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22 Jan'17

Notes from “Serve to win” by Novak Djokovic

I really enjoyed the book, it was very refreshing to read about the life of a top athlete outside the training ground. Usually they brag about super special training schedule and top teams supporting them, but this book was about everything except that.

“Sitting in a tiny living room […], I watched Pete Sampras win the Wimbledon and I knew: one day that would be me” (p. xvi)

To test if you are sensitive to gluten, he suggests to keep it off your menu for 2 weeks and then eat it for one day and see if you see any difference in your performance before doing ELISA tests or consulting doctors.  Afterwards he recommends the same experiment for dairy (the one without yoghurt cultures, e.g. acidophilus) and sugar (i.e. sucrose, not fructose) (p. xxv).

In the section titled “The Art of Discipline” he talks about how almost every minute of his day is scheduled by his team and that is the only way to beat the best of the best. He emphasises the need to sleep same amount of time at the same time every day over any other part of his schedule (pp. 16, 91). For that reason he cut on caffeine except in gel form before the match. He explains it with the following table of the Chinese view on body recovery functions (p. 28):

  • 23:00 – 3:00 liver (good time to be asleep)
  • 3:00 – 5:00 lungs
  • 5:00 – 7:00 intestine
  • 7:00 – 9:00 stomach (good time to have breakfast)

Next he “takes down” wheat and gluten it contains. He argues that most of the modern wheat and products containing it are GMO modified. He also argues that most of us have some degree of non-celiac wheat sensitivity and it can just make us feel stuffed and slow. Finally, he suggests reducing wheat consumption because of its high glycemic index, which determines how quickly the food causes a spike in our blood sugar (p. 36).

After that the book does the same for lactose-containing products, warning us of finding a way to substitute its calcium contents. If we can’t give up on dairy, Novak suggests that we consume as much as possible with yoghurt cultures, e.g. acidophilus. He also points out that most yogurts contain insane amounts of sugar (p. 50).

So how do we feed ourselves then? Djokovic suggests many things but I noted a few that I already eat (or can easily start eating) (pp. 52, 156):

  • Oatmeal, buckwheat, millet
  • Meat, fish, eggs
  • Healthy oils
  • Salads

He suggests leaving proteins for the evening though.

He also tells us that our body reacts to every “signal” we send it, like whether we eat fast or not, whether we are distracted or not during the lunchtime. He prefers to eat calmly and quietly (p. 58).

Next advice goes back to the morning routine. Djokovic does these things in the morning (pp. 67, 99):

  • A glass of warm (so that stomach doesn’t draw much blood to warm it up) water first thing.
  • Two spoons of honey (he likes mānuka honey most).
  • Some cardio warm-up.
  • Usual stretching like we did in PT classes.
  • Never skips breakfast.

He also insists on getting a massage at least once a month and getting a foam roller for the rest of the month. Another idea of his is to use yoga and intellectually stimulating activities to push our mind in a same manner as we push our bodies (p. 99).

Aside from eating all kinds of fruits, he also allows peanut butter (not the Skippy kind but the one without sugar or additives). He also takes protein supplements from rice and peas. He flies frequently and takes melatonin supplements to balance his sleep.

Finally, he reminds us that healthy body and mind are not self-goal but gateways to success (p. 145).