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Ask the High Performance Lab -- Nov. 29

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM

PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the High Performance Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.

All answers to this week’s questions are provided by Dawn Weatherwax RD/LD, ATC, CSCS, a nutritionist who has worked with many professional athletes and the owner of Dawn Weatherwax, Sports Nutrition 2Go (www.SN2G.com ). Dawn has spoken at the USTA Tennis Teachers Conference in NYC on nutrition and athlete performance and her clients included the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Excite, University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Miami University at Oxford, University of Dayton, recreational, Olympic, World, and professional athletes. Weatherwax is also a speaker for the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and is an approved speaker by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Weatherwax is the author of The Official Snack Guide for Beleaguered Sports Parents and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sports Nutrition. For further inquiries call 513-290-5763 or email.

Q: My 17-year-old son plays tennis on the school team as well as USTA Jr. tennis. He is somewhat picky about his food, unfortunately. What are some simple foods that he can put in his bag to carry him through a long day when he may have to play 3 matches in Texas heat? He alternates Gatorade and water- is this a good hydration practice?

A: As a picky eater, please remember that it takes at least 10-15 tries for the body to adjust to a food that may not be pleasing. The palate can adjust to these new flavors over time.

As for snacks that your son can eat during the course of a day with three matches here are some examples of “Shacks on the Go.”

  • Bars: Gatorade Bars, Power Bars, Clif Bars (stay away from bars that taste similar to candy bars—too much of the wrong type of fat!)
  • Liquid Meals: Gatorade Shakes, Smoothies made with fresh fruit
  • Salted Snacks: Pretzels, low fat crackers, salted nuts or trail mix
  • Fresh Fruit: Bananas, Mangos, Pears, Oranges
  • Fresh Breads: Bagels, French Bread, Sourdough Bread

Keep the foods simple and never try something new on the day of the tournament!

A great book with good suggestions on this topic is The Official Snack Guide for Beleaguered Sports Parents. You can get this book at www.sn2g.com

Finally, alternating Gatorade and water is a great way to stay hydrated!

Q: Why are pro players provided with bananas during their matches? Is this to prevent cramping? Would the potassium from the bananas not take a long time to be absorbed into their systems? Plus they are 'heavy' in the stomach. Are there not any better sources of potassium and high energy foods that are easier absorbed?

You are right! Bananas are not the ideal food for preventing cramping. Actually potassium is not the culprit when it comes to preventing heat cramps at all. Heat cramps are usually caused by deficiencies of another electrolyte - SODIUM – combined with poor hydration techniques. There are some athletes who consume a lot of fluid but still cramp up. If this happens to you, you likely need to turn towards foods and beverages that have more sodium (salt) in them, not potassium. Salted pretzels, Gatorade, Endurance Gatorade, and V8 Juice are examples of products that have a higher sodium content, absorb quickly and leave your stomach feeling light. Proper hydration and electrolyte replacement are very important to sports performance.

On a side note, while bananas do contain a lot of sodium, they do have carbohydrates that help fuel your muscles!

Q: My son plays in the Junior circuit, boys 14's singles. He often plays a tournament match in the morning and then another tournament match in the afternoon. What do you recommend he eats after his first match and how long before his second match? What activities do you recommend when we are away from home but have 3 to 4 hours before his next match?

The two areas he must emphasize after a match are

1. Replacing any fluids lost during the match and
2. Replacing the carbohydrates/ energy stores he used up.

The best way to know how much fluid to drink is for your son to weigh himself before and after the match. He needs to drink 20-24 oz of water per pound of weight lost. To replace the lost carbohydrates he will need at least 2-3 servings of a grain (carbohydrates), some low fat dairy products and/or fruit within 30 minutes after the match. Follow this up with a light meal that contains at least 2-3oz very lean protein, 2 servings of a grain, and 1 serving of a fruit within the next 1 1/2 hours. As you get closer to the next match make sure he continues to stay hydrated. He may also need a small snack that is high in carbohydrates and very low in fat within 30 minutes to an hour of the next match, something like pretzels. Also remember that every athlete is different and the above suggestions may need to be adjusted slightly for your son.

If you would like to submit a question that may be answered by our Health & Fitness team or want to share an idea for a future column, please click here.



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