Jenson Brooksby is one of the brightest young stars on the ATP Tour. The American, who began 2021 outside the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings, is at a career-high World No. 45 following his run to the Dallas Open final.
ATPTour.com caught up with the 21-year-old to learn about his cooking skills, how he approaches his diet during tournaments and training weeks, the importance of hydration, his favourite “cheat” foods and more.
How often do you cook?
I’m getting into it more lately when I’m home. I shoot for four nights a week to have some food at home. It’s definitely healthier in the long run and it’s a good skill to have, so I’ve been trying to get into it more the past year.
How did you learn?
It’s mostly self-learning, also some from my parents — what foods to have, what’s pretty simple to cook, good meals, simple stuff you could get from a store. I’d say for the past two months I’ve been having more food for myself at night.
What’s the Jenson Brooksby special?
I don’t think I’m there yet to have a specific special! Mostly I’ll make ground beef and brussels sprouts and some veggies or chicken. Usually there are different types of meat with veggies, sometimes salad.
Watch: A Day In The Life Of Jenson Brooksby
As a professional athlete your diet is especially important. How strict are you with your diet?
Strict in some areas, definitely. I trust my team — my PT [physiotherapist], my fitness [coach] and their knowledge with it. Definitely a big focus is electrolytes and hydration. It’s something I’m still working to improve on, how many electrolytes [I need], how much water to have, that type of thing. Also with proteins, carbs and fats.
It’s not like any food is really limited, although I don’t have anything [that is] processed. But it’s more about when to have carbs, when the most important time to eat is, so it’s really been that type of stuff this past year.
What made you get into that mindset?
Wanting to have more discipline with myself and just working harder to try to reach the top one day. If you want to do that, then all these areas you have to have good habits instilled in you, which is my goal. Hopefully two, three years down the road, whether it’s the fitness, the PT, the food or the tennis, that it’s all just really engrained by that time.
For those out there who sometimes struggle getting on track with their nutrition or diets, what tip do you have for them?
It’s not easy. I just think you have to always have your goals in the back of your mind. What are you pushing for? Why are you putting in those investments and that work to do these things? I definitely have more steps to go, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made in the past year.
A few years ago, around college, before college, sometimes I was lazier in these areas. Those are habits from all the years in my junior career that I needed to break. It takes time, but I think always having in your mind why you’re doing it and keeping positive towards it is big.
How often do you allow yourself a cheat meal?
There’s no specific amount of time, really. Occasionally, definitely, as long as it’s at the right time. Maybe after a tournament, when you have a little break. It’s nothing really exact, usually. You just have a feel for when you can have a little more. Even then, I’m the type of person where it’s tough for me to even have a little bit because then I want so much more. I’m sure there are a lot of people like that. I have to be careful. Nothing exact, just depends when I feel it.
What’s your go-to cheat meal?
I need to think about that for a second! It could be a bit of chocolate or maybe even a pizza, something like that. I guess a pancake could be another one, for example. For me I would consider that kind of a “cheat”, too.
Is there something you’ll just never eat and if so, why?
I would say hot dogs, honestly. That’s probably a common one. I never really liked them. I tried when I was younger and just never got into them.
On the day of a match, what’s your typical diet?
There’s no exact meal every time, but I always try to have more carbs in the morning, some quick energy. Always for dinner at the end of the day will be more protein-based and some carbs. For the match, and it has to be leading up to the match, too, but hydration is key. You need to drink a lot of water. What I’m going to shoot for in the future is maybe a gallon of water or more, and then along with the electrolytes. You really have to stay on that.
An example for breakfast could be toast with peanut butter and some eggs, some fruit and maybe a little meat as well, or yogurt with granola. There are always different match times. If it’s at a weird time where you’d want to wait on having lunch for example, then you just have a bar or some extra stuff to get some more energy. Even during the match have some nuts or something more energy-based and then proteins.
With the hydration, is it something where you have to be especially on top of it because by the time you realise you’re behind on it, it’s too late?
With how physical all my trainings are, I’m learning I can’t afford to not be on top of these things at all times. There could be different factors, but even if one thing is off, it can just lower your energy and make for a less productive practice, which you never want to have at all. I’ve seen how important it is.
You mentioned after a tournament might be when you “cheat”. How different do you eat during a tournament compared to a training week?
Whether it’s training weeks or tournaments, it’s still always pretty focussed. I try to treat it the same because even when you’re home training, the hours are usually a little higher. To have that physicality, whether it’s in the gym or on court, you still need to do all those things right… really whether it’s the hydration or type of eating, it’s really similar all the weeks.