Why is Novak Djokovic number 1? Diet & routines revealed

Everyone knows Novak Djokovic – the man who, at 36, continues to outplay opponents who hadn’t even picked up a racket when he started his professional journey.

It’s a sport where milliseconds and millimetres matter, and yet, Djokovic consistently leads the pack, many of whom are a full decade younger. The question on everyone’s lips: How does he maintain his champion status?

Novak Djokovic, ranked No. 1 for a record total of 412 weeks in a record 13 different years, and finished as the year-end No. 1 a record 8 times.

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This is the story of how a player, once physically overwhelmed on the court, transformed into an emblem of endurance and skill.

Djokovic’s ascent to a record-breaking 24-time Grand Slam champion isn’t just about his talent with the racket; it’s also a narrative of how his intense diet became his secret weapon.

Forgetting the wins and the glory; there’s much to learn how the right food can be as powerful as any forehand or serve.

Join us as we delve into Novak Djokovic’s nutritional path and uncover the secrets that allow him to dominate the game, proving how, age really is just a number.

The catalyst for change

The turning point

Novak Djokovic wasn’t always the unbeatable tennis star we know today.

In his early years, he faced a tough challenge that wasn’t about skill or competition — it was his own health letting him down.

Matches that should have been his were lost as he struggled with breathing and energy levels. He had even undergone nasal surgery to resolve his breathing difficulties, yet he still struggled.

Everything changed with one match that pushed his body to the limit. Watching from afar, Dr. Igor Cetojevic, a nutritionist, could see that something wasn’t right. This meeting would set Novak on a new path.

The diagnosis

It turned out Djokovic had a problem with gluten — a protein found in wheat that he was eating regularly.

When Dr. Cetojevic suggested cutting it out, along with dairy, it was a big ask, especially when your parents own a pizzeria.

Though Djokovic loved his bread and cheese, the Serbia native was willing to try anything to feel better and do better on the court.

At first, he wasn’t sure this would work. Cutting out foods he grew up with seemed too simple a solution for such a big problem. But the results spoke for themselves.

Within just 2 weeks, his energy was up, his mind was clearer, and the health issues that had plagued his matches were fading. 

That’s when Djokovic started to trust this new way of eating — a trust that would pay off in grand slams won and a number one spot secured.

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What does Novak Djokovic eat daily?

In his book “Serve to Win” from 2014, Djokovic shares a game-changer moment: a tweak in his diet that turned everything around, letting his body unlock its true potential.

Thanks to this shift, he’s notched up an impressive tally: 10 Australian Opens, 3 French Opens, 7 Wimbledons, and 4 US Opens — and he’s far from calling it quits.

So, what’s on Djokovic’s plate, and how does it fuel his winning streak?

Djokovic with plant-based food.

Foundations of Djokovic’s nutrition

Imagine your favourite foods are suddenly off the menu — that’s what happened to Djokovic when he cut out gluten and dairy. You might think that this is depressive. But it does not have to be. It can become a journey of finding the best foods for your longevity.

This wasn’t just about skipping a slice of pizza; it was about reworking his entire diet. Bread and pasta with gluten, out of this plate and instead, he focused on foods that would help, not hinder, his body.

Reducing sugar was another big step. We all know that too much sugar can be bad news, but to become the top athlete of his game, it was an essential, and must-have step to take. Discover why glucose spikes are harmful.

Less sugar meant fewer energy crashes and better health overall. By sticking to this plan, Djokovic was on a mission to ensure his body had the right fuel to win — and keep winning.

The plant-based diet transition

Already seeing improvements, Djokovic decided to take it further. He then moved completely towards a diet full of plants. It wasn’t overnight, though. Gradually, he started eating more veggies, fruits, beans, and seeds — until he decided to cut out the meat and fish as well.

Why go plant-based? For Djokovic, it was about more than just feeling good; it was about performing at his best. Plant-based foods can be easier to digest, meaning the body spends less energy on breaking down meals and more on recovery.

Plus, they’re packed with nutrients that help keep energy levels steady through those long matches. For Djokovic, plants became his power source, helping him outlast opponents on the court.

Needless to mention about the innumerable benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables, besides boosting energy…

Key components of Djokovic’s diet

Starting the day right

Hydration is a champion’s first step in the morning. For Djokovic, this means starting the day with warm water and a squeeze of lemon. It’s a simple habit, but it sets up his body to cleanse and prepare for the day ahead.

Breakfast follows as his foundation meal. He keeps it consistent: a mix of seeds, nuts, and gluten-free grains, topped with berries for that burst of flavour and antioxidants. This isn’t just breakfast; it’s a ritual that fuels his body and mind for the rigorous day ahead.

Fuelling for performance

As the day progresses, Djokovic’s meals are all about maintaining energy. He opts for light but nutrient-rich snacks — think avocado on gluten-free bread or a crisp apple with nut butter. These are quick to eat, easy to digest, and keep his energy up.

Dinner is when recovery starts. It’s his chance to refuel with a mix of proteins and veggies. He knows a good night’s rest is as crucial as any workout, and dinner plays a big role in prepping his body for sleep and recovery.

The role of supplements

Djokovic complements his plant-based diet with vegan protein and creatine supplements. This isn’t about replacing meals, but rather ensuring he gets all the nutrients and energy needed for his demanding routine.

It’s a careful balance — whole foods provide most of what he needs, but supplements are there to support his training and recovery, ensuring his body isn’t missing out on anything.

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The impact of nutrition on performance

Djokovic on the tennis court.

Immediate and long-term benefits

Since tweaking his diet, Djokovic has seen a remarkable surge in his energy and focus, directly translating to his performance. He’s not just playing well; he’s playing at his peak, match after match.

His diet also plays a role in keeping injuries at bay. With better nutrition, his body recovers faster and is more resilient, meaning he can train harder and play longer without the same risk of injury.

Mental clarity and focus

Nutrition isn’t just about your body; it’s also linked to your brain health. Djokovic’s diet helps keep his mind sharp. He needs to think fast and stay calm under pressure, and the foods he eats support that.

The link between diet and sleep is well-known, and Djokovic admits to be feeling the benefits of his plant-based diet. With better sleep, his cognitive functions are sharper — essential for strategy and focus during those crucial match points.

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Adopting Djokovic’s principles

Making dietary changes

Interested in eating like a champion? Start simple: swap your usual pasta for a gluten-free option, and introduce more veggies into your meals. It’s not about going cold turkey; it’s about making small, sustainable changes.

Listening to your body is key. If a certain food doesn’t make you feel great, consider cutting it out and see how you feel. It’s all about finding what works for you, just like Djokovic did.

Routine and discipline

Healthy eating starts with good habits. Set yourself up for success by planning meals ahead of time and keeping healthy snacks within reach. Forget strict rules; create a routine that supports your health and goals on a daily basis.

Staying on track with your diet takes discipline, but remember why you started. Whether it’s feeling better, improving performance, or just wanting to be healthier, keep your eyes on the prize.

Beyond the diet: a holistic approach

The importance of sleep

For Djokovic, sleep is non-negotiable. He ensures he gets enough quality rest to recover from the day’s exertions and face the next day refreshed. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary to help improve your own sleep quality.

Quality sleep is not just about the hours spent in bed; it’s about making sure those hours are restful. Avoid screens before bed, stick to a sleep schedule, and create a pre-sleep routine that signals your body it’s time to wind down.

Discover 5 easy tips to sleep better at night.

Mental and emotional well-being

Djokovic knows the importance of training his mind. Regular meditation and yoga are part of his routine, keeping him mentally and emotionally balanced.

Such activities help to manage stress, improve focus, and maintain a clear mind — all of which contribute to overall well-being. Nutrition, sleep, mental health — it’s all connected, and it all contributes to a healthier, happier you.

Actionable tips to improve your mental health.

Key takeaway

Wrapping up our deep dive into Novak Djokovic’s nutritional transformation, it’s been quite the eye-opener, hasn’t it?

Think about it, the changes he made to what he eats and how he lives have been a major part of his success. It’s pretty inspiring stuff, showing us that no matter where we are in life, it’s never too late to make a change that could rev up our health and performance.

So, how about you? Ready to give your own diet a once-over? Maybe it’s time to experiment with more veggies, or to see if you feel better cutting down on bread and pasta.

And don’t underestimate the power of hydration and a solid 8 hours of sleep daily; these should be the non-negotiable boundaries.

Go on, get curious about what works for you. You’ve seen what it’s done for Djokovic — maybe it’s time to find your own winning formula.

Whether it’s trying out a new plant-based recipe or just ensuring you’re drinking enough water, every little bit could be a step towards your personal best. Why not start today?

By Aishani Rajarai

Aishani Rajarai is a scientific writer and neuroscience enthusiast. She holds a BSc in biochemistry and cell biology, and a minor in medicinal chemistry and chemical biology. Her mission at Avea is to bring the science of longevity through blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, and social media content to the public, so people can live a healthier, longer, and happier life.

Aishani Rajarai is a scientific writer and neuroscience enthusiast. She holds a BSc in biochemistry and cell biology, and a minor in medicinal chemistry and chemical biology. Her mission at Avea is to bring the science of longevity through blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, and social media content to the public, so people can live a healthier, longer, and happier life.