating and make your time spent on the court much more unpleasant, all of this can be avoided simply by taking charge of your nutrition and nutritional habits. As a tournament player myself, I’ve played in extremely warm and humid conditions that have taken a toll on my body as well. But throughout the years, I’ve explored different options and adapted my habits to eat the best foods and drink the best fluids to enable me to last on the court.
I know some people are not avid banana lovers, and I understand how that feels because I used to dislike bananas myself. As the years have gone by, I’ve grown more appreciative for the fruit specifically because of how much it has helped me on tough days. Bananas are a great snack to have with you on and off the court, and are especially great to have while playing.
Many players have told me that during tournaments they don’t like to eat heavy foods or snacks before or during matches because it slows them down on the court. I completely agree! Bananas solve this problem by being filling enough to provide you with energy on the court, but not too filling as to slow down your movement. The benefit they have on your body is exactly what you need when you’re on the court and feeling a little low on energy during practice or matches. Keep bananas with you whenever you can!
Unlike bananas, cereal bars have much more variety in terms of flavor and benefit on your body. When buying cereal bars, it’s important to consider the flavors, brands, and nutritional values of the product. Certain flavors may impact the nutritional value as well as the sugar content in the product. For example, I’ve found that some fruity flavors have more added and unnatural sugars that do not sit well in the stomach during hot days in the sun (on that note, any product with a lot of added/artificial/unnatural sugars should be avoided as a source of energy). These sorts of products can stimulate feelings of nausea, dizziness, or lightheadedness, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.) Instead, maybe go for a chocolate flavor if you’re still looking to get a tasty bar.
The brands and nutritional values go hand in hand, as some brands of cereal bars are not as suited for athletes and maybe more like a snack to keep at home. My personal favorite are Zone Perfect Protein Bars, but keep in mind that every single body is different, so you should try and use what works best for you. Cereal bars are great to eat right before and after matches as well as to take a quick bite out of during matches and practices. Just make sure they don’t melt in the sun!
Nuun Sports Tablets
For juniors, having liquids to provide energy to the player is extremely important and one of the most important products for a junior to have. Similar to the cereal bars, it is important to consider how the player is receiving this energy as well as what works best for their body. The Nuun sports tablets have worked best for me as they are not very high in sugar content and have a great taste to them that leaves me feeling refreshed on the court. The tablets contain the electrolytes sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium bicarbonate. They also have various flavors as well as certain flavors with caffeine for anyone that may want something with a little more kick.
The product comes in the form of tablets in a case and can be bought at your local Target, Walmart, or CVS. To use the product, you place the tablet in a bottle of water and it dissolves and turns your water into a fresh electrolyte drink. One tablet suffices for about 16 oz. of water. I carry about 2-3 bottles of the electrolyte mix with me in my matches and practices and drink them during changeovers and breaks. They are a great source of energy on the court and are a clean product. Not to mention that they are gluten free, vegan, kosher certified, informed sport, and non GMO certified.
Being hydrated is just as important as feeling energized on the court. While water may not give you a boost of energy like some of the other products I mentioned do, a lack of water causes dehydration, which contributes to a lack of energy, dizziness, and overheating, all of which can hurt your athletic performance. The most important things to remember when drinking water are that you must hydrate as much off the court as you do on the court, and that thirstiness is a sign of dehydration. Barely drinking water off the court will cause you not to have enough fluids already circulating through your body during matches and practice.
Just because it isn’t hot and you aren’t exercising, doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need plenty of liquid intake. In terms of thirstiness, I know many athletes may not drink water when they are given a break if they don’t feel thirsty or tired. This mindset needs to change. Look to beat the thirst in terms of your hydration. Hydrate enough when you get the chance so you don’t feel thirsty later. If you’re feeling thirsty, then it’s a reminder from your body that you’re behind on your hydration. Even if you are drinking a lot of water, remember to take small sips at a time. Chugging water from your water jug or water bottle can give you stomach cramps and make your experience on the court much worse.
Taking care of your body is everything. Especially as athletes, it’s important for us to rest, to recharge, and to revive our bodies to allow us to perform at the level we desire. All of these products and habits I mentioned are what have helped me throughout my years as a tennis player. By paying attention to my body, I’ve been able to understand what works the best for me, and everyone should do that too. I’m sure there are tons of fantastic products out there that I have not covered or have not used in my life. If you have any suggestions or would like to share what products have benefitted you the most, leave a comment below! By sharing and exploring our knowledge, we are one step closer to finding what works for ourselves best. So instead of blaming the heat, let’s take charge of our own nutrition and treat our bodies right.