Choosing a balanced diet is important for everyone to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When you are a tennis player competing at the highest level, your nutrition is even more critical for optimal health, growth, performance, and recovery. The physical demands upon your body are high; use the guidance below to ensure you are fueling your body to WIN!


My Plate provides guidance for the general population on how to choose a balanced diet.

  • My Plate is a visual tool to help you determine the proportions of foods groups to include at each meal for a generally active lifestyle— ½ of your plate should be vegetables and fruits, ¼ of your plate lean protein, and ¼ plate grains or starches (carbohydrates).
  • This is a great way to structure your meals during periods of LOW training demands.


A tennis player’s body has different nutritional needs to meet the demands of heavy training and competition. The “Tennis Plate” graphic was created with your specific needs in mind. Follow these guidelines for training days:

  • ½ of the plate should be carbohydrate-rich foods, like grains and starches. Tennis players need carbohydrates to fuel training and competition and for recovery.
  • ¼ plate of lean protein, including meat and alternatives or dairy. Tennis players need protein for growth, muscle repair, and recovery.
  • ¼ plate of colorful fruits and vegetables. Tennis players need vitamins, minerals, & dietary fiber; ensure you consume an adequate amount of fruit and vegetables each day for these essential nutrients.
  • Healthy fats and flavorful spices accent the main components of the meal.
  • Tennis players also need more fluids, especially in the HEAT.


Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits/polenta are examples of grain products. Some foods contain a high amount of carbohydrates but are not classified as grains, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, and corn. These foods all contain carbohydrates that provide fuel and energy for performance. Carbohydrates should comprise the biggest part of your training diet (50% or more!) and be included at every meal.

Refined Grains
Burn more quickly because they have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. These are a better option immediately before and after training to provide fuel and recovery nutrition more quickly. Options include:

  • Foods made from white flour, like bread, pasta, and cereals
  • White rice

Whole Grains
Burn slowly because they contain the entire grain kernel: bran, germ & endosperm. These should be included daily for a fiber-rich diet.

  • Food products made with whole wheat flour, including 100% whole grain bread
  • Oatmeal and steel-cut oats
  • Brown rice
  • Farro, barley, and bulgur


Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the vegetable group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated. Vegetables are organized into subgroups according to their nutrient content. Vegetables are rich in minerals, antioxidant vitamins, and dietary fiber. Aim for 4-5 servings of vegetables daily.

  • Dark Green: Spinach, kale, other leafy greens, broccoli
  • Orange/Red: Carrots, pumpkin, squash, bell peppers
  • Dried beans and peas: black beans, kidney beans, peas. *a great source of carbohydrate for fueling
  • Starchy: potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, winter squash. *a great source of carbohydrate for fueling


Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. Fruits contain carbohydrates that provide fuel for tennis; fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Some common fruits include bananas, apples, mangoes, pineapple, melon, berries, tomatoes, and pears. Aim for 2-3 cups of fruit daily.


All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the protein foods group. Protein foods contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle, and required by every cell in the body. Aim to include protein at every meal and snack to meet daily requirements and for optimal recovery. Common choices include:

  • Red meat – beef, ham, lamb, pork, veal. *These foods provide a good source of iron and zinc.
  • Poultry & eggs – chicken, turkey, duck, eggs
  • Seafood – flounder, halibut, salmon, tuna, crayfish, lobster, shrimp, scallops
  • Meat alternatives – tofu, tempeh, soy or bean-based veggie burgers
  • Dry beans and peas – black beans, falafel, pinto beans, chickpeas, hummus
  • Nuts and seeds – almonds, cashews, peanuts, sesame & sunflower seeds, nut butter
  • Milk or plant-based protein powders – used for recovery, travel, or to supplement a lower protein diet.


Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group, while foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not. Aim for 3-4 servings of dairy daily for optimal bone health. Common choices include:

  • Regular, flavored, or lactose-free milk
  • Milk-based desserts, like pudding, frozen yogurt, or ice cream
  • Hard and soft natural cheeses, like cheddar, Parmesan, ricotta, and cottage cheese
  • Yogurt and yogurt drinks, kefir
  • Non-dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium: nut-based milk, oat milk, soy milk, rice milk
    • These products provide very little protein, except for soy milk.


Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature and come from different plants and fish. Solid fats, (solid at room temperature), like butter, come from animal foods or can be made from vegetable oils. Some fats and oils are necessary daily to provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Omega-3-fatty acids are health-promoting fats found in avocado, soybeans, almonds, flax seeds, walnuts, and oily fish.


As an athlete, you need a certain number of calories to keep your body functioning and provide energy for your high-intensity physical activities. There are foods created specifically for athletes to provide extra fuel for training and recovery.
Athlete-specific foods consist of:

  • Sports drink (pre, during, and/or post-training/competition)
  • Sport gels (during training/competition)
  • Sports bars (pre and/or post-training/competition.
  • Recovery drinks, including chocolate milk (post-training/competition)

The information provided within this Physically Speaking topic is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. If you have my health or related questions or concerns, please consult your physician or other qualified health care professional.

A special thanks to the authors, WTA Sports Dietitians Jessica LaRoche and Page Love

Read more health and nutrition articles →

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