© Ella Ling

Maria Sharapova

Rest in peace: the tennis banana


Becky Stevenson, the Lawn Tennis Association’s sports nutrition services manager, explodes three myths about fuelling for tennis.

Eating bananas during a match is a waste of time (and bananas).
“In the middle of a match, if you’re playing at a high intensity, the blood from your gut goes to your exercising muscles. I would advise a sports drink or a gel, as that will get absorbed quickly. If you eat a banana, it’s probably just going to sit in your gut until you finish the match. It probably won’t even top up your blood-sugar levels, it will just sit there in your stomach. You will have no benefit from the banana.”

Going gluten-free won’t necessarily help you, and it could harm you.
“There’s a bit of confusion here. There’s a condition called Celiac Disease – and if you have that disease gluten isn’t good for you – but the disease isn’t that common. You have to go through a lot of tests to be diagnosed, so there are only a certain amount of people who need to be on a gluten-free diet. If you haven’t been diagnosed as having the disease, there’s no reason to be on this diet. It’s quite a difficult diet to do, whether you’re an elite player or a member of the general public, as you have to check everything to make sure that it doesn’t have gluten in it. It’s not easy to manage. It’s a challenge. We tell our athletes that, instead of checking products, they would be better putting that energy into making sure they have a balanced diet. Spend your time doing that rather than concentrating on trying to remove one part of your diet.

“Players have come to ask, and we’ve tried to educate them. If you’re a player who is travelling around the world, and you’re someone who is quite reliant on carbohydrate-based food, finding the right food in hotels isn’t easy. It cuts out your breakfast cereal, it cuts out your bread, and your pasta dishes. You need a team of people around you to help you do that properly. You run the risk of being nutriotonally deficient in the micro-nutrients which are in some of those foods. I say to players, ‘why are you doing this?'”

Man, or woman, cannot live on sushi alone.
“Sushi is very good for protein. But as a tennis player, you can’t just rely on protein, as you also need the carbohydrate to get energy back into your muscles. If you’re going to the sushi bar, yes, go for the fish, but also order a substantial rice dish to cover the carbohydrate. You shouldn’t try to live on sushi alone.”


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