The diet of a champion? Pizza and pasta

This article is part of our Italian Week on Tennis Buzz.

When you think italian cuisine, you probably think pizza and pasta. The perfect food for a tennis player.

una vera pizza napoletana, napoli


As a tennis player, your diet must help you:
– achieve high performance
– recover more efficiently
– have better health

The most important component of a tennis player’s diet are the Carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates (sugar, bread, potatoes, rice, pasta) fuel the muscles and avoid early fatigue.
You need to eat at least 6 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per day (6 g/kg/day). When you are on the court several hours a day, you need to eat more carbohydrate: 7 to 10 grams per kg per day.

Fat is a very important nutrient, but you need to be careful about fat intake, it limits performance. You have to avoid greasy, fried foods, cream, fast food, rich sauces, pastries, crisps, chocolate, etc. Choose heart-healthy fats, such as canola oil, olive oil, and nuts.

Tennis players need 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein/kg/day. Eating more protein than this does not improve your tennis. Good sources of protein include fish, chicken, turkey, beef, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts, and soy foods.

Water is one of the most important substances required by the body. Drinking enough fluids improves performance and helps prevent heat illness during training and competition.

Here’s an example of a diet planning before a match (source ITF Coaching series):

During the 2 days preceding the match, a player should gradually increase the complete carbohydrate intake to ensure that the level of glycogen stored is high.

Pre-match day eating what to eat the night before:
– pasta/rice with tomato or vegetable or bolognaise sauce, chili con carne.
– jacked potato with low fat fillings
pizza with side salad

Match day eating first match in the morning:
Have a light, high-carbohydrate breakfast:
– cereal/porridge with low fat milk
– toast/bread with jam, marmalade or honey
– fruit juice/fresh fruit
It should be light yet high in complex carbohydrates.

Match day eating first match at mid day:
In addition to breakfast the players should have a mid-morning snack of fresh fruit, iced buns, teacakes or dried fruit

Match day eating first match in the afternoon:
Have a light, high-carbohydrate breakfast, a snack and an early mid-day meal.
For the mid-day meal choose from:
– sandwich/roll with banana, chicken, turkey
– pasta/rice with bread rolls
– low fat yoghurt, low fat rice puddings
– low fat milk drink

Post match/training:
Eat a high carbohydrate meal within 2 hours of the match/training. A normal, well-balanced diet, i.e. high in
carbohydrate and low in fat, should then be adhered to in every day eating.


Check out Rafa’s favorite pasta recipe:
More info about Rafa’s diet.

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