Nothing is worse than when you’re playing in a match, and mid-point, your digestive tract decides you need a bathroom – NOW. If you regularly play league tennis, then chances are, you’ve been there done that. Sure, there are allowed bathroom breaks, but who wants to be the one to stop a match (maybe more than once), especially if you were on a winning streak?
There’s already a lot of information on the right (and wrong) foods to eat before a long match, but even the best precautions can lead to digestive woes. Sports nutrition expert, trainer, and triathlete Ben Greenfield is no stranger to the scenario, and he’s learned some solid ways not only to help prevent a tumultuous tummy on match day, but also how to handle it if it does happen.
Before the match:
- Avoid eating too much food: You might be eating the right foods, but chances are, says Ben, you’re eating too much of it. “Eat less fuel,” he says. “That’s the No. 1 cause of tummy aches during a match.” Try sticking to a meal that falls somewhere close to 300 calories. He also suggests fueling up with a smoothie, since liquids are much easier for the body to digest (and require less energy to do so). You can reward yourself with a big meal once you finish.
- Watch your caffeine, sugar, and fiber intake: The day before the match, cut out fiber and any artificial sweeteners. Also, match day is not the day to indulge in three cups of coffee in the morning. Doing so “can lead to an upset stomach and GI issues during the run,” says Ben. Instead, aim for one small cup at least two hours before the match.
- Skip the painkillers: Unless you’ve experimented before and know your body can handle it, Ben’s warning is simple: “No Advil or ibuprofen. Period.” Stomach issues are a common side effect from taking an NSAID; if you have any pain on race day, then reach for acetaminophen.
What can help if it does happen:
- Soda water: Feeling a little bloated or uncomfortable before you walk onto the court? Trade your bottle of still water for one with bubbles. Carbonated water acts as a natural antacid and can help reduce painful feelings of a gassy stomach.
- Peppermint Tums: To ward off any stomach issues during the actual race, Ben advises carrying a small roll of Tums with you. He’s discovered that these fast-acting tablets can put a quick end to most stomach issues.
- Ginger tea: If an upset stomach is something you deal with often, make ginger your new morning friend. This root is widely used to treat nausea and improve overall digestive health. Ben makes his own ginger tea by boiling the root in hot water.
- All-natural laxatives: If it’s the night before the match, and you worried you might find yourself being stuck in a bathroom instead out on the court, Ben says a natural laxative is the way to go. Oxygenated magnesium (in the form of “MagO2”) and Magnesium citrate (in the form of “Natural Calm”) are his top choices. Ben says to take it the night before or in the very early morning. “Then simply get up, have some hot tea or coffee, and take your time waiting for things to move along.”