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Lucy Shuker talks to WDH about the importance of diet – and treats!

Locker Room

April 17, 2018

Wheelchair tennis star Lucy Shuker has enjoyed some amazing doubles results with her Dutch partner Diede De Groot in the USA recently, including an incredible comeback against top opposition.
So how much is Lucy’s diet part of the secret behind her success?

WDH decided to talk to Lucy about food, glorious food – and how she gets the best out of it.

WDH/ How important is diet to you?
LUCY/ Everything I do in my daily life is geared towards playing the best tennis I can and living a healthy lifestyle.
WDH/ And eating is a big part of that, right?
LUCY/ Of course. Eating healthily helps with performance and fuelling the demands I place on my body.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m human too and of course I enjoy the odd treat, just like everyone else! But a healthy diet is important not just for physical benefits but also mental benefits.
WDH/ Before we get onto the treats – and we can’t wait to hear about those – what would you eat on a typical training day?
LUCY/ Well it varies but when I first get up I eat either a small bowl of muesli or fruit and yogurt or something along those lines. It takes me a while to get ready in the morning so then I take something else on board prior to my training session. I might have some porridge or a favourite of mine is poached egg, avocado and a bagel.
WDH/ Lunch?
LUCY/ I keep my lunch quite simple, often some protein, fish or chicken, with salad. I keep it light because a heavier lunch doesn’t sit well with me once I get out on court to play tennis. Especially with all the straps around my abdomen area.
After my second session of the day and any S&C work, depending on the intensity I usually take on something else straightaway such as a protein recovery shake or recovery bar or something along those lines.
WDH/ Dinner?
LUCY/ I eat a lot of fish and vegetables and I really enjoy sushi. My favourite foods are fresh fish and lobster or crab.
WDH/ That’s enough fuel for you then?
LUCY/ Yes, that’s enough for my regime. I just try to fuel for the demands of my training day and to ensure that I’m getting what I need. I’m typically on court for around 3-4 hours every day coupled with an hours gym or fitness session plus recovery work which might include stretching or massage.
WDH/ What about during tournaments and fuelling for matches?
LUCY/ It’s all about timing before matches which in tennis can sometimes be tricky.  I try to eat little and often and take on foods that will give me the energy I need. I don’t like anything too heavy before a match, so I’m not looking to scoff a big bowl of pasta right before I play.
WDH/ How do you mean about timing?
LUCY/ I’m looking to eat close enough to the match not to run out of energy and long enough before a match not to feel sluggish and bloated. So the ideal time to eat is a couple hours before I play. That allows you time to digest your food.
WDH/ That’s easy enough then.
LUCY/ Except that I don’t always know when I’m going to play!  When you don’t have an exact start time and are largely dependent on how long matches before you take it could be forty-five minutes or three hours, and you could be third or fourth on.
WDH/ Tricky!
LUCY/ Sometimes, although any unpredictable situation is the same for your opponent too.
WDH/ OK. I can’t put this off any longer. What treats do you allow yourself? What are your guilty pleasures?
LUCY/ If I was to have a treat its usually some chocolate or marshmallows is something I always have in my travel bag.
WDH/ Yummy! How often do you allow yourself to eat those?!
LUCY/ I might have a piece of chocolate a couple of times a week.
WDH/ Anything else?
LUCY/ Home cooked roasts! My mum cooks an amazing roast dinner and I’ll allow myself to enjoy that once in a while too!
WDH/ So you can be a top sportswoman and still enjoy your food?
LUCY/ Absolutely! But I’m also conscious to train hard as well and even at times such as Christmas when there are a lot more treats around I don’t stop training.
WDH/ Can we ask how much you weigh?
LUCY/ Sure, right now I’m around 54 kilos and that’s how I like to be.
WDH/ Do you have to weigh yourself quite obsessively?
LUCY/ Not at all. I keep an eye on my weight as that’s part and parcel of being the best athlete that I can be. We also have nutritional support through the Tennis Foundation and measurements such as skin-fold tests are done to keep an eye on our progress as athletes and responses to training.
One thing’s for sure. I weigh a lot less now than when I first came out of hospital, after my motorbike accident.
WDH/ How much did you weigh back then?
LUCY/ No idea. But the photographs from back then definitely tell their own story!
WDH/ You’ve been on the tennis circuit for a good number of years since then.
LUCY/ I certainly have and it has been a wonderful journey so far and given me some amazing opportunities and experiences.
WDH/ So where in the world do you find the best food?
LUCY/ In terms of tournaments, the Grand Slam events undoubtedly provide the best variety of food, particularly Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
WDH/ And…bet you knew this was coming… where in the world are you most tempted by the wrong kind of stuff?
LUCY/ I think America has the biggest temptations for food, just look at their breakfasts! Waffles and pancakes!
WDH/ Tempting indeed…
LUCY/ But it’s also really easy to eat healthy and be very health conscious in America. They have supermarkets such as Wholefoods and The Fresh Market which have some fantastic fresh food options. When we have tournaments I usually head there for the healthier options.  I also really enjoy the fresh fish and fresh lobster and crab you can get there, I absolutely love taking some down time in Florida to enjoy that kind of food and it’s also so much cheaper there as well.
WDH/ You’ve just had some success in America, haven’t you?
LUCY/ Yes, I won a couple of doubles tournaments over there with Diede De Groot.
WDH/ Perfect!
LUCY/ It was great to win those doubles titles with Diede and I had some good singles performances as well. But with a couple of tight losses that’s my main aim right now as a singles player to start converting the three-set losses, I have experienced against some of the top players in the world into wins!
Having said all that, winning two doubles tournaments back to back with Diede was very satisfying. Particularly coming back from 2-5 and match point down in the final in Baton Rouge, Louisiana against the No.1 pairing of Buis and Van Koot from the Netherlands to win 7-5.
Our game styles and strengths mean we work well together. Her speed and hard hitting out wide, with me cleaning up at the net, made for a successful combination.
WDH/ So finally Lucy, what tips have you got for tennis fans and budding sportspeople in general, with regard to diet?
LUCY/ As with every aspect of life, I would say it is all about balance. That’s the key. Eat healthily, eat regularly and at the best times for what you are doing.
But remember to allow yourself treats too, as long as they are the exception to the rule rather than the norm. Remember you are only human and food is something to be enjoyed, even if you have reached a high level of sport and have to be disciplined with your diet!
WDH/ Lucy, that sounds like a wise tip to finish with…and well done on your latest successes, awesome again! Keep us posted on your next adventures!
LUCY/ I’ll do just that. Bye for now.
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