The Power of the Food Pyramid

Everyone knows they need to eat right for health, but do you know what YOU, as a tennis player, should eat for peak performance?

Published May 06, 2009 12:00

The Power of the Food Pyramid
Food Pyramid
Everyone knows they need to eat right for health, but do you know what YOU, as a tennis player, should eat for peak performance? The food pyramid can give you the extra power you need to improve your health and game.

Why use the Food Pyramid?

  • It will give you a framework for eating for sport and health.
  • Use the food pyramid guidelines to fuel yourself for tennis, recover from a tough match, satisfy hunger with balanced, healthy choices, meet your needs for muscle-building protein and assure you are getting vitamins and minerals for strong bones and blood.

What do Tennis Players need?

  • Tennis players need mostly carbohydrate (bread, fruit and athlete group) for fuel and recovery.
  • Players need protein (meat and dairy group) for growth, muscle repair, and recovery.
  • Make sure you get enough fruit and vegetables each day for essential vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
  • Athletes also need more fluids, especially in the HEAT.

Grain group:
Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products. Make sure you have at least one of these foods at each main meal. These foods provide the fuel for performance.
Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, whole grains and refined grains.
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel - the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples include: whole-wheat flour, bulgar (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, brown rice
Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ.
Examples: white flour, white bread, white rice.

Vegetable group:
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; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.
Vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups, based on their nutrient content. These foods are rich in minerals, antioxidant vitamins and dietary fiber. Make sure you have 5 serves of vegetables per day and they are selected from 2 different colors.

  • Dark green vegetables: broccoli, dark green leafy lettuce, kale, spinach
  • Orange vegetables: squash, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes
  • Dry beans and peas: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, soy beans
  • Starchy vegetables: corn, potatoes
  • Other vegetables: asparagus, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, zucchini


Fruit group:
Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. Make sure you eat at least 2 serves of fruit per day. These foods provide fuel for tennis; fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Some commonly eaten fruits are: Apples, Bananas, Grapefruit, Mangoes, Melons, Oranges, Pears, Pineapple, Raisins, 100% Fruit juice.

The milk (milk, yogurt and cheese) group:
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. Tennis players need at least 3-4 serves per day depending on age.

Meat (red meat, poultry, eggs, fish) and Bean (dry beans and nuts) group:
The meat group is an excellent source of protein that contains all the essential amino acids. It is also a great source of iron and zinc. Dry beans and peas are part of this group as well as the vegetable group. Vegetarian players need to combine foods to get a complete protein source. Fish, nuts, and seeds contain healthy oils.
Commonly eaten choices in the Meat and Beans group are: Red Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Dry beans and peas, Nuts and seeds, Fish.

Fat group:
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature and they come from many different plants and from fish. Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and shortening. Solid fats come from many animal foods and can be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. A small amount of fats and oils should be eaten daily to provide essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. Omega-3-fatty acids are considered the health promoting fats. Foods are naturally rich in omega-3 fats are: Avocado, cashew, almond, walnuts, salmon, tuna, halibut,
Soybeans, canola, oil flax seed

Athlete group:
You need a certain number of calories to keep your body functioning and provide energy for physical activities. The athlete foods provide extra fuel for training and recovery. Athlete foods consist of:
sport drink, sport gels, sport bars, recovery drinks.

Thanks to Susie Parker- Simmons for assistance with this topic,
Sports Dietitian (RD) & Physiologist
Nutrition Advisor,
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

The contents of the Game, Set, Health site, are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice.  The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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