When you're a star tennis player like 36-year-old pro Venus Williams, eating well and working out is just what you do. But that doesn't make it any easier — especially after finding out you have a chronic health condition that could ruin your career.
Thankfully, though, Williams has pretty much perfected her healthy-eating strategy at this point, and she's chock-full of advice that we can apply to our own lives. Here, we take a look at some of her best eat-well tips:
She usually follows a clean, plant-based diet.
Williams was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Sjögren's syndrome in 2011, which caused problems with dry eyes and mouth, joint pain, and fatigue and nearly ended her tennis career. But the star athlete was able to bounce back and reclaim her title as one of the world's best tennis players — and for that, she gives credit to her plant-based diet.
"I literally couldn't play tennis anymore, so it really changed my life," Williams revealed in a January interview with Health. "Because [my disorder] was starting to take away what I loved, I had to make some changes; I had to change my life... Once I started [eating a plant-based diet], I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible."
She prepares for big matches with a healthy dose of good-for-her carbs.
When Williams has a big match coming up, she turns to foods that she knows will seriously boost her energy levels. In a recent interview with People, the tennis star said she'll fill up on healthy carbs like steamed brown rice and sweet potatoes before she hits the courts — which makes sense, because complex carbs are digested slowly, meaning your body is fueled more efficiently and for a longer period of time.
She finds healthy replacements for her favorite treats.
Williams is a self-proclaimed sweet tooth, but rather than indulging in something sugary every. single. time. she feels a craving coming on, she's found a way to health-ify her favorite treats. "There are different ways to ease your itch when you want junk food," Williams told Health.
Her go-to sweet-tooth-satisfying recipe? An "orange creamsicle" smoothie, which she makes with soy or almond milk, oranges, banana, and a little vanilla and coconut oil. It "tastes like you're having an ice cream," she said, but it's way better for you. Yum!
She has an unexpected soup recipe that she loves to make.
Williams also shared one of her (surprising!) favorite meals of the moment: celery-root soup.
"I get celery root, tomato, and some Silk almond milk as a base to thicken it a little bit, and then maybe I'll add pan-fried garlic on top, or maybe some truffle oil — whatever I have at the time, I'll throw it in," she said. "It makes for some interesting dishes!"
She makes lunch her biggest meal of the day.
In a September 2016 food diary for Cosmopolitan.com, Williams revealed that lunch is typically her largest meal of the day. (And as it turns out, that's a habit you should steal — according to a January 2013 study, eating your largest meal of the day after 3 p.m. might be bad for your waistline.) Some of her go-to lunch options? Brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, and veggies.
But she doesn't neglect breakfast, either.
Even though Williams says eating first thing in the morning is "super tough" for her (we can't relate to this one, but we'll take her word), she always makes sure to eat (or drink!) an energizing breakfast before she starts the day. Protein smoothies, green juices, and fruit are some of her favorite options on slower days, but if she has an early-a.m. match, she'll opt for something more substantial, like an egg-white omelet or leftover brown rice.
She always keeps healthier options on hand, even when she travels.
It can be easy to throw healthy choices out the window when you stray from your usual routine (travel bingeing, anyone?), but Williams makes sure set herself up for success by bringing quick 'n' healthy options with her wherever she goes.
"When I travel, I always keep some food in the hotel to stir up if I need to," Williams told Cosmopolitan.com.
A simple salad and a serving of good-for-you Greek yogurt — like the ones Williams ate during her trip to New York City for the U.S. Open — should do the trick.