Screen Shot 2021-05-10 at 4.45.45 PM

Nutrition is a key ingredient of a successful tennis game at all levels. In the pros, Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig and Top 40 star Donna Vekic are extra serious about what they eat and drink, but they also listen to what their bodies tell them. Sometimes, that means adding a tasty treat into the mix, or a second coffee if they feel the need.

In this special, they've whipped up some realistic nutrition advice to help recreational players get primed for play—and, hopefully, serve up a few bagels and breadsticks.

WATCH—My Tennis Life: Cooking With Monica


When you’re playing your best, how much do you credit nutrition?

VEKIC: Nutrition is very important—up to 70 percent of helping you play your best—but we can also get away with taking a few liberties here and there. It all comes down to timing, and when you’re eating right.

Is what you put into your body always crossing your mind?

PUIG: Well, I am human, and I do have my moments of weakness every now and then for a treat. However, “you are what you eat” applies to everyday life and sports. If you consume nutritious food and hydrate well, you are going to have more energy and feel good. Consume unhealthy things and your body will not feel as great. I am not saying that there can’t be a balance, but in my experience, the healthier I eat, the worse I will feel when I consume something my body isn’t accustomed to.

Are there any Instagram accounts you like to follow that help your nutritional goals?

VEKIC: I really like @deliciouslyella, who posts about plant-based living. I’m not vegan, but I love her recipes and products.


What are some food recommendations after a hard practice or grueling match, to help with recovery?

PUIG: It’s important to get the necessary protein and carbohydrates to make sure your body recovers. This will be your fuel for the following day, and will give you a better chance at having energy to tackle another tough match or practice.

Do you follow a specific nutritional regimen, or do you listen to your body on a day-by-day basis?

VEKIC: I started working with a nutritionist in the last off-season, so I had a set meal plan, but it’s a bit trickier to follow it when I’m on the road. I have to eat a lot in restaurants, which can make it harder to plan ahead, as opposed to when I’m able to cook at home.

Coffee tastes and feels great—but do you recommend drinking it before practice or a match?

PUIG: I like to drink coffee in the morning with breakfast. I think one cup a day is good, and if you need the extra kick, I wouldn’t be against having an espresso before practice, especially if I feel sleepy or lethargic. However, too much coffee or espresso makes me feel jittery and can even upset my stomach. It's good to have some caffeine to wake you up and get going, but too much might have a different effect on your body, and won’t make you feel the way you want.

How do you schedule your meals before and after a match? Take us through a typical eating schedule.

VEKIC: I try to eat about two hours before a match, but if the match before mine goes longer than planned, I will have a small snack, like an energy bar or a banana. Afterward, I try not to eat carbs for dinner, and I try to eat my dinner early because I think it helps me sleep better.

PUIG: I always try to have to some sort of pre-match fuel. If I am first or second on, I try and keep it light. I will have my normal breakfast and follow that up with a snack (a banana or a sports bar) with water to properly hydrate before the match. If I am the third match on or later, then I try and have a light lunch, which is usually plain pasta or rice with some chicken. I typically like to have this lunch with about two hours to spare before I take the court.

After a match it is crucial to get something in your body at least within a 30-minute window, so that your get the immediate fuel you need to properly recover, whether it be a recovery drink, shake or meal, not to mention fluids.

Eat for the task ahead of you. If you have a best- of-three-set match coming up, eat more carbs for energy; if you have a half-hour hit, eat less. We need to be lean and ready to pounce as tennis players—never too heavy.

Eat for the task ahead of you. If you have a best- of-three-set match coming up, eat more carbs for energy; if you have a half-hour hit, eat less. We need to be lean and ready to pounce as tennis players—never too heavy.

If you could only give one piece of nutrition advice, what is it?

PUIG: Find a healthy balance in your life. Most people think of nutrition and eating healthy as restrictive and boring. But I have discovered a tremendous love for new fruits and vegetables. Having a more open mind and eating healthy can taste really good! Once in a while it is good to give yourself a treat and break up your cycle, but creating good and healthy habits will help you reap all sorts of rewards now and in the future.

Let's say you just won your first Grand Slam title. What does your first meal look like?

VEKIC: I would probably have a drink first, and then order a burger, followed by a Nutella pizza for dessert.

When it comes to your habits and nutrition regimen, what song would best define it?

PUIG: “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone.