Novak Djokovic has been arguably the most dominant tennis player of the last decade.
His rise to the top of the men’s game seemed relatively gradual, being in the top 5 players in the world for a number of years.
Yet, his actual ascension to the world number 1 spot in 2011 came relatively quickly.
The Serbian super star went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open, after claiming the Australian Open earlier in the year.
But, how exactly did Novak go from his consistent number 3 or 4 spot in the world to world number 1 in seemingly such a short space of time?
But when his own book “Serve to Win” was released, Novak revealed that his diet was actually an instrumental factor in helping him overcome allergies and underlying health conditions.
This, in turn, improved his overall health, fitness, stamina and strength, all of which turned a top talented pro into a world beater.
Of course, the diet of a professional athlete is usually filled with lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates and fibrous, nutritious vegetables.
It will come with no surprise that most professional athletes across many mainstream sports will be eating this sort of food on a daily basis.
However, what sets Djokovic apart from the rest of his fellow professional athletes is his attention to detail when it comes to his diet.
This level of extreme planning, meticulous decision making and nutritional optimisation has led him to the top of the men’s game for over a decade and counting.
So, exactly how did he change his diet and what does he eat now? That’s what we are going to explore!
How Novak Djokovic Changed his Diet
Prior to his change in diet in late 2010, Novak Djokovic had earned a reputation for being a little lackluster when the going got tough.
Far from the steely warrior we see before us today, hitting outrageous winners and going for broke when match points down, Djokovic would sometimes collapse mid match and retire when he was feeling a little below par.
This was a frustration for many tennis fans who were wowed by what Djokovic could do on the court, but left wanting more as he would often not be able to perform at his best for long periods of time.
However, his change in diet saw him become one of the strongest and fittest players on the tour, outlasting all of his opponents.
A major change that Djokovic made was to eliminate gluten from his diet.
After finding out that he was suffering from a gluten intolerance and adjusting his diet accordingly, Djokovic was able to play with more energy and longevity, which has been a key factor in his dominance of the sport.
Switching to a gluten free diet also made him more alert, have greater mental clarity as well as improve his sleep.
What Effects did it Have on His Game?
Djokovic went from a player that was talented but physically hampered to a player that could withstand almost any adversity thrown his way.
Switching to a gluten free diet effectively transformed Djokovic into a different player.
It is often noted that the margins at the top of any sport are notoriously slim.
When operating at such a high level, even the smallest of gains that a player can make can ultimately determine whether they are a winner or a loser at the end of a tournament.
This is especially true in the world of tennis. With the game being more competitive than ever and the level of professionalism that players commit to, becoming a professional tennis player has become one of the most difficult ways to earn a living through sport.
With this in mind, an incredibly talented and accomplished player like Novak Djokovic making such a monumental change to his diet comes with the added benefit of a big leap in his performance levels.
A player of his caliber suddenly having more energy on the court, more mental sharpness, increased endurance and more dynamic strength, all from cutting out foods that he had major intolerances to, makes his rise to the top of the game no real surprise after all.
Djokovic always liked to take big cuts at the ball and go for his shots.
But he has always been a player that liked to rely on his physical fitness, stamina and flexibility to win his points whilst coming up with unbelievable winners from outrageous positions on the court.
Therefore, the change in diet effectively helped Djokovic upgrade his game, as he was able to make better decisions, become rock solid mentally in the most high pressure situations and actually sustain his high level of play across 5 gruelling sets of tennis.
This transformed Djokovic from a shot making counter puncher into a confident, consistent baseliner that could take control of the points and over power his opponents with relative ease.
What Novak Djokovic Eats
As we have mentioned, Djokovic eats a gluten free diet. He also tends to avoid eating too much meat or fish, but will have it to boost his protein intake on particularly heavy training days.
According to his book, “Serve to Win”, Novak starts off his day with a tall glass of room temperature water, as this helps to release blood flow more into his muscles than his digestive system.
The thinking behind this is that ice cold water needs to be heated up by the body in order to be digested properly, so drinking warm water makes this process more efficient.
For breakfast, Djokovic will typically eat what he calls a “power bowl” of seeds, gluten free muesli, mixed nuts, berries or fruits along with almond or rice milk.
He will also add some manuka honey to this as it has antibacterial properties and contains fructose.
Lunches tend to be a complex carbohydrate packed affair for Djokovic, as this helps give him the long lasting energy he needs to complete his tiresome days of training.
Generally he will chow down on some gluten free pasta with mixed grilled vegetables, that will have a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt for taste.
That may well be accompanied by a mixed salad and occasionally some meat or fish if he is playing a match in the afternoon.
Dinner time tends to bring more protein to the plate of the world number 1.
This is where he may eat a salmon fillet or sardines, with the occasional chicken breast thrown in for good measure.
This will almost always be accompanied by a salad containing leafy greens, peppers, tomatoes, onion and the like.
Occasionally Djokovic will have a vegetable packed soup such as minestrone or mixed vegetable.
But this meal is where he can really focus on foods that will help his recovery from a long day of training, so most of his heavy protein sources will be found in his dinner rather than the earlier meals in the day.
This also helps with his digestion, allowing him to also sleep better at night.
As far as snacking goes, Novak will usually have avocado and maybe some tuna on some gluten free bread, energy and protein bars, protein shakes, dried fruit and honey.
Djokovic also focuses on sleep, meditation and meal timings to optimise his approach to exercise and nutrition.
He doesn’t like to eat too close to going to sleep as this means his body will be busy digesting food rather than getting a restful night of sleep, something that is so important for a professional athlete.
The Novak Djokovic diet is a thing to behold.
A shining example of what is possible when pure, nutritious food is at the forefront of an athlete’s focus and it has had a transformative impact on the Serb’s game.
It is clear to see the benefits that primarily his diet, but also his sleep, physicality and mentality have all played into his development as a player.
Although his diet may not be accessible to all, it does go to show that understanding your body and fueling it with the right foods for you (taking any allergies or intolerances into consideration), can make a huge difference to your performance on the tennis court!