Venus Williams Would Do Anything for Health, But She Won't Do Wheatgrass
The tennis star dishes on what she eats before and after a match, her love for junk food, and the hilarious reason she doesn't cook.
Cold and flu season is no match for Venus Williams. The four-time Olympic gold medalist doesn't play around when it comes to staying healthy. When we caught up with the tennis great in NYC, she was promoting her partnership with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, which she described as a "natural fit," adding that her sister Serena Williams' daughter, Olympia, motivates her to stay on top of her game health-wise. "My job is to play tennis, and if you're sick, you cannot do that. And if you're sick before the game starts, you can't prepare," she said.
Becoming a tennis powerhouse requires lots of discipline, but moments before we sat down, the 39-year-old splurged on SweetTarts, her favorite candy as a kid growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida. "There's candy in this room, and it's usually not easily accessible for me," she joked. "But I've had enough. I had a few pieces and I'm like, 'Okay, my body's not used to this.'"
If anyone deserves to splurge, it's Venus Williams, who won her first Grand Slam just 18 years old and doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon. In fact, she launched her latest collection for her activewear brand EleVen in August ahead of the 2019 US Open.
Read on to find out whose refrigerator Venus loves to raid, how she treats herself after winning a game, and what makes her feel like the ultimate boss.
Rachael Ray Every Day: What's your go-to meal on game days?
Venus Williams: My go-to meal on game days is basically just a combination of protein and carbohydrates before I play. Actually, eating is a job when you're playing, like you eat a meal and then you eat another meal even if you're not hungry. But guess what? You've got to eat another meal and then if the match for you went really long, you're like, "Shoot, I've got eat again." So, actually after the match, you're all determined like, "I'm taking a break from eating, it's too much." [Laughs] Thankfully, you burn it off.
How do you reward yourself after winning a match?
Oh my gosh, champagne! But not always. I eat mostly carbohydrates. Immediately after a game, I'll get in some quick carbohydrates. Usually that's easy, like in a protein shake. So I do some sort of plant-based milk with my protein powder and then after that, I make sure I eat within an hour.
What fuels you?
Being able to do something you love definitely fuels you. If you don't like it, you're just over it, you're not fueled. It's very opposite. And then actually having goals and seeing yourself get there is an amazing feeling. So I think between those two things, I'm definitely fueled.
As an athlete, what's your relationship with food like? Do you look at food mainly as a source of fuel?
I've never really been a foodie. I call myself a junkie because I love junk food. My relationship with food I think is pretty healthy, but I'm just really lucky to have grown up in a house where like my mom didn't buy junk food, and we never ate dessert so I didn't grow up with this. A lot of people grew up with dessert and so they are used to eating dessert at every meal. I'm not used to that. We didn't have a lot of snacks and my mom would keep apples in the house and that was like our snacks. So there's only so many apples you're going to eat, so I don't really snack. But, of course, you pick up bad habits as you grow older. You get your own money and you can fund all your own adventures into unhealthy eating. [Laughs] Of course, as an athlete, my main goal is to be able to fuel my body.
Let's a reminisce a bit. What was your favorite childhood snack?
I loved the ice cream truck. My mom did not want to go up to the ice cream truck. As a parent you can imagine you're nervous because you're not there. Your child's going up to some truck you don't know about. Of course, we went anyway. I'd get the little sherbet pops ... I still like those. You know, like the Tweety Bird pops or Pink Panther—there's so many versions, but they're all sherbet, and they have the bubble gum that's really gross but you still eat it.
You follow a strict vegetarian diet, but what's one healthy food you detest?
I hate wheatgrass. I just can't do it. I have to like hold my nose and mix it with like orange juice and ginger. If it's going to that level, then maybe just let it go. There are other ways to be healthy.
Besides winning a match, what makes you feel like a boss?
So this is really weird, but when I am at baggage claim and I see my racquets come, sometimes I have this sense of—not all the time—but every now and then, a sense of pride like, "Oh my God, I'm a tennis player, I use those racquets!" It's really strange. I'm like "This is cool!" It's random. But I do feel like a boss at that moment, like those are my weapons of mass destruction right there. [Laughs]
Do you cook a lot? Do you have a signature dish?
No, I rely on my mom, but I can cook. I've just been spoiled, and I live like in this—it's very strange, I leave the office and then I go to Serena's house and the first thing I do is look in the fridge and of course there's a baby, so there's always food. After that I go to my dad's house and he even offers to cook for me. So why should I cook? [Laughs] I literally go in this triangle all during the day and people feed me.