Elite tennis players are discovering that simple changes to their diet and lifestyle can pay big dividends on the court.
Several factors have contributed to world number three Andy Murray’s recent charge to challenge Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s dominance on the ATP Tour. Murray is the only one of the “Big Four” who has not been ranked number one, and he has yet to win a Grand Slam despite three trips to a Slam Final.
Fitness is key to being able to compete and win on the men’s tour. Recently, diet and nutrition have also come into focus as Mardy Fish and Novak Djokovic have grabbed international headlines with their recent successes on the court as a result of eating better. Many people have issues with certain foods and athletes are no different.
This August in Cincinnati, Andy Murray appeared noticeably more fit. He elaborated on the changes he has made to his diet in order to be a better competitor: “You can be a lot more specific with what you eat and what you shouldn’t eat to make sure you’re only putting the things in your body that you need. The only stuff I’m not eating now is pretty much wheat and anything that’s got corn in it. Since I started doing it, I felt much better, less stiff, with less inflammation in my body.”
Murray also enjoyed sleeping in, even on days when he had matches to play. Often in the summer during the North American hard court season, he would be scheduled to play the first match on center court at 11 am to maximize TV viewership in the UK. Murray did not always like to play in the morning, a concept he has recently embraced. “”I wake up at like 7:00 and feel great,” he said. “Before I would wake up at 9:30 and feel terrible, stiff and sore and tired. Now I wake up earlier and I just feel much fresher.”
The transition to eat better and get an early start in his day has not been easy for Murray. Sacrifices were in order, in particular drastically altering his first meal of the day: “The problem is breakfast is quite difficult, because normally I would have bagels and spreads like peanut butter or cream cheese or any of that stuff.”
Breakfast was not the only meal of the day that needed to change. Certain snacks also needed to be eliminated, including cow’s milk.
He is drinking more soy milk with cereals and has cut out a lot of the protein bars and shakes he used to take after matches and after practices. “I’m having a lot more fish and vegetables and trying to have just a more balanced diet,” he said. “Rather than having a chocolate bar, I have an apple or a banana. It’s something I wish I had been doing it longer.”
After making these changes Murray went on to win the Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, appear in the US Open semifinals, and then proceed to win 17 consecutive matches, including titles in Bangkok, Tokyo and the Masters 1000 in Shanghai this autumn. Waking up earlier and modifying his diet seem like simple adjustments, but they helped him to challenge the very best in the sport.