Mon, Jul-15-19, 07:34
The diet that helped Djokovic win Wimbledon
From The Telegraph
15 July, 2019
Plant-based, dairy-free and 'mindful mouthfuls': the diet that helped Djokovic win Wimbledon
Novak Djokovic went from frequent on-court meltdowns to the number one tennis player in the world - but how did he do it?
Novak Djokovic's body used to be broken. The player once had a reputation for collapsing on court at crucial moments and being forced to drop out of tournaments because of his poor health.
This all changed in 2010 when he was approached by a doctor from his home country, Serbia, during a Davis Cup match in Croatia. The doctor said Djokovic's diet was the root of his problems and advised him to take some food intolerance tests. Armed with a new health regime he went on to win Wimbledon in 2011, and yesterday he won the tournament for the fifth time in a match lasting four hours and 57 minutes against Roger Federer.
Djokovic's part-autobiography, part self-help book, Serve to Win, not only reveals the changes he made, but for readers who want to follow his regime promises to have a significant physical and mental effect in just 14 days. If you constantly feel tired and unfit, your diet could also be to blame - so what's the tennis player's secret to bouncing back?
Don't stick to someone else's diet plan
Bizarrely, at the start of a book where he tells people how to eat, Djokovic advises readers not to follow other people's eating plans. He says, "Most diet programmes assume the same plan works for everyone and that you 'must' eat certain foods. 'Must' just isn't a good word. Your body is an entirely different machine from mine. I don't want you to eat the best diet for my body. I'm going to show you how to find the best diet for your own unique self."
For every tip Djokovic lists, he says try it for 14 days. On the 15th day, stop whatever change it is you've been making, whether that's cutting out gluten or keeping a strict routine. If, on the 15th day, the symptoms you've been trying to get rid of (sluggishness, intestinal cramps, stress) come back, then your body is trying to tell you something: make that change for good. He also eats a plant-based diet, but he doesn't like the term vegan: "I donít like the labels, to be honest. I do eat plant-based, for quite a few years already. But because of the misinterpretations of labels and misuse of labels, I just donít like that kind of name. I do eat plant-based. I think thatís one of the reasons why I recover well. I donít have allergies that I used to have any more."
Get rid of gluten
The son of restaurateurs, Djokovic was raised on pizza crusts. But after discovering his gluten intolerance was a key factor in his physical meltdowns, he swiftly cut out the doughy dishes. The tennis star suggests cutting out gluten-filled foods for two weeks to see the effect on your body; within days you'll have more energy, think more clearly and be shedding weight.
The key to going gluten-free, he says, is staying aware of where it hides. Sure, you'll need to cut out bread, pasta, potatoes, sweet baked goods, breakfast cereals and beer - but you'll also have to cut out marinades and seasoning, meats made with fillers (hot dogs, meatballs, sausages), processed cheese, vegetarian products, and alternative breads and grains such as cous cous, bulgar wheat and spelt.
Reduce your sugar and dairy intake
The next 14 days are all about cutting down on the amount of sugar and dairy you give your body. Sugar causes the body to store fat, and your mood and energy to soar and plummet throughout the day. Cutting out high GI foods which raise the sugar in your bloodstream - surprisingly, wheat is one of the biggest culprits - has a monumental effect on your health.
Djokovic says, "Your blood sugar remains steady. You don't have the up-and-down cravings for more sugary foods. Your appetite loses its edge because the foods you're eating - high-protein, high-fibre, high-nutrition - keep you feeling fuller, longer. Your body doesn't rot itself with excess glucose... and your brain isn't suffering the roller-coaster ride of energy highs and lows."
While sugar-bashing is having a moment, the tennis star admits to raising eyebrows when he first cut dairy out of his diet - wasn't he going too far?
But he insists it's worth experimenting with dairy products because so many of us are lactose intolerant (which can result in bloating, gas, intestinal cramps and vomiting). Substituting milk, cheese and ice cream for broccoli, tuna, salmon and almond milk means you can still consume enough calcium for a strong body.
Think about how you're giving your body nutrients
Djokovic says, "If you want to know my real diet secret, don't ask me what I eat. Ask me how I eat." The tennis star eats slowly so his stomach has time to digest his meals; he also eats consciously, where he puts down his fork after a bite and concentrates on chewing, to make sure he properly breaks down his food.
He also eats certain foods at different times during the day: for breakfast he stocks up on berries for fast-burning energy, whereas for dinner he eats protein-rich meat, chicken and fish to help his body repair overnight.
He also focuses on the quality of his food over the quantity of it. "In the sports world, athletes are always worried that they don't have enough - enough fuel, enough hydration, enough nutrition," he says. "Like most athletes, I used to worry that I never had enough food. Subsequently I would put too much food in my stomach, too much information to process." By eating small amounts of organic, natural, unprocessed food, Djokovic makes sure his stomach has time to process his meals and that he's only putting unprocessed food in his body.
Train your mind as well as your body
In his book, the tennis player points to eating for your brain as well as your body, adding, "For me, training isn't just about running myself ragged or repeating the same tennis skills over and over. The game looks like it takes place between the lines on the court, but it really takes place between your ears."
As well as practising mindfulness techniques, such as objectively analysing his thoughts, he never skimps on sleep. He keeps to a strict daily routine - bed by midnight, up at seven - to keep his body clock accurate, and winds down with meditation.
Have a fitness plan
Although Djokovic admits not many people will need to train as hard as he does, he does include tips on how to raise your physical game while raising its dietary equivalent. He recommends dynamic stretching (where you're continually moving your body): ten reps of jumping jacks, squat thrusts, lunging to the side, walking high kicks and reverse lunges while reaching backwards.
He also suggests yoga and foam rolling, where you roll different parts of your body - for example your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and lower back - over a styrofoam tube, effectively giving yourself a massage. But be careful - his advice comes with a warning that it can be pretty excruciating.
So what now? Make your own diet plan
As Djokovic says, this plan won't work for everybody. But if you constantly feel drained or ill, your diet is the first place to look. Cut out gluten, then sugar and dairy and see if you notice a positive change in your body - and if you do, start making a diet plan of your own.