It goes without saying that nutrition is one of the most important aspects of any sportsperson's life. Eating well enables us to stay in top form for a long period of time and also has a positive effect on our mental well-being. Those who do not have a balanced diet often find themselves trailing off at the end of matches and unable to maintain a high level of intensity. In this post, I will reference the 2020 updated version of the food pyramid, and I will also share some tips and tricks to help you achieve a balanced diet. Remember that much like developing our skills on the tennis court, improving our diet takes time, dedication and effort. So try and commit yourself to your new diet plan for at least six months as it will benefit you greatly in the long run.
The Food Pyramid 2020 (Launched by The Department of Health)
- The following information is supplied to you by The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI)
found here: https://www.indi.ie/
Vegetables, Salad and Fruit (at least 5 to 7 servings a day). Base your meals on these and enjoy a variety of colours. More is better. Limit fruit juice to unsweetened, once a day.
Wholemeal Cereals and Breads, Potatoes, Pasta and Rice (3–5 servings a day, up to 7 for teenage boys and men age 19–50). Wholemeal and wholegrain cereals are best. Enjoy at each meal.
Milk, Yogurt and Cheese (3 servings a day and 5 from the age of 9 to 18) Choose reduced-fat or low-fat varieties. Choose low fat milk and yogurt more often than cheese. Enjoy cheese in small amounts.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans and Nuts (2 servings a day) Choose lean meat, poultry (without skin) and fish. Eat oily fish up to twice a week. Choose eggs, beans and nuts. Limit processed salty meats such as sausages, bacon and ham.
Fats, Spreads and Oils (In very small amounts) Use as little as possible. Choose mono or polyunsaturated reduced fat or light spreads. Choose rapeseed, olive, canola, sunflower or corn oils. Limit mayonnaise, coleslaw and salad dressings as they also contain oil. Always cook with as little fat or oil as possible i.e. grilling, oven-baking, steaming, boiling or stir-frying.
LEVEL 6 The revised Food Pyramid separates the Top Shelf from the rest of the pyramid. The Top Shelf includes foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt. These are not needed for good health and should not be consumed every day. Very small amounts once or twice a week maximum is sufficient.
What Should We Do?
We should always try to plan our meals based on this food pyramid. It provides us with a fantastic visual of what the ideal diet would look like. Now let's discuss some handy tools that you can use to create a balanced diet. At RCTA we have a simple three step method to improve your diet.
Step1: We would advise downloading the MyFitnessPal app or visit the website at https://www.myfitnesspal.com/. Its free!!! This is an excellent tool for tracking your calorie intake and also provides you with some great healthy recipes. You can log in your meals on the app or the website and based on the data provided to you by MyFitnessPal, you can make changes to your diet accordingly.
Step 2: For one week, eat the way you would normally eat. Don't think about the food pyramid or your calorie intake. Log your meals into MyFitnessPal. The next week, try to plan ahead and balance your meals based on the recommendations of the INDI or MyFitnessPal app. Again, log in your meals. Compare the two. Ask yourself the following questions; How do you feel physically? How do you feel mentally? Do you feel this is sustainable?
Step 3: Sustainability is key. Make sure your diet is realistic and not to difficult to maintain. Of course we will have to make some sacrifices, but don't put too much pressure on yourself. However, we should not fall into the trap of telling ourselves that we will start our diet tomorrow or in the new year because we will end up doing this our whole life.
Starting a new diet is both exciting and daunting at the same time. The hardest part is maintaining your discipline. Once you keep at it and get over the difficult periods throughout your new diet journey, you will never look back. A balanced diet has unbelievably positive psychological and physical effects on the body. If you succeed, you will feel on top of the world and this newfound discipline will stand to you in your whole life. A balanced diet will undoubtedly benefit you on the tennis court as you will see an increase in energy and intensity during your matches. If you have any healthy recipes that you would like to share, we encourage you to share them via the forum section. Thank you!!!