Last Updated on May 28, 2023 by Sorin Petroj
In this article, I’ll outline some important aspects of table tennis nutrition (players’ diet plan) used by top players worldwide, emphasizing the importance of regularly eating throughout the day and including snacks to ensure peak performance on the court.
We’ve all seen our favorite table tennis players on TV and wondered how we could get like them.
Do they follow any particular diet chart, nutritional guidelines, or dietary strategies to perform better?
Table Tennis Nutrition Recommendations
Energy efficient carbohydrates
Energy deficiency among table tennis players was one of the key discussion points in a recent ITTF Sports Nutrition Summit.
Table tennis players are constantly on the go, and they need to keep up with their energy levels while playing at a high level. An essential part of keeping up these energy levels is carbohydrates. It is the body’s preferred source of energy and provides the body with quick access to fuel when it’s needed.
Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose for use as energy. That is why carbohydrates should make up at least 60% to 70% of your diet to maintain healthy energy levels.
What type of carbohydrates should TT players choose?
Whole-grain foods like breads, cereals, and pasta are the best type of carbohydrate for table tennis players as these foods contain fiber that helps you feel full and doesn’t add a lot of calories. The fiber in whole grains also helps reduce cholesterol levels. It controls insulin levels, so you don’t store fat around your midsection!
Thus, the best way to get enough carbs into your diet is by eating foods high in fiber (like whole grains) along with some protein and fat from sources such as chicken breasts or lean beef burgers cooked in olive oil instead of butter (which contains saturated fats).
You should also include some fruit occasionally during the day to keep up your potassium levels—table tennis players tend to sweat out lots of salt through perspiration during their matches!
Proteins with high content of amino acid
Coaches often hear complaints from table tennis players regarding the soreness and weakness that come with their training. One of the primary reasons for the soreness and muscle weakness is due to lack of protein in your diet.
If you’re not consuming enough protein in your diet, you will be at risk for muscle wasting and injury due to poor circulation around inflamed muscles. By incorporating at least 10% protein of your dairy calories into your diet, you can avoid these problems and continue playing table tennis with no ill effects!
A good source of protein is an egg every morning, mixed with some oatmeal or yogurt. There are also other excellent protein sources, such as fish, chicken breast, turkey breast, or lean beef steak.
Fats and oils
20% of your diet must include healthy fats and no more than that; otherwise, you might get chubby like Fan Zhendong. World Health Organization WHO recommends limiting athletes’ fat intake to 30% of their total energy intake.
The recommended type of fats for table tennis players is to eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating healthy fats is essential because it can help you maintain your energy levels throughout training sessions. Also, it can improve your performance in upcoming matches or tournaments.
Focus on monounsaturated fat (MUFA). It is a type of healthy fat that can help lower cholesterol levels and help you maintain a healthy weight. Monosaturated fat also helps improve brain function and memory retention. This can be especially important for table tennis players who are always on the move–they need all the mental energy they can get!
That being said, you must avoid food containing vegetable oil because they have been heated at high temperatures during processing which damages their nutritional value.
Another vital thing to remember when preparing a table tennis player’s diet plan is portion control. Make sure that you don’t overdo it by overeating at once. Try ordering something light like chicken salad instead of ordering something heavy like a burger when going out for lunch,
Fluid and hydration
It is essential to maintain optimal hydration during matches or training. A 2016 study revealed hypo-hydration could lead to poor cognitive function and attention. Thus, staying hydrated is very important for optimum table tennis performance.
It is recommended to drink at least 35 – 50 ml of water for each kg of body weight and develop a hydration regime based on individual sweat rates. Thus, if you weigh 60 kg, you should aim to drink at least 1800 – 3000 ml water daily; that roughly equals 8-oz to 10-oz glasses of water daily.
Now when should you hydrate?
Consider drinking water or sports drinks during and after training or a match. Aim to replace 125% of the estimated water loss from exercise over 2 to 4 hours with various fluids.
Consider consuming carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks when you are participating in high-intensity training for longer than one hour. These are effective nutrition recovery practices for every ping pong player.
If you are participating in multiple matches or events, consume carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks after and during the matches to replenish the fluid lost with sweat and rehydrate.
Snack on antioxidant fruits and avoid foods high in fat
One of the best ways to perform better and improve your mental skills is to snack on antioxidant fruits. Hence, consider eating veggies and fruits high in antioxidants before, during, and after matches or training sessions.
Doing so will help increase your endurance and improve your performance.
It will also aid in delaying the onset of fatigue. But remember to avoid meals high in fat, as that can increase the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.
Optimal table tennis performance involves much more than just being aerobically fit. According to research conducted at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and 2008 in Beijing, the duration of table tennis game play ranges from 3.7 minutes to 7.5 minutes.
This means that proper fueling strategies and effective nutrition recovery practices become increasingly important as the competition progresses from preliminary rounds to finals. Keeping your energy levels high, while avoiding over-fatigue, is essential for maintaining high-level performance throughout the year.
What to eat before and after a match or competition?
The #1 question junior players often ask me is – “What type of food should I eat that will ensure I will have enough energy?”
Let me simplify the nutrition for table tennis players. When preparing a meal to eat before a competition, your goal should be to incorporate food over 60% carbohydrate and contains less than 20% fats.
The Canada Table Tennis Coaching Association (Sport Nutrition) recommends incorporating the following foods for breakfast during pre-match or before a competition.
- Cereal with low-fat milk
- Low-fat or plain yogurt
- Boiled egg
- Not fried ham or steak
- Boiled/steamed rice
- Boiled potato
- Plain noodles or pasta in tomato sauce
Players must try to drink fluids with the meal, which helps faster absorption of the micronutrients.
Novak Djokovic – The best tennis player of all time, follows a diet that centers around a variety of wholesome and nourishing foods. His nutritional choices primarily consist of vegetables, beans, white meat, fish, fruits, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils, and healthy oils.
Djokovic strives to eliminate distractions during mealtime and opts for organic options whenever feasible, prioritizing the quality and sustainability of the ingredients he consumes.
Nutrition for table tennis players: List of essential micronutrients
Here are some of the nutrients you should be eating if you want to maintain your energy levels during the match and stay healthy while playing table tennis:
Sunlight is the most well-known source of vitamin D. And, given that table tennis is an indoor racket sport, TT players are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the required amount of Vitamin D.
Consider playing outdoors sometimes or having Vitamin D supplements.
Zinc and magnesium
Increased sweat rate results in loss of zinc and magnesium from the body, and players must focus on incorporating these minerals into their diet. Magnesium and zinc are necessary for cell repair, wound healing, and immune function.
Getting enough zinc in your diet is essential because it’s difficult to get through supplements alone. But, hey – did you know too much zinc and magnesium can make you nauseous?
Yup! You heard it right, and that is why it is best for male players to stick to consuming at least 400 to 420 mg of magnesium and female table tennis players to consume 310 to 320 mg of magnesium every day (no more than that!)
Table Tennis Nutrition – Iron & Fiber
Eating iron-rich foods is beneficial for all athletes, including table tennis players. There are several reasons why you need more iron compared to others.
Firstly, iron is lost through sweat.
Secondly, a study shows around 70% of iron is lost among those who do high-intensity workouts and exercise compared to the general population.
That is why you will need to consume slightly more iron than others. Thus, consider eating iron-dense foods like dark leafy greens and fortified cereals. This can adversely impact exercise performance when playing world championship team events.
Fiber helps prevent constipation by absorbing water and minerals from food so your body can use them instead of being passed through waste products.
For example, urine or feces at times when they might typically be eliminated as excess waste material due to digestive functions occurring within your digestive tract system during normal daily activities!
3 Things To Keep In Mind When Developing Your Table Tennis Diet Chart
Here are a few important things to mind when creating a diet chart or when developing table tennis diet strategies:
Players must eat carbohydrate-rich meals three to four hours before a match and ensure staying adequately hydrated during the matches.
- Foods that you consume must be low in spices and fats to prevent the risks of indigestion.
- Players playing multiple matches in a day must ingest carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade. It is recommended to sip on the carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks at regular intervals rather than drinking in one go. Sipping in on carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks helps players maintain sufficient body glycogen storage.
- Players must develop nutritional strategies for recovery. Chen Meng, a renowned Chinese table tennis player, revealed that she experienced low blood sugar levels during one of her matches. She managed it by snacking regularly during match intervals. Thus, a Table Tennis Player’s Diet must focus on the nutritional requirement – which varies from player to player and depends on age, body weight, and health condition.
Table Tennis Nutrition Guide: Conclusion
Nowadays, one common trend among players is to opt for supplements rather than focusing on their diet. While, for sure, supplementing with creatine and amino acids can aid in improving performance, a balanced diet is crucial for players of all levels.
Sports nutrition food is an increasingly important factor in athletic performance, especially for those that compete at a professional level.
This claim has been demonstrated by the Japanese table tennis team which typically took ten international trips annually, prior to 2020. The tournaments, which often span seven days, put a greater toll on their bodies and necessitated the need for specialized nutrition to match the intensity of each competition.
In the above article, we have incorporated diet plans and nutritional recommendations for table tennis players from sports dieticians and by reviewing the nutritional strategies of some of the top-performing athletes.
My final piece of advice for table tennis players is to eat healthy foods and avoid junk and processed foods.
Consider reviewing your weight from time to time and draw out a healthy meal plan by incorporating enough carbohydrates, protein-rich foods, and fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants.
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