It’s no small feat being an athlete doing Keto. I remember first starting out with keto, my sports performance in general, and tennis in specific, just dipped. I knew there was no going around it. I had to let my body get fat-adapted first before I can manage to survive a tennis match.
However, what I didn’t know then is that after reaching fat adaptation, not only will I get my old energy back, but I will also have more of it, in addition to the incredible stamina I never experienced while on my old diets.
Along that journey, I learned so many things that I wish I knew at the very beginning. Some would have made the transition quicker, others could have made me lose weight easier and faster, and some of them could have led to a much better performance.
I hate the fact that there is no time machine yet, but I love the fact that I can share these tips with you today so that you can make use of them. You can thank me later.
1- Prepare For The Keto Flu (If you’re just starting out)
Just know this: if you’re just starting out with Keto, you won’t be able to make it through a full tennis match. And don’t think of it as a challenge that makes you want to keep playing anyways.
You’ll see in the next tip that I want you to practice, I don’t want you to boycott tennis at the beginning of your Keto journey. What I also don’t want you to do, on the other hand, is to put your body under this much pressure at the very beginning.
Keto Flu is a huge reason for that. The first week or two, you just won’t fully be yourself. You’ll lack energy, you’ll probably feel weaker, and you’ll want sugar, especially if sugar was the main ingredient of your pre-match snack. (But don’t fret, there are incredible alternatives you can snack on instead. I’ll tell you about them in a minute).
2- Don’t Go In Too Fast Too Soon (But Don’t ‘Go Out’ Either)
Going out refers to abandoning tennis at the beginning, which is not what I’m recommending here.
What I found works best, is transforming tennis into a HIIT workout, which stands for High-intensity interval training, where you do some intense exercise for about a minute, and then rest the following minute, over and over.
Practicing tennis as a HIIT workout can become your new favorite workout. You just need a partner, or a tennis coach, who is open to the idea and a large tennis balls hopper, and off you go. The farther you have to run across the court, the better. The most important thing is to take interval breaks.
3- Carefully Adjust The Timing Of Your Meals
This becomes even more important if you’re doing intermittent fasting along with keto. Breaking your fast with a healthy meal that includes a combination of protein, healthy fats, and low-glycemic-index carbs before your practice/match can be a great way to ensure stable performance.
You can also position that meal closely thereafter.
What it really boils down to is how fat adapted you are. If you’re just at the start of your journey, then I would really recommend having such a meal or snack before practicing. However, later, you can accomplish great performance and even greater fitness results if you play in a fasted state aka, on an empty stomach.
I was curious about how other tennis fellas were doing it, so I ran a poll in a group of athletes doing Keto and the results were as follows: 51.2% of them said they make sure they play during their fasting window, 38.7% of them prefer to have a pre-match snack/meal, while 10.1% claimed to not care whether they have eaten right before or not.
However, I was still not convinced with the results, and thought the question I asked was not very accurate and couldn’t be applied to a beginner. So I ran another poll where I asked: At the beginning of your Keto journey (first 1-8 weeks), did you prefer to A) train after a meal, or B) train while fasting. The results were different here, as 26.4% voted B, and a vast majority of 73.6% chose A.
So both alternatives work, and both have merits. It depends on what you’re comfortable doing at this phase that you’re at.
4- Look Deeply Into Your Protein Intake
Protein is the most important macronutrient of the three for you as an athlete.
You’re constantly challenging your muscles and putting them under stress, so you should always aim to get enough protein in order for your body to be able to do all the muscle repairment processes that are taking place constantly.
It’s true that once you’re fat-adapted, your body will reuse the amino acids, making you need less protein, however, you should aim for an average of 1-1.5g of protein per pound of weight. Note that this number can vary according to age, gender, fitness goals, among other factors.
That being said, I ran a poll in the same group of Keto dieters who regularly practice tennis and the average grams of protein they reported to be consuming was 1.32g per pound of body weight.
5- Sprinkle Enough Salt (Since You Have Sodium Deficiency For THREE Reasons)
Let’s start with these reasons:
A- You’re doing Keto:
Your body empties your glycogen stores as you’re starting out your Keto journey. Water along with electrolytes get secreted with it. And one of the most important electrolytes you lose is sodium.
B- You’re Playing Tennis:
As you have probably noticed, playing tennis can make you sweat. A Lot. This means you’re losing both water and sodium as you’re playing and running through the court.
C- Salt-Ophobia: (Yes, I just made that up.)
If you’re like most people, you have heard time and time again that salt is as bad a sugar for your health, as there are many diseases that are connected to high sodium within the body. This makes a lot of people want to avoid it altogether, thinking the they’re doing themselves a favor.
6- You Should Probably Drink More Than You Think You Need
As we have already established, you’re losing a lot of water as you’re doing Keto and regularly playing tennis. This means you probably need more water than your body usually likes to admit.
This is why you should be drinking even if you’re not thirsty, and especially during the fat-adaptation process.
You should aim to drink at least 2.5-3 L daily. This amount can vary depending on the weather, your activity, your weight, among other variants.
Pro Tip: Don’t count the coffee cups you drink as part of that goal. Caffeine has a diuretic effect, which means you’ll later be urinating because of it a close amount to that cup you drank (250ml, for instance). So if you think about it, it shouldn’t count.
7- Replace Your Energy Drink With Coffee (And get ready to face a dip)
Energy drinks are full of sugar, and as you should know by now, sugar is a no-no on Keto. (There’s something very cool that can replace sugar and give you a very similar boost of energy, which I’ll tell you about a bit later.)
One of the main ingredients of energy drinks is caffeine, this is why I recommend going for a cup of coffee instead of that energy drink. It won’t be the same, since there are many other ingredients in the energy drink you will be missing. However, coffee is a much healthier alternative, with almost zero calories and more stable energy.
8- Ditch Your Old Pre-Match Snacks
I knew sugar played a huge role in the pre-match snack for almost everyone. However, I wanted to see the numbers myself. So I surveyed a group of people who regularly play tennis, but this time, they are not doing Keto, rather a combination of different other diets.
I asked two question :
Q1: How much sugar is there in their pre-game snack.
The results were pretty much as I anticipated:
- 72.8% said that more than 50% of the calories in their snack comes from sugar.
- 18.9% said that 1-50% of the calories in their snack comes from sugar.
- 8.3% voted the option that their snack is sugar-free.
But that wasn’t satisfying enough. So here’s the second question I asked along with the results:
Q2: Which of these ingredients makes up the biggest part and/or is used more often in your pre-game snack?
9- Try Eggs As Your New Go-To Snack
We have agreed by now that sugar should be omitted from your routine. But what’s the replacement? Snacking on eggs can be a great way to get rid of your sugar cravings.
They make you feel satiated for longer as they need more time to digest. What I also love about eggs, putting all their incredible nutritious benefits, is the wide variety of ways you can cook them with. This makes it both easy and intriguing to include them in your diet even more than once every day.
Your body needs to get used to the new fuel that it will start to function on: ketones, and eggs are an incredible source for them.
Though, it’s not the sugar replacement I have been promising. The next is.
10- Coconut & MCT Oil Can Become Your Sugar Replacements
I have been teasing this throughout the article, so here it comes: MCT and/or Coconut oil can become your new, healthy sugar replacement.
What’s cooler is that they are even better than sugar in two ways:
1- They have that quick boost, but also long-lasting energy:
This is thanks to two main components in coconut oil:
- MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides): This is the part of the oil that is quickly-digested, giving you that quick boost of energy similar to sugar.
- LCTs (Long-chain triglycerides): This part requires more enzymes and more time to be digested, giving you the stable, long-lasting energy that will make you feel satiated for longer.
These two types of fat together is great for athletes as there’s this quick boost that makes us start the game strong, but also that long-lasting source of power that can keep us up until the end of the match.
2- It can be either sweet or salty:
This can definitely not be said about sugar, because as you know, it’s… Well, sugary. But with coconut oil you can have it both ways. You can have the quick effects of sugar, but while eating something salty (if you use it for frying or in salads for example). Or, for instance, add some sugar-free sweetener and some cocoa powder, and you got yourself some chocolate that is both a healthy and empowering piece of snack.
11- Embrace Bulletproof Coffee Early On
Don’t make my mistake. I know it might feel gross at first to imagine any kind of oil or butter in your coffee, but trust me, it’s so delicious that you’ll feel a lot of guilt why you didn’t embrace it sooner. It is that good.
Coffee, sugar-free sweetener, coconut oil/MCT oil/ butter. You’ll not be able to imagine the taste without actually tasting it, but I’m going to ask you to imagine its effects: Caffeine and MCT oil together? Can you believe the energy you’re going to be left with, with such a healthy, easy-to-make drink?
It can replace your energy drink, and with time, you and your body will love it even more.
12- Intermittent Fasting Should Be Carefully Added To The Mix
It’s not recommended to do it at the very start though, but it is incredibly important to add it to the mix once you’re comfortable with keto. Keto and Intermittent fasting can make each other easier, and can double the fitness results you’re aiming to achieve and make the progress faster and easier.
As we have already established, it’s very important once you’re fasting to carefully place the meal around your workout, by figuring out what works better for you in the phase that you’re at: Adding a pre-match snack, or playing while fasting and saving the meal for after the game. Both have merits, what’s important is what makes you more comfortable and able to commit to the diet.