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Filtering by Tag: tennis

Plant-based Novak Djokovic wins Roland Garros

Carolina Sanchez

Novak Djokovic smiling after his win in the 2016 Roland Garros final.

Novak Djokovic smiling after his win in the 2016 Roland Garros final.

On Sunday, June 5, 2016 Novak Djokovic won his first Roland Garros (French Open) title in Paris. Djokovic has been known for his gluten-free diet since 2011, but now he has taken it a step further by adopting a plant-based diet. Djokovic climbed to the world #1 position in 2011 and hasn't left since. For many, the world #1 Serbian player seems unstoppable, but he hasn't always been. 

In 2010, a Serbian nutritionist, Dr. Igor Cetojevic, was browsing through channels and stopped on Djokovic's match against Jo-Wilifred Tsonga. Novak was up two sets to one, but started to have trouble breathing and even vomited during a bathroom break. He ended up losing that match, and many more due to similar ailments. Cetojevic reached out to Novak and recommended a gluten-free diet after discovering a gluten sensitivity. After a week, Cetojevic encouraged Novak to eat a bagel, and upon doing so, he felt sluggish and sick instantly. He knew a 100% gluten-free diet would be necessary if he wanted to rid himself of the constant on-court ailments that were preventing him from becoming a better player.

To date, Djokovic has won 11 Grand Slam titles since becoming gluten-free in 2011. That's about 2 per year. Before 2011, he had only won 1 Grand Slam. He also holds the record for most Masters Series 1000 titles, at a whopping 29, and 24 out of 29 of those were won after his change to a gluten-free diet.

Now, he has also adopted a plant-based diet. When describing his typical meals to ESPN, he said, “Breakfast is like an oatmeal, fruit, and whatever else I want to throw into it. And then lunch and dinner, a rice-and-bean kind of dish is pretty typical. Lots of veggies. A salad. I make a lot of smoothies because I can just throw greens and fruit and stuff in there. But rice and beans or lentils, stuff like that is pretty common for me.”

He even opened up a plant-based café in Monte Carlo in April 2016, just in time for the Monte Carlo Rolex 1000 Masters Series. Go, Novak! 

Djokovic is a great example of how a plant-based diet is suitable for high-performance athletes and people of all ages. Many athletes eat whatever they want and have no concept of nutrition. They figure they're working out all the time and burning through calories, so it's okay to feed the body anything, right? That's not the case. When we nourish our bodies with foods naturally high in antioxidants, like plants, our bodies recover faster and we have more energy. Djokovic told ESPN, “After a point, nutrition plays a huge part in how quickly you can recover, how hard you can push yourself the next day, back-to-back days and stuff like that. I feel like it’s helped me tremendously and given me a big edge in that regard.” 

Plants are anti-inflammatory, so with a plant-based diet, recovery times are drastically improved.  When we feed our body junk food and empty calories, it runs on poor quality fuel and can't possibly perform at its best. Then, injuries and other problems follow. Many athletes are sidelined prematurely due to injuries and conditions which could have possibly been prevented with more attention to diet. It's no wonder the list of plant-powered athletes continues to grow.

My Transition to a Plant-Based Diet

Although not a Grand Slam champion like Novak, I too experienced a tremendous leap in my tennis game. My freshman year of college, I started out at #5 singles and #3 doubles. I climbed to #3 singles my sophomore year, but I was barely winning any matches. Not only was I mentally exhausted, but physically too. It seemed that with each loss, I was getting more and more frustrated. My freshman year I had started to transition to a pescetarian diet. I never ate fast food, and I stopped drinking soda when I was 12, but I had only started to learn about food and how it affects our health. As I began to learn more, I realized I needed to make a change. I was waking up daily with congestion from eating cheese the night before. So, I gave up fish and started to phase out cheese. The incredibly thing that I always tell my clients is that the human taste buds have the ability to change every 14 days, so we can literally retrain our tongues to desire certain foods and dislike others. After 3 weeks of not eating cheese, I decided to try it, and I realized I no longer craved it. So, for everyone reading this that thinks it would be impossible to give up cheese, it's not! I did it, and you can too. Milk wasn't too difficult to give up, since I only ever ate it with oatmeal in the morning and it is really easy to find plant-based substitutes or make your own. I could no longer justify drinking the milk from another species, it just didn't make sense. Milk is designed to fatten up baby calves in the first few weeks of their lives, so what do you think it does to humans? It's deceiving because those percentages represent the proportion of milk, by weight, made up of butterfat. However, 21% of calories in 1% milk are from fat, 35% in 2% milk and whole milk (3.5-4%) is about 40%+ fat. 

After giving up these foods, it became much easier to transition fully into a plant-based diet by my senior year. I realized my body felt so much better and I moved lighter than ever on the court. I outlasted my opponents, and my losing streak quickly turned around. I went from #3 singles and #2 doubles to #1 singles and #1 doubles. My recovery times improved immensely, and I no longer got sore after playing long matches like I used to. My acne cleared up and after one year of eating plant-based, my stigmatism and 20/40 in left eye was restored and I had 20/20 in both eyes again. I used to say I could never be vegan, but that was before I knew anything about the food I was putting into my body, and I have never looked back. We can't control many things in life, but we are in control of our health. 

Congratulations again to Novak Djokovic on his Roland Garros win and I wish him all the best on his plant-based, gluten-free journey!



Catching Up on Nutrition with Rafael Nadal

Carolina Sanchez

It's that time of the year again, and Roland Garros, also known as the French Open, has begun. It is the premier clay court event of the year, and recently I had a chance to catch up with 9-time Roland Garros champion and the most successful player in Roland Garros history, Rafael Nadal.

Read More

Where to Eat at the 2013 US Open

Carolina Sanchez

The US Open has a myriad of choices, but which ones are actually worth pursuing? Well if it was up to us, I think we would all be dining with the players in Balance Kitchen

, featuring fresh smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and the like. But unfortunately, that's not an option (unless Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams invite you back for a green smoothie).

If you plan on attending the US Open, chances are you will be purchasing food at some point throughout the day. Doors for day session tickets open at 9:30 am and you can stay potentially until 1am or later, depending on the duration of the matches. If you're like us, you probably don't want to be eating fried chicken and hotdogs to hold you over. We'd like to actually enjoy the matches without dealing with a stomach ache!

You can bring limited quantities of own food, but you can't bring a cooler anymore. Plus, we don't recommend bringing a bag of any kind (and I mean absolutely NO bags) because you'll be stuck waiting in line for a while. If you get in the no bag line, you'll whiz right through and can head straight to the courts to see the players practice or get prime-time seats at Louis Armstrong and Grandstand before the crowd gets in. 

Mojito Restaurant and Bar

Cuisine: Latin American

Price: $18-29

Featuring ceviches, lobster quesadillas, cuban sandwiches, etc. 


Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi/Seafood

Price: $26-$40

Features Masaharu Morimoto’s sushi and sashimi selections and local catches from Gosman’s of Montauk or Skuna Bay salmon.

If you have special dietary needs, contact them ahead of time and they can create a special menu for you. They're more than willing to accommodate vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.  

Open admittance for Courtside Box seat holders and Luxury Suite guests only. Loge Box and Subscription Series ticket holders may purchase restaurant passes by calling the ticket office at 718-760-6200.

Heineken Red Star Cafe

This is more of a bar than a café, so the food choices here are limited to kettle chips, brat, hotdogs, and the like. If you're looking for a healthy meal, not your place to go.

Champion's Bar and Grill

Cuisine: Seafood/Steakhouse

Price: $40-$49

If you have special dietary needs, contact them ahead of time and they can create a special menu for you. They're more than willing to accommodate vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.  

Open admittance for Courtside Box seat holders and Luxury Suite guests only. Loge Box and Subscription Series ticket holders may purchase restaurant passes by calling the ticket office at 718-760-6200.

Wine Bar Food

James Beard Award-Winning chef Tony Mantuano is behind this small outdoor spot, featuring Mediterranean small plates. Snack on olives, grilled shrimp, and cocktails. 

US Open Club

Cuisine: American

Price: $18-$29

Buffet style featuring salads, sandwiches, and desserts. 

To purchase passes, call the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center ticket office at 718-760-6363

Food Court

While the food court may have cheaper options, if you're looking to eat a healthy meal, steer clear. You may be able to find something at Farm 2 Fork: try the grilled veggie sandwich

featuring locally grown squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and greens on freshly baked bread. You may also find fruit bowls at the carts around the grounds. You Otherwise, y

ou can pretty much guess by this list that you won't be finding anything healthy:

• Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop

• Carnegie Deli

• Classic Burger

• Cuppa Spotta

• Franks and Fries

• Fresca Mexicana

• Fulton Seafood

• Glatt Kosher Cart

• Grey Goose Bar

• New Delhi Spice

• Pizza, Pasta

• Hill Country Barbeque

• Sweet & Savory Crepes