To cheer on all the athletes competing in this year’s French Open, which starts on May 21, we’ve profiled some tennis players who are pros at navigating the court as well as their food allergies. From avoiding achy joints and stomach pain to collapse or anaphylaxis, the ways in which these professional athletes safely fuel their bodies is extremely important to how they keep up with the physical demands of training and competing in international tournaments. Whether you’re a multiple Grand Slam winner like Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic or you play tennis as a hobby, it’s important for athletes of any caliber to establish a nutrition plan that fits your individual dietary needs and maintains your food safety.
Sabine Lisicki | GF
Like Djokovic, German tennis player Sabine Lisicki became gluten-free after experiencing debilitating physical symptoms, including a shocking collapse on the court during the 2011 French Open. After tests and consultations, Lisicki discovered she had gluten sensitivity, which caused her stomach pain, nausea, and poor concentration. According to Lisicki, by avoiding gluten in all forms, “not only do I feel stronger and healthier, I have a lot more stamina and am more determined than ever to play well.”
Novak Djokovic | GF
In 2011, Novak Djokovic removed gluten from his diet and earned the number one ranking in the world. After experiencing years of painful physical symptoms that impacted his energy, mental health, and tennis performance, this Serbian tennis player began working with a nutritionist who helped design a gluten-free eating plan that was right for him. Djokovic credits his improved health and tennis breakthroughs to his gluten-free lifestyle. He has even written a book about his experiences called Serve to Win, which includes a 14-day gluten-free blueprint for helping others find physical and mental success.
Serena Williams | PF
Considered one of the most championed tennis players in the world, four-time Olympic gold medalist Serena Williams falls into the 1 percent of people who live with peanut allergy. While Williams will be competing in this year’s French Open after taking a maternity leave for the birth of her first child, it’s safe to assume peanut butter has not been one of her recovery foods as she prepares for this tournament.
If you’re an athlete with a food allergy, make sure you fuel your body appropriately and recover safely. Look for gluten-free sports drinks and read nutrition labels carefully, as many bottled drinks can contain hidden sources of gluten. If you have peanut allergy, try a handful of sunflower seeds instead of peanuts to get a similarly protein-packed dose of energy after an intense workout.