Footballers don’t just eat pasta and chicken
“Lunch and dinner for a footballer tends to involve a good variety of proteinand carbohydrates. We like to offer a selection of proteins to choose from, such as one red meat and one white meat, plus a vegetarian source. Turkey, beef, salmon and mackerel are good protein sources.
It’s not all about pasta and rice for carbs these days as the players get bored of them pretty quickly. We like to offer different sources of carbohydrates such as amaranth, which is popular with South American players, and farro, which the Italians and French enjoy.
A wide variety of seasonal vegetables are available, which are crucial for players’ vitamin and mineral intake.”
Breakfast should have a fun or healthy twist
“Breakfast is really important for making sure players are sufficiently fuelled for a match day or heavy training day. A popular option is porridge but we like the players to try different versions like quinoa porridge or porridges made from different grains which have a lighter consistency.
We also enjoy different plays on eggs at breakfast, which might be combined in wraps or with different types of bread.”
Snacks tend to be high in protein
“Typically footballers can struggle to get enough protein. They have grown up knowing they need a carb-based diet for energy so they rarely lack carbs, but that’s not necessarily the case for protein, which is so important for muscle recovery – especially as training has become more explosive over the years.
For that reason we tend to promote high-protein snacks, such as proteinflapjacks or protein mousses. The snacks tend to be made from scratch so they don’t contain lots of sugar and fat.”
Athletes prepare their bodies for sports supplements
“Players will only use carbohydrate or caffeine gels in a match if they have practiced using them in training. We know that getting this right at half-time can have a big impact on energy levels later in the second half.
You have to train your gut to handle different products and if you don’t try them in training your body might not be used to them on match day. Playerswant to feel at their optimal throughout the whole game.”
Every player needs to drink different fluids to match their sweat losses
“Players drink fluids during the match which contain carbohydrates to refuel the muscles and electrolytes which are vital in helping your body absorb and retain fluid for hydration. We perform tests on players to understand their sweat losses and individualise their drinks accordingly.
This becomes even more important when you are playing in hot conditions like at the World Cup or some Champions League matches.”
Post-match drinks are a lot healthier these days
“Phase one of the recovery process involves recovery drinks that contain carbohydrates, protein and ideally antioxidants to help with muscle recovery.
We like to make different juices and smoothies which are really convenient in the changing room.”
Players recover faster with sushi
“Phase two of the recovery process involves players eating from a recovery station in the changing room which features a selection of food served buffet–style. The theme is a healthy take on players’ favourite foods.
The idea is that we are encouraging players to eat in order to help the recovery process, so they get food they will enjoy. A popular buffet food is sushi with a selection of temaki or hand rolls and some sashimi as well.
At last summer’s World Cup, we had a chef with hot plates – like a kind of mobile kitchen – in the dressing room. Many other countries did the same thing to help start the recovery process with high-quality, nutrient-rich food.”
Meals undergo squad rotation too
“Menu rotation is absolutely critical in sport. Innovation is encouraged here. The chef and I work very closely to come up with new snacks and meals, using functional ingredients, which may aid performance.
We tend to run meals on a monthly rotation system as boredom sets in quickly. You won’t see the same dish on the menu twice within two weeks. That means players are always enjoying different food and automatically getting a good variety of nutrients in their diet.”
Footballers’ kitchen cupboards are full of cereals and eggs
“We encourage players to keep a selection of cereals, porridges, oats and granola in their kitchen cupboards. They can enjoy different combinations with a range of fruit yoghurts, milk or Greek yoghurt.
Eggs are another good kitchen staple because players can always cook an omelette or some scrambled eggs when they’re tired. They might have the odd biscuit or sweet snack in the evening but most of the time they’re pretty good.”
Nutritionist James Collins works with some of the country’s top footballers