The Diet That Saved Novak Djokovic

Djokovic believes that his diet has made him more level-headed and less anxious or prone to anger, though other routines have also helped in that respect. He never skimps on sleep and always tries to go to bed at the same time, between 11pm and midnight, before getting up at 7am. He uses yoga and meditation and believes in “positive thinking”.

The Serb’s training routine away from competition rarely changes. After 20 minutes of yoga or tai chi, followed by breakfast, he hits with a training partner for an hour and a half, does stretching and has a sports massage. After lunch – when he avoids sugar, protein and unsuitable carbohydrates – Djokovic does a one-hour workout using weights or resistance bands, after which he takes a protein drink. Another 90-minute hitting session, followed by stretching and perhaps another massage, concludes his day’s physical work.

If it seems extraordinary that a change of diet could so change an athlete’s life, Djokovic’s example has been followed by plenty of others. Several other tennis players have gone on to similar regimes and many tournaments now offer gluten-free and dairy-free food.

Dr William Davis, whose 19-year-old daughter Lauren is the world No 70, has written a foreword to Djokovic’s book. A cardiologist, Dr Davis has written extensively about the problems caused by eating modern wheat, which he says is the product of “genetic manipulations by geneticists and agribusiness”.

Among the physical problems Dr Davis says eating wheat can cause are ulcerative colitis, acid reflux, abdominal stress and rheumatoid arthritis. He also says it can contribute to paranoia, schizophrenia and autism. He says that eating wheat “has the potential to cripple performance, cloud mental focus, and bring a champion to his knees”. Djokovic knows exactly what he means.

The champion’s menu

Day One

Breakfast: Water first thing out of bed; two tablespoons of honey; muesli (including organic gluten-free rolled oats, cranberries, raisins, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and almonds)

Mid-morning snack (if needed): Gluten-free bread or crackers with avocado and tuna

Lunch: Mixed-greens salad, gluten-free pasta primavera (including rice pasta, summer squash, courgettes, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and optional vegan cheese)

Mid-afternoon snack: Apple with cashew butter; melon

Dinner: Kale caesar salad (kale, fennel, quinoa and pine nuts) plus dressing (including anchovies or sardines); minestrone soup; salmon fillets (skin on) with roasted tomatoes and marinade

Day Two

Breakfast: Water first thing out of bed; two tablespoons of honey; banana with cashew butter; fruit

Mid-morning snack (if needed): Gluten-free toast with almond butter and honey

Lunch: Mixed-greens salad, spicy soba noodle salad (including gluten-free soba noodles, red bell pepper, rocket, cashews and basil leaves, plus spicy vinaigrette)

Mid-afternoon snack: Fruit and nut bar; fruit

Dinner: Tuna nicoise salad (green beans, cannellini beans, rocket, tuna, red pepper, tomatoes and canned chickpeas), tomato soup, roasted tomatoes

Day three

Breakfast: Water first thing out of bed; two tablespoons of honey; gluten-free oats with cashew butter and bananas; fruit

Mid-morning snack (if needed): Home-made hummus (including chickpeas and gluten-free soy sauce) with apples/crudités

Lunch: Mixed-greens salad, gluten-free pasta with power pesto (including rice pasta, walnuts and basil leaves)

Mid-afternoon snack: Avocado with gluten-free crackers; fruit

Dinner: Fresh mixed-greens salad with avocado and home-made dressing; carrot and ginger soup; whole lemon-roasted chicken

Source: The Independent