A Day in the Life of an Elite Tennis Player
Hi, I'm Marcus.
I grew up on a farm in New Zealand but these days I play professional tennis on the ATP World Tour. Once a month I'll write about the challenges I face trying to optimise performance in a high-stress environment while travelling the world. Frequent air travel, jetlag, sleep, nutrition, travel hacks, rest, meditation - these are all areas I continue to explore and improve in. I hope my mistakes and successes help you optimise yourself.
Disclaimer: I am neither a doctor nor an expert on anything other than chasing a fuzzy yellow ball. But in my chase for that extra 1% performance and resilience, I have had a bucketload of trial and error experience and some of it just might make a difference to you too.
To Meat or Not to Meat
A few months ago I decided to become vegetarian. The decision was a bit of a shock for everyone, including me.
I was in a Tokyo sushi restaurant with some other doubles players during the Japan Open when one of the guys ordered a round of chopped whale for the table. Something inside me recoiled. I couldn't even consider eating it. This ethical repulsion triggered some deep questioning of my own values and of why our society draws an arbitrary line around what is 'ethical' to kill and eat and what isn't. After extensive reading and some horrifically graphic vegan propaganda documentaries I couldn't justify eating a product of slaughter, both on ethical and environmental grounds. This is one reason why I have great admiration for Nuzest as a company - I'll get to that soon.
I grew up on a sheep farm eating red meat a couple of times a day. Traditional rural wisdom was, 'Eat good red meat and some potatoes and you'll be right.' As I got better at tennis a parallel refrain was touted by coaches and trainers, 'You need protein, so you need meat.' I can't argue against the need for protein, especially in active humans, * Research suggests that active males require 1.6g-1.8g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day. At 78kg, this means my protein requirements are around 133g per day (For active females the suggestion is between 1.2g-1.4g of protein per kilo of bodyweight). Research also suggests that the human body can only absorb around 35g of protein in one hit* so I went into the vegetarian diet highly conscious of how much protein my body required to function optimally. The nutrition model that has worked best for me is commonly called protein pulsing. This involves consuming a source of protein every three or so hours *The idea being that there is always an accessible protein source in the bloodstream so your body doesn't have to recruit any protein from your muscles* Research suggests that this protein pulsing technique is beneficial for all people, and carbohydrate intake can be tailored depending on how active or sedentary you are.
As a virgin vegetarian this was my challenge: minus meat, how can I consume ~135g of protein per day?
It has turned out to be much easier and tastier than I expected. I usually eat five or six times per day. Three or four decent sized meals with snacks in between to keep me going. Prior to my vegemania I'd typically consume one protein shake per day. Over the years I tried tens of different whey protein supplements but never found a product that sat well in my stomach if I had to train or compete soon after consumption. I started using Nuzest products at the end of 2016 - well before becoming vegetarian - and Clean Lean Protein ticked that box immediately. Now I have two or three Nuzest shakes per day and they alone count for around two thirds of my daily protein requirements. Due to the purity of the protein, plus the fact that it's made from golden peas rather than animal products, Clean Lean Protein is highly digestible and I have no issues drinking a shake just before working out or even during a session.
For interest's sake, here is a typical training day for me in the off-season including food intake:
A Day in the Life of Marcus
7am : Wake up
Hydrate - ~250ml warm water with a squeezed lemon and a dollop of apple cider vinegar
7.45am : Meditate - 9-12mins. I use an app called Calm. *I hope to do a post on meditation in the future*
8-9am : Yoga
9.15am : Breakfast! - Eat a big bowl of porridge with soy or almond milk, topped with trail mix and honey. I prefer Manuka honey. A (delicious) coffee.
10-10.30am : Gym Warmup - Rolling, stretching, mobilizing, activating core, glutes, rotator cuff, various rehab exercises.
10.30am-12.45pm : Tennis training - This can have a wide variety of focuses depending on what I'm working on at the time and who I'm training with. High level tennis training is exceedingly dehydrating so I try to consume at least 1.2L of water mixed with electrolytes per hour. *I also hope to do a post on hydration in the future* Finish with 15 mins warm down and stretching.
1pm : Lunch! - Lots of brown rice or sweet potato, lots of salad and veggies of all colours, a source of protein: quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, seitan, haloumi etc. Another (strong) coffee.
2-2.30pm : Gym Warmup - Back in the gym limbering up. More of the same rehab exercises. You can never do enough of this stuff.
2.30-4pm : Tennis training - Depending on the focus of my training block this session is sometimes replaced by a longer and more demanding heavy gym session.
4pm : Shake - 2 scoops Nuzest Vanilla Clean Lean Protein and a half scoop of Nuzest Good Green Stuff, usually accompanied by a banana.
4-5pm : Gym ‚Äì A hard session. usually either upper body or lower body focused, always with some core training.
5-6pm : Pool recovery and stretching - This will include dynamic and static stretching, hot and cold treatment, and often a blissful finish in the lukewarm hydrotherapy pool.
7pm : Dinner! - The same components as lunch but in a different combination to keep it exciting.
10 or 10.30pm : 'Midnight' snack - Another Nuzest shake with 2 scoops Vanilla Clean Lean Protein and a half scoop of Good Green Stuff, this time often accompanied by my biggest vice - popcorn. Having this just before bed gives my body some much-needed macro and micro nutrients to feast on while it's doing important repair work overnight.
11pm : Shut down and sleep.
As you can see this is an incredibly demanding day for a body. Without an easily digestible protein like Nuzest's Clean Lean Protein I would struggle to get enough each day. Their Good Green Stuff also helps my body to repair all of its systems, especially overnight when the body does most of its repair work. The more I learn about Nuzest as a company the more I like it. As a sponsored athlete I've got good access to the key people behind the company, however I was the one who asked how I could help spread the name because I believe Nuzest represents the very best in both nutrition and ethics. Clean Lean Protein is extracted from sustainably grown European golden peas from northern France. Peas are among the most sustainable crops in the world; they add nitrogen to the soil in the growing process rather than stripping the fields of nutrients. Peas use less than 20% of the land required to produce the same amount of protein from whey or beef. The protein is naturally extracted from the peas in a unique facility in Belgium using a water process rather than chemical solvents, which makes it better for the environment and better for you. It's vegan, gluten free, dairy free, GMO free, lectin free, soy free. It's hypoallergenic and has an alkaline pH of 7.8.
I'm raving on, but there's a lot to rave about.
This is a company I have a huge amount of respect for and want to help promote.
I haven't lost any weight or muscle mass since the change to vegetarianism and my energy levels are equal. The one pleasant difference I've noticed is that my stomach feels lighter. What has also been particularly gratifying is the number of athletes and strangers who have contacted me via social media to ask questions about a vegetarian diet or say that I gave them the confidence to make the switch to vegetarianism themselves. I'm just one of many living proofs that athletes don't need meat to be elite, and if athletes can be physical paragons on a vegetarian diet then anyone can optimise their lives eating the same.
I urge those of you who are interested to give vegetarianism a go for a month or so and see how good it feels to have energy without the heaviness of meat in your guts. Just remember to get enough protein!
Please note that Marcus is sharing the perspective of an Elite Athlete with heavy physical and mental demands. His nutritional requirements may be more than Nuzest recommends for the every day person. Always read the label and use as directed.