What does the number 1 tennis player in the UK have to learn from the World’s number 1?

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I had two long drives to do over the weekend and had the radio on quite a lot. On Friday I listened to the men’s Wimbledon semi-final which featured British tennis player Andy Murray. He Lost.

Andy Murray is, I think, ranked fourth in the World, but he has never won a ‘grand slam’ (one of the prestigious tennis championships). After the match was over, we had the usual pundit-based analysis and ‘will he/won’t he?’ speculation regarding whether he is ever going to win a biggie event.

Yesterday, I was in the car again and listened to the men’s final featuring Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Djokovic won (impressively). In fact, he’s won 48 out of 49 matches this year, and has risen in the ranks to become the number one player in the World.

How’s he done it? A lot of hard work and self-belief, I should imagine. But he also attributes much of his success to a change in diet in recent months. It turns out that he was diagnosed with sensitivity to gluten (a protein found in grains such as wheat, oats and rye) and has eliminated it from his diet. I read that, as a result, he feels lighter and stronger.

I’m delighted for Novak Djokovic, but not surprised. I’ve seen countless individuals remove gluten-containing foods, and in particular wheat, and feel tonnes better for it. If Djokovic is gluten sensitive, then he will obviously have benefitted from getting this out of his diet. However, let’s not forget that there’s plenty of other things grains don’t have going for them, like being rich in substances called ‘lectins’ that can provoke food sensitivity problems and ‘phytates’ that impair the absorption of nutrients.

And then of course the other thing is that grains tend to be disruptive to blood sugar levels. The roller-coaster of blood sugar highs and lows caused by eating a tonne of grain just can’t be the best thing for ensuring consistent, predictable blood sugar levels and therefore energy.

As it turns out, Andy Murray’s diet was in the news earlier this week too (before he got knocked out of Wimbledon). It’s the usual carb-loaded fare many sportsmen and women are advised to eat.

Breakfast, apparently, is two bowls of cereals plus bread and peanut butter. I heard on the radio that Murray describes this as his ‘breakfast of champions’ (hope the irony is not lost on him). In reality, though, it’s a breakfast I’d advise for someone keen to ensure they were devoid of energy in the mid-late morning.

Murray, allegedly, eats pasta and chicken is had at lunch, apparently, followed by up to 50 pieces of sushi for dinner. On top of his main meals we have cereal bars and protein shakes. Some fruit and yoghurt on top takes Murray’s total calorie intake to about 6,000 calories per day.

The fact is, the bulk of Murray’s diet comes not from real food, but fodder. He may be able to get by on this, but something tells me whatever he has achieved in the sport has been more in spite of his diet than because of it. I’m assuming he gets professional nutritional guidance. My sense is that if he really wants to be a contender, he’s going to need to get himself a new nutritionist.

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