Eat Like a Pro: Tennis Players’ Diets

Last week on the MyTennisLessons blog we gave you some examples of the kinds of foods youth tennis players should be eating before a tennis match. This week, we dissect diet regimens of some of the top players in the world. You’ll be surprised to learn what these pros eat regularly — and it’s not all Wheaties. Since none of us are professional athletes, we provide some advice on how to modify their meals for yourself or a youth player.

The Chocoholic: Rafael Nadal

The king of the clay courts doesn’t eat quite the way you would expect a serious athlete to. He has said he loves chocolate and potato chips, even though he refrains from eating them close to match time. In an interview with 4Food, Nadal said he’d consider Nutella with toast to be a breakfast of champions. He also likes to load up on carbs with pasta dishes and gets most of his protein from fish.

Modify it! Nutella has 21 grams of sugar per serving, which isn’t the kind of energy you need unless you want to crash mid-morning. Organic peanut butter that doesn’t contain added sugar and salt is a healthier option to spread over whole grain toast in the morning. Substitute brown rice for white pasta and Nadal’s got a pretty healthy heap of food on his plate.

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The Calorie Consumer: Andy Murray

The Brit consumes nearly double the amount of calories an active male needs, according to the Daily Mail online. Murray’s 6,000 calorie diet consists of up to 50 pieces of sushi a day, chicken pasta with tomato sauce and vanilla protein shakes.

Modify it! While Murray’s diet might seem extreme, it’s his timing of meals that allows him to eat the way he does. Murray consumes sushi after his matches for its high salt content, which helps replace what he’s sweated out that day, says sports nutritionist Karen Reid. Murray’s favorite, spicy tuna rolls, are a good source of protein and omega-3 oils. Seaweed, which comes in almost all sushi, has also been shown to promote weight loss. But for those of us who aren’t planning on winning Wimbledon any time soon, sushi in smaller doses is a safe bet after meals. Try getting sushi with salmon, tuna, plenty of veggies and brown rice. For children who may not like sushi, get a similar nutritional value out of a dish with salmon, greens and brown rice.

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The Gluten-Free Guru: Novak Djokovic

When Djokovic ditched gluten a few years ago, his health significantly improved. After learning of his intolerance for wheat and dairy, the now no. 1 player on the tour changed his diet, and added a few quirks to it as well. He drinks room-temperature water upon waking in the morning and also eats two spoonfuls of an expensive variety of honey every day. He also follows ancient Chinese nutrition practices, which say warm food is better for us because it aids digestion.

Modify it! The diet that made Djokovic famous has gotten some flak recently because the doctor who started the fad now says gluten isn’t the culprit when it comes to most people’s gut problems. The key takeaway from Djokovic’s diet plan is knowing what your body can tolerate and what it can’t. If you or someone in your family complains of stomach problems, experiment by eliminating certain foods from your meals for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference. If you’re sick and need to recover quickly to get back on the court, try Djokovic’s method with warming foods, which include healthy options like oatmeal, quinoa, asparagus, kale and squash.

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The Victorious Vegan: Venus Williams

In 2012, Venus Williams switched to a raw vegan diet after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that makes you feel fatigued and achy. Advocates of raw veganism say cooking food kills micronutrients that help rebuild the body, and Williams has said that the diet helps relieve her symptoms. In an interview with Dr. Oz she said she drinks a lot fruit and vegetable juices, but not before matches: for extra carbohydrates she’ll have all-natural or organic bread and pasta.

Modify it! There’s nothing wrong with eating raw fruits and vegetables, but it’s a difficult diet to maintain, and not necessarily completely healthy, especially for athletes and children who need good proteins and carbohydrates. It’s likely better to have a balance of raw and cooked foods as well as vegetables and meats. Make balanced meals with fresh salads, but go ahead and keep making your favorite cooked dishes.

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The Diet Diva: Maria Sharapova

Sharapova has an all-star diet for any tennis player. Her daily meals consist of smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt for breakfast; fish and whole grains for lunch; and lean meats for dinner, according to She makes sure to reward herself in moderation with sweets — most likely from her candy line, Sugarpova!

Modify it! A tennis player can’t get much better than a diet high in protein and low in carbs and fat. Modify Sharapova’s meal plan for growing kids by giving them extra calcium to maximize bone growth through milk or low-fat dairy products. Avoid keeping sugary goodies around the house, but take a tip from Sharapova and treat yourself or your family to desert every once in a while!

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I grew up in a tennis family with three younger sisters as doubles partners. If you enjoyed a blog post of mine or want to know more, feel free to email me at Thanks for reading and staying connected with MyTennisLessons!
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