When it comes to nutrition, football has made vast improvements over the past few decades. Clubs are more attuned to the necessity of supporting their players in their diets as well as their footballing abilities.
Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996 and was shocked to see the lack of healthy diet and planned meals that his players had. During his first trip to an away game as manager Wenger recalls the players chanting “we want our Mars bars” on the bus after he banned chocolate and looked to improve their diets.
Clubs began to wake up to the fact that a better diet would improve players health and the ability to perform. The health of an athlete can aid to the recovery after games, recovery from injury, as well as make a player stronger and able to train and perform harder.
What is clear is that there is no one size fits all scheme for player nutrition. A lot of work goes in to understanding an athlete’s body and how best to support their diet. Height, weight, intolerances, playing style and athleticism are some of many things taken into account while planning a player’s diet.
The days of all players sat down together eating the same meal have gone, players will also hire their own private chefs who will work with nutritionists to ensure what they put in their bodies is of the highest quality and benefit.
A study in the Netherlands looked at the number of calories an elite male footballer will expend in an average day, which was found to be around 3400 calories. A general male daily recommended calorie intake is between 2000 and 2500 so this needs to be prepared for with the extra intensity they train and compete at.
Failure to prepare for the need for more calorie intake on a daily basis will end up increasing the risk to the players training and competitive ability.
Carbohydrates are a necessary part of a player’s diet in order to retain energy for longer periods. During quick and intense bouts of exercises like sprinting, which is very common in football, carbohydrates are the only fuel that is capable of supplying the body with the energy it requires quick enough.
For players who sprint more frequently, such as wingers and full backs, this will need to possibly be managed differently to that of a goalkeeper or a central defender.
Fat is a key energy container, though does not supply energy at the same rate as carbohydrates. Fat can ensure that there is enough energy stored for the long periods of exercise, such as jogging and walking. There are several different groups of fats with some being more beneficial than others.
Proteins will aid in the growth and repair of muscles and ligaments and are a crucial part of an athlete’s diet. It is vital for footballers to identify how they ca boost their strength of their muscles while also being prepared to aid the quick recovery of them after training sessions and matches.
Staying on top
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players to ever play the game and continues to go strong at 37 years of age. He is a top the list for first goal scorers and football betting sportsbooks often reflect this reality.
The Portuguese international has a personal dietician who he has worked with since being at Real Madrid, where he plans six small meals a day to eat every three to four hours. He eats high protein and lots of wholegrain carbs, along with fruit and vegetables. He was well documented during the Euro 2021 tournament moving Coca Cola bottles away from the table he was being interviewed from and told people to drink water.
Clubs will delve into dietary topics fully and will have highly qualified nutritionists on site to work with their players. When Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool in 2016, he brough Mona Nemmer with him, who was previously the head of nutrition at Bayern Munich.
She quickly established dietary plans for each player in the first team squad and has had a great impact in a squad which plays with such high intensity. Players recover well and have been performing at the highest level throughout Klopp’s time at the club.
Jonny Marsh has also become a favourite chef for footballers to ensure the quality of their food in the house is of the highest standard. Trained by Raymond Blanc, Marsh now offers footballers designed meals, based on their favourite recipes but altered to ensure that it based upon their dietary plan.
Footballer careers are being extended due to the attention paid to their diet and general health. It provides them with the opportunity to play the game for longer and at a higher level. Injury risks are limited for many with this attention, as they strengthen and protect their bodies better than ever before.