What to eat to improve performance in table tennis

Table tennis paddle under plate

Do you want to become a better table tennis player? If you’ve been practicing regularly, and you don’t feel like you’ve been making much progress, you may want to try changing your diet. A lot of people underestimate the importance of good nutrition. As a table tennis player, the right food can help you in a number of ways.

What sort of foods should you be eating? Think about what kinds of skills you want to improve. From there, go down this list and determine what kinds of foods you should be adding to your diet.

Foods That Can Increase Your Energy

Table tennis is a very active sport. The number of calories burned during a standard best of seven match can reach up to 500 kcal. That is about 7 times as much calories burned compared with an hour of walking.

If you feel like your energy starts to drop after a game has been going on for a while, that may be because you are not eating foods that will increase your energy levels.

The main food type that you should be focusing on is carbohydrates, which should make up about 60% of your meal. While playing table tennis, you get your energy mainly from the stored glycogen  in your muscles. When you eat carbohydrates, a big part of them is used to replenishing those stores. This is why you cannot perform well if you do not load up on carbs.

So what are some great carbohydrate sources? Brown rice and whole grain cereal(oats, wheat etc) is an excellent energy booster, as is whole-grain bread and whole-wheat pasta. You should try to include some of these in your daily meal plan. Other foods you should eat more of include sweet potatoes, apples, honey and almonds.

Whole grain bread

If you want to have a great match and give it all you physically can, you should eat a lot of carbs in the 24 hours preceding the competition(to fully stock your glycogen levels), and again a high carbohydrate meal(not necessarily complex carbs) 2-3 hours(depending on the meal size) before the match. Carbs really are the name of the game in this situation.

Here are some ideas for the pre-event meal: Cereal with milk and dried fruit, pancakes with maple syrup, banana roll-ups, baked potatoes with low-fat cheese.

Foods That Can Boost Your Brain Power

You need to think quickly when you’re playing table tennis. If you want to win a competitive game, your reflexes are going to have to be razor-sharp. That’s why it’s a good idea to eat foods that will give your brain a boost. Besides reflexes, this game involves a lot of advanced tactics and outsmarting your opponent. If you’re able to concentrate and think quickly, you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more. There is a reason why table tennis is often called chess at light speed.

What kinds of foods boost brain power? Many cooking oils are great for the brain, including coconut oil and olive oil. Antioxidant fruits, like berries or grapes, are also a smart choice. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, are great for your long-term brain health, and foods like eggs and walnuts are also good for the mind.

Berries

Foods That Can Help You Build Lean Muscle

A lot of people don’t realize that you need muscle to succeed at table tennis. However, you don’t need to focus on bulking up if you want to improve your game. Instead, you should work on building lean muscle.

The main building block that will help you to gain muscle is protein. Protein helps repair the muscles after strenuous activity which in turn creates new muscle fibers. It is also used as fuel when the glycogen in the muscles is depleted.

As an athlete, it is important to get enough protein from your diet to develop strong, fast muscles that will help you perform better strokes and last longer in a match.

How much protein is necessary? You want to aim to 15% of your calories to come from protein. As a general guideline, 1.2 grams of protein per kg/body should be ideal(a 65 kg player would need about 78g of protein per day).

Cooked salmon

Great protein sources can be found in poultry and fish but also chickpeas, lentils and nuts. When selecting cuts of meat, you should opt for skinless cuts whenever possible. Eggs are also one of the best protein sources available to you. They are often called the golden standard of protein.

Foods That Will Help You Avoid Digestive Issues

If you’re experiencing digestive issues, it may be difficult for you to focus your attention on the game at hand. A number of table tennis players have lost games because they were experiencing digestive problems.

That’s why you should work to ensure that you are eating foods that will improve your body’s ability to digest food efficiently. If you’re eating the right kinds of foods, those issues will become a thing of the past. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to go the next time you start a game.

So before a match, avoid eating foods that give you gas like beans or peas or foods high in fat that take a lot of time to digest.

The Importance Of Staying Hydrated

You should make sure you’re eating healthy and nutrient-rich foods, but you should also make sure you’re keeping yourself hydrated. You should make a point of drinking water throughout the day.

It’s generally recommended that adults have at least six glasses of water a day. Other beverages, like soda or fruit juice, may not be as hydrating as water is. While you can enjoy these beverages from time to time, you should prioritize drinking water above anything else.

Obviously, you will lose a lot of water through sweating when playing a match and is critical that you replenish it as fast as possible. Not doing so will result in decreased strength and loss of concentration or you may even faint.

Foods to avoid

You should also try to avoid foods that could be harmful to you. Stay away from processed foods as much as you can. Avoid foods such as sweets, french fries, pizza, white pasta, foods high in salt etc. Really any food that is mainly made up of simple carbohydrates should be avoided.

Burger and fries

This is because simple carbohydrates digest fast and put a lot of sugar in your bloodstream. At first, you will have a lot of energy, but soon enough you will crash hard. It also has a lot of negative long-term effects on your health like weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. Eating foods like these can really sabotage your efforts.

Conclusion

Practice isn’t the only thing you need to think about if you want to become a great table tennis player. You also need to think about nutrition. You should work to ensure that you’re eating the best possible foods.

In general, your energy intake should consist of about 60% complex carbohydrates(whole grain cereal, brown rice, most vegetables), 15% lean protein(poultry, fish eggs) and 25% non-saturated fats(olive oil, walnuts, almonds). Throw in some fruits for vitamins and antioxidant effects and you should be golden. If you make smart dietary choices, you’ll see a great deal of success.

3 comments

  1. Very nice article thank you.
    I would want to ask what would be the best foods after practice. I usually eat fruits and maybe some yogurt. Maybe even too much fruits. I am normally hungry but don’t feel like feeling up my stomach with carbs… Which ones are best to recover?

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for the question.
      The best foods to eat after a practice session are high glycemic index foods like potatoes or white rice mixed with some protein(meat, eggs, etc). Fruits like bananas, grapes, cherries or watermelon would work too. The aim is to quickly replenish your glycogen reserves and give your body enough protein to help repair your muscles.

      Cheers,
      Chris

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