PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 29: Roger Federer of Switzerland takes a drink in his Men's Singles match against Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina on day six of the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros on May 29, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Mark Macdonald: Winning the Final Set - How to Fuel During Your Match

As you’ve learned throughout this series, your body is a “refuel as it goes machine.”

Your pre and post-match fuel provides the foundation for your performance on the court and recovery after every match.

Your in-match fuel keeps you playing at a high level throughout your match. The amount of fuel you need each match depends on the intensity of your match and the length you’ll be playing.

The higher the intensity, the more you need to feed yourself throughout the match. You’ll start every match strong because you ate a high quality pre-match meal, but with every point you play you’ll quickly utilize that great pre-match fuel. If you don’t replace that fuel, fatigue will set in and your performance will drop.

Just think of the last time you played a long tennis match without re-fueling, most likely your level kept dropping each set as the match continued.

That’s an in-match fueling problem.

This is a big reason why high sugar sport drinks and sugar gel packs were initially created and are used in sports, as a way to get the instant energy to keep playing. Even though those sugar drinks and gels work for a moment, they spike your blood sugar levels, which triggers the onset of low blood sugar, followed by an energy crash. That crash makes you want to reach for another sugar drink or gel, and the cycle continues. This all leads to an inconsistent performance on the court.

High sugar sport drinks and gels are never the answer. During your match you need to continually fuel by eating PFC every 3 (a balance of protein, fats and carbs every 3 hours).

Now, of course, you can’t pull out some chicken and rice in the middle of a match, which is exactly why protein shakes and bars are your best choice for in-match fuel.

Fuel Yourself During a Match by Drinking a Protein Shake/Meal Replacement or Eating a Protein Bar:

During your competition, simply sip on a protein shake/meal replacement or eat part of or an entire protein bar during the game change overs.

The amount of protein shake or bars that need to be consumed during a competition depends on the heat, your conditioning, size and intensity level. It is important to always experiment with what works best during training sessions. Plus, know that you’ll always burn a lot more fuel playing singles tennis compared to doubles.

But because protein is such a hot topic, there are hundreds of different protein powders (shakes when mixed with fluid), and bars. All those options make it hard to know which one is good for you and made with quality ingredients. So to help, I’m sharing solid guidelines that will quickly expose the imposter shakes and bars from the great quality ones.

Simply follow these guidelines and you’ll fuel with a quality shake or bar. I also listed a few brands of my favorite ones in the market because of their quality.

Protein Powder/Shakes Guidelines

The powder needs at least 20 grams of protein per serving. There must be more protein in the powder than carbs and fat.

The protein source needs to be or a combo of: whey (hydrolyzed, isolate, or concentrate), micellar casein, egg white, or plant based and not contain soy protein. It can have trace amounts of soy in the form of soy lecithin, which has very little soy and is a binder in shakes.

Avoid soy protein, it’s a cheaper type of protein, difficult to digest and has a lower amount of nitrogen per gram than the other recommended types of protein powders. In addition, most soy is GMO based (genetically modified).

The powder needs to be gluten-free.

The powder needs to be low in sugar and use a natural sweetener (like stevia).

These protein shake recommendations and can be found at your local supplement store, health facility, or online. You can use any shake you prefer, just make sure it’s high quality and passes the guidelines above.

Protein Shake Brand Recommendations:

Zen Fuze Protein Shake – made by Jeunesse Global, made with Truecelle (ultra-high quality version of micellar casein) and whey protein, all-natural ingredients, gluten free and flavored with stevia, Zen Fuze can also be used as a meal replacement shake.

My #1 recommended protein shake is Zen Fuze, it’s a shake I helped create and its exclusive protein blend of whey protein and micellar casein helps balance your blood sugar levels and powerfully fuel your body. Plus, the combination of fiber and probiotics help optimize your digestive system on and off the court.

Power Crunch Proto Whey Powder, with hydrolyzed whey, made by BNRG

Egg White Protein Powder - many quality brands and options

Vega One Nutritional Shake made by Vega, plant-based powder

Protein Bars are super convenient the only problem is they are much more processed than protein powder/shakes.

This is why you should only eat one bar maximum per day and use them when time is tight or as your during competition fuel.

Now just like with protein powders, there are a ton of options when choosing a bar, so here are your guidelines to ensure you choose a good quality protein bar. It’s similar to the guidelines I shared about protein powders.

Each bar has different flavors, so choose the flavor you prefer.

The protein in the bar needs to be within a five gram range of the total carbs. For example, if the food label shows twenty grams of carbohydrates, you can eat a bar that has anywhere between fifteen and twenty-five grams of protein. Staying within this five-gram range ensures the bar will be correctly balanced. If the bar has more than five grams more carbs than protein, do not eat it will most likely spike your blood sugar.

The protein source needs to be either whey (hydrolyzed, isolate, or concentrate), micellar casein, egg white, or plant based and must not contain soy protein. It can have trace amounts of soy in the form of soy lecithin, which has very little soy and is a binder in most protein products. Avoid soy protein, it’s a cheaper type of protein and has a lower amount of nitrogen per gram than the other recommended types of protein bars. In addition, most soy is GMO based (genetically modified).

The bar should to be gluten-free.

The bar needs to be low in sugar, preferably high in fiber “and use a natural sweetener (like stevia). Some bars use small amounts of sucralose (fake sugar). If sucralose causes you to experience digestive challenges, avoid it.

Recommended brands of protein bars that meet these guidelines are:

oPower Crunch made by BNRG, preferably choose gluten-free options

oQuest made by Quest, gluten-free

oRise Protein made by Rise, gluten-free

oKirkland Protein Bar, made by Costco

oVega Protein Bar, made by Vega (plant based)


One last thing I want to quickly cover is electrolyte replacement. We all know how much we sweat during the summer tennis matches. This amount of perspiration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance and greatly affect your performance. This is another reason why high sugar drinks and gels are popular. But no worries, those high sugar drinks are a thing of the past, simply follow these guidelines to keep your electrolytes balanced during your match:

Low Sugar Sport Drinks and Electrolyte Replacement Guidelines:

Most of the time your pre, post and during competition meals and water recommendations will provide a solid amount of electrolytes and hydration throughout your match. But there are times you’re pushed to the brink in long matches, these electrolyte recommendations are for those times.

Always have these two things in your tennis bag:

o1) Electrolyte tablets and gels (can get online or at sporting goods store): These tablets or gels are zero to low calories and provide a full spectrum of electrolytes to ensure protection.

o2) Low Sugar Sport Drinks: Gatorade, PowerAde, Vitamin Water and other brands now offer natural and low sugar recovery drinks that kid athletes love and are loaded with electrolytes.

Simply choose the low sugar sport drinks that have less than 12 grams of sugar and are under 50 calories. And, of course, the more natural and dye free, the better.

A quick tip is to add these sport drinks to your protein shake, this way you’re getting your competition fuel and electrolytes in your shake. Or if you’re fueling with a protein bar, you can sip on your low sugar sport drink as you eat the bar.


Oh yeah, you now have the skill set and knowledge to fuel like the tennis champion you are! Get ready to have the competitive edge during the most crucial points.

This article wraps up the series, and I’m excited to see your tennis game reach the next level!

Keep on the lookout for many more cutting edge and info packed articles, my goal is to continually share new strategies to show you the power of your food. And the fun part about these series is it’s great for you and your family. Every ounce of information I share is something you, your kids, your friends and your family can all rock together.

See you on the Court!

- Part 1: Eating Like a Tennis Champion

- Part 2: The Myth of Carb Loading

- Part 3: Optimally Fueling Before Your Match

- Part 4: Maximizing Your Recovery After a Match


About Mark

Most important, Mark Macdonald is a husband to his wife Abbi and father to their 12-year-old son Hunter and 2-year-old baby girl, Hope.

Professionally, he’s a world renowned nutrition & fitness expert, best-selling author, television personality, international teacher and speaker, and entrepreneur who has coached everyone from celebrities to athletes to business executives to busy moms on how to permanently get their body back with cutting edge nutrition, fitness and lifestyle strategies.

He is the founder of Venice Nutrition and the IBNFC: International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaching, author of the New York Times Bestselling books Body Confidence and Why Kids Make You Fat and How to Get Your Body Back, as well as a featured health expert for many national media outlets, a few being: Dr. OZ, CNN, HLN, Access Hollywood, NBC, FOX and Chelsea Lately.

Mark is also a sought after keynote health speaker and continually speaks throughout the world.

You can learn more about mark @ as well as read his full bio @

- For Adults - Our 8 Week Plan - it's a powerful plan that has helped a couple million people rock their health, it's a global plan and featured in my why kids make you fat and how to get your body back book. Here is the website -

- For kids, we have a powerful Kid Athlete program that supports the info in the 5 Part series and connects perfectly with the 8 Week Plan so tennis families can rock it together - all the info about that is on

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