The Diet Behind Etcheverry’s Success: ‘It Makes A Significant Difference To Fitness’
Editor’s note: This story was translated from ATPTour.com/es.
The only negative Tomas Martin Etcheverry might find in the fact that he is still in the competition at Roland Garros is having to deprive himself of a large number of treats that his diet as an elite athlete prohibits him from eating. Ice cream, pizza and pancakes are some of the foods the 23-year-old Argentine only allows himself to have occasionally once he has been knocked out of a tournament.
But avoiding his guilty eating pleasures and sticking to the diet put forward by nutritionist Luciano Spena has been fruitful for the Argentine. Before making his bow in the quarter-finals of a major on Wednesday against Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros, Etcheverry spoke to ATPTour.com about the importance of food in his career. He also touched upon his potential as a chef and his favourite dish when he’s not competing (his grandmother’s milanesa).
Why Etcheverry’s Love Of Roland Garros Goes Beyond Tennis
If you invited friends for dinner at your house, what would you cook and why?
An asado. We’re pretty good with barbeques in my country. When I’m with friends I light the barbeque, we drink mate… You need a decent amount of time so that the meat is properly cooked, and I like that because I can relax, chat and rest.
How would you rate your cooking skills from 1 to 10?
I don’t know. I’m not bad. I’m best on the barbeque. I would like to learn to cook more. During the pandemic I tried to learn new things. I like cooking. With my girlfriend I took a lot of classes for tacos, sauces for pastas, and things like that. I still want to learn to make risotto and to season better. That’s the key to good flavour.
How strict are you with your diet?
Very strict! At the elite level it makes a significant difference in terms of fitness. Sleep and food complement that. It’s very important. I only allow myself certain things when a tournament is over. I might eat a dessert at night when I know I’m not competing. But I try to follow the diet.
Which foods do you eat when you cheat on your diet?
Ice cream! I really like zabaione flavour. I also have a weakness for flan, pancakes. Anything with cheese, fried things. After tournaments or when I’m taking a break in Argentina are the only chances I have to eat things like that. But the less you allow yourself to do it, the better. These things will do you no good in the long run.
How different is your diet on tour and when you’re not competing?
It’s pretty similar. Several Argentine players have the same nutritionist, he’s called Luciano Spena. He gives you several things to choose from. And you use that list as a guide. When you’re playing at ATP Tour level it’s very easy because you have everything at the tournament. You go to the canteen and everything is there. It’s most difficult at [ATP] Challenger Tour tournaments, for example. There will definitely not be restaurants at the club with so much variety, and you have to go out. Then you have preprepared meals and it’s more difficult to change them. But you do what you can.
What is your diet based on?
There’s always a protein and a little salad. We try to avoid dark meats, especially in competition. We eat pasta occasionally, around midday. It’s quite helpful. I also eat a lot of fruit, and I snack on protein bars mid-morning and in the afternoon. Supplements are another very important aspect.
Apart from desserts, which other foods do you avoid when you’re competing?
I can’t eat anything fried, nothing with fat. I have to avoid anything that could be too rich. Pizza for example.
What do you eat the night before a match?
Some meat with vegetables. That’s it. Something light. Maybe I can eat a dessert of just fruit and I’m done.
What about on the day of the match?
It depends a lot on the time. If I’m playing in the morning I eat more the previous night. If I’m playing in the afternoon I eat less the night before and I have a big breakfast in the morning. It depends on the plan. If I’m playing in the afternoon, for example, I’ll have something light at midday. Rice, maybe. It’s important to have had a decent breakfast.
What do you consume during matches?
I eat bananas and nuts. That keeps me going. In terms of hydration, a lot of water, some sports drinks and salts.
Which is your favourite dish you’ve ever eaten?
I have two. Matambre a la pizza, a dish in my country. And my grandmother’s milanesa. Whenever I go to Argentina I visit her so I can have it.
Would you like to learn how to cook it?
I can’t because it’s a secret and my grandmother won’t tell anyone! I don’t know if she’ll reveal it at some point. I don’t know what it could be, I’ve always wanted to know. But there’s nothing like it.
Do you have any favourite dishes that aren’t Argentinian?
Ceviche from Peru. The pasta in Italy is amazing. Also pizza. I know my diet doesn’t allow it, but when you go to Italy you have to have the odd pizza. It’s amazing.