Bag Check: It’s not just about racquets and shoes

By Candace Chemtob, B.S. and M.S. in Human Nutrition

Preparation is essential to any kind of success, whether on the court or off. To reach your peak athletic performance, you must begin preparing weeks and months in advance. Proper training and conditioning are essential to performance, but there are other factors that will affect your game, such as mental preparation. In those critical moments before an important match, a player should be focused and concentrated. One sure way to break a player’s focus is to discover that you have forgotten to pack something. This is a distraction at best, at a time your attention should be 100% on the match at hand. In the worst case, a haphazardly packed bag may cause a player to default.

Bag Check photoMost professional players are meticulous about packing their bags. For the pros, packing their bag is often a ritual and every item is carefully accounted for. In fact, the Tennis Channel had an amusing segment called “Bag Check” in which, as the name implies, a reporter peered into the bags of tennis pros. As you might expect, the pros were ready for all possible situations, armed with first aid kits, food, up to five racquets, and more.

While some squash pros have famously forgotten essential items, recall Jonathon Power running out of racquets and forced to play without a grip, this is rare. However, on the amateur and junior tournament circuit, this happens more often than any player or parent would like to remember. In researching this article, I have reached out to several pros and amateurs to develop a “squash bag checklist”—which accompanies this article.

Remember the mantra “less is more” and purge your bag of unnecessary items! They just get in the way of finding what you need, especially when it is urgent. During my “bag checks” I found items like snorkeling equipment, moldy oranges (beyond recognition), dog leashes, old trophies, and lost homework assignments in squash bags—plus a lot of smelly clothes. The moral here is: clean out your squash bag.

Of course, a squash bag is not complete without the proper foods and drink. To reach your optimal performance, you must plan accordingly. The main considerations are the timing of your matches and meals. It is best to be prepared for different scenarios in the event that matches run late and/or you find that there is no food (or at least food you deem edible) available at the courts. The American College of Sports Medicine and American (and Canadian) Dietetics Associations came up with the following recommendations (and I provided the food choices to meet those recommendations):

3 to 4 hours prior to exercise:
200 to 300 g carbohydrates (carbs), 25 to 35 g protein, and 12 to 20 oz fluid

Sandwich with 3 ounces of turkey/ chicken (30 g carbs, 25 g protein), 2 oz pretzels (44 g carb, 3 g protein), Clif Bar (44 gm carb, 10 g protein), 1/2 cup raisins (65 g carb, 2 g protein), 1.5 cup milk (22 g carb, 16 g pro), 1 piece fruit (15 g pro, 1 g pro).

Or, if on the run without refrigeration: 4.5” cinnamon raisin bagel (72 g carb, 4 g protein), 2 tbsp peanut butter (6 g carb, 8 g pro), 2 tbsp honey (34 g carb), 1 oz granola bar (22 g carb, 2 g pro), large banana (31 g carb, 1 g pro), 1.5 c orange juice (39 g carb, 2 g protein).

15 minutes to 60 minutes prior to exercise:
50 to 70 g carb, 5 to 8 g protein
1 piece of fruit (15 g carb, 1 g pro),1cup dry cereal, like Cheerios (30 g carb, 2 g pro), 1/2 energy bar (20 g carb, 5 g carb).

Some athletes do not tolerate solid food prior to exercise: 8 oz sports drink (15 gm carb), one sports gel (22 g), 8 oz milk (15 g carb, 8 g pro).

During Exercise:
6 to 12 oz fluid every 15 to 30 minutes (or know your own, personal fluid requirements); 30 to 60 g carb per hour of exercise
16 oz sports drink (31 g carb), remainder can be water (please note: this is not a “diet” sports drink such as Vitamin Water Zero, Gatorade G2 which may have 0 to 9 g carb).

After Exercise:
30 to 60 minutes after exercise (assuming that you will eat a meal within 2 hours)
1 to 1.5 g carb per kg body weight (for 150lbs. 70 to 100 g carb), 10 to 20 g protein, 16 to 24 oz fluid for every pound lost.
6” sub sandwich on whole wheat bread with chicken (47 g carb, 23 g protein), 8 oz fruit yogurt (45 g carb, 10 g protein).

To tailor this to your own food preferences, please go to This website is maintained by the USDA and has accurate nutrition information and is easy to use.

After training and conditioning hard to improve your game, don’t undermine yourself by being unprepared. Pack your bag methodically. Keep your focus on the match at hand and fuel yourself with the foods and drinks to reach your peak performance.

Bag Check

  • Squash Racquets (3 minimum)
  • Squash Balls
  • Protective eyewear (2 pair)
  • Set of strings, extra grips
  • Squash sneakers (2 pair)
  • Sweat bands (wrist and head), bandana, hair ties, barrettes, towel
  • Extra pair of socks, shorts, t shirt, sweat pants, hoddie, extra under garments
  • Bag for dirty clothes
  • Phone, headphones, notebook, pen
  • Jump rope for warm up
  • First aid items: bandaids, artificial skin, Ibuprofen (or similar), ace bandage