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Diet and concentration

Concentration is massively related to our diet
By: Sally Parsonage
Added:
11/02/10

Diet and Concentration

We tend to think of concentration as a purely mental asset, but in reality it is as much related to what you have been eating - or not eating! The brain is an amazing organ, but unlike muscle which is like a hybrid car and can run on different fuels, the brain relies solely on glucose supplied in the blood for its energy, and blood sugar is one of the major factors in maintaining focus and concentration right through a match.

If you are a player who goes straight to tennis at the end of a working day, there is a good chance that you have not eaten anything since lunchtime. If that was at 1 pm, your blood sugar will probably have returned to the ‘resting’ level by 4 pm, or 5 pm, at the latest. So when you start playing at 6.30 pm, your blood sugar is already low, and will get even lower as your muscles use it as a fuel – not only will you fatigue more quickly, your concentration will be distinctly “wobbly”!

The solution?
Just eat a small carbohydrate-rich snack as you leave the office – a banana, a cereal bar, or a bagel so that when you hit the court your blood sugar is not at rock bottom

michelle brito



 Michele larcher di Brito - Fully focused and determined!








Strong starter but lose your way in long 3 set matches?

Many possible reasons, but low blood sugar is often one of them. When you start to play, your blood sugar actually rises, but as the game continues into the 2nd hour - and beyond – it will fall, and so will your focus too! Preventing this is one of the “pluses” of sports drinks like Gatorade, Isostar, or Lucozade Sport – they contain around 5 – 6 % carbohydrate which is just enough to maintain your blood sugar levels and avoid that 3rd set “dip” in concentration that can lose you the match.

For most of us “lesser mortals” who do not quite manage to play at pro level, a mixture of sports drink plus water will provide enough carbohydrate, and you can change the balance between the two as your match progresses and make sure you finish strong e.g.

1st hour/1st set  More water than sports drink

2nd hour/2nd set Equal amounts of water and sports drink

3rd hour/3rd set More sports drink than water

But if you are really pushing the limits with intensity or duration, you may need some additional energy from foods as well – ever since Boris Becker sat courtside at Wimbledon, players have used bananas, which provide a quick and convenient supply of carbohydrates and electrolytes, but there are plenty of other things that can work just as well. Here are a few things to try out in practice to see what you feel most comfortable with ………..
Banana

Dried fruit like apricots, raisins, cranberries, with a few nuts if you like them

Plain wheat crackers or pretzels

Grapes – seedless are less bother!

Granola/muesli/cereal bars



If you are not keen on the idea of eating during play, then focus a little more on sports drinks. But don’t wait until you are flagging at 5-5 in the 3rd set – even simple carbohydrates take at least 20 minutes to start boosting the blood sugar, so plan ahead and eat at the start of the 3rd set, or halfway through the second hour, so that you can see out the match with 100% concentration

And of course it goes without saying that staying well hydrated is vital – dehydration changes every physiological process in the body, including hormonal balance and thought processes in the brain, so bottom line is ……… drink at every changeover, even if you are not thirsty! Pro players even use their drinking and eating as part of their between-game mental routine, which also helps them stay focused on the job in hand, so nutrition and psychology work hand-in-hand to give that elusive “winning edge”

Sally Parsonage, Head of Nutrition Division, IMG Academies Performance Institute

IMG Performance Institute is dedicated to the development of the “total athlete”, whether junior, adult, or professional, by providing programs in mental conditioning, nutrition, physical conditioning, sports medicine, athletic regeneration, communication, life skills, and vision training.



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