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Comment: Matt Lawson - Diet for Football

Tue 15th Aug 2017 | Football Club Management

We speak exclusively to sports dietitian, Matt Lawson as the new season starts with a bang.

When asked about diet and nutrition services for the 17/18 football season, the answer is easy. There has never been a more exciting time, or a time when we, in the diet and nutrition world, have so much to offer players. My career has taken me to work with the very best and brightest in professional sport, including international athletes both here and in the USA.

Yet sometimes it can be as simple as reminding a footballer that in this fast paced life, we make time for good food, rest and relaxation, using our physical health to support mental health while being mindful of your overall wellbeing.

Periodised Nutrition

In the modern game, players cover more distance, burn more calories and have higher demands than ever before. We therefore need to educate managers and coaching staff about training loads and how we change the diet to set short and longer term targets.

As Sports Dietitians, we are registered with the HCPC, just like doctors, dentists and so on, and we use this specialist remit in the football world to maximise performance. While requirements for every player are individual, the evidence base is there for an energy dense Mediterranean diet inclusive of regular hydration, good quality protein sources, a wealth of wholegrain carbohydrates and vegetables.

Food is best when you know where it comes from, naturally produced, what I like to call ‘real food’. The lifelong approach requires a simple message, listen to your body to support your performance. Understanding your weight, muscle mass, fat mass and total body water are just some of the ways you can learn more about yourself.

  • ‘Break’ the overnight ‘Fast’
  • Eat little and often
  • Every 2/3 hours
  • Go for slow releasing, low GI foods with good quality sources of protein
  • Aim High - 9 portions of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Drink 8 glasses of water per day, add sugar free cordials
  • Green Tea x 2 per day

 

Fuel For Winning

To achieve behavioural changes when working with athletes, counselling skills are imperative. Many commentators rightly debate and discuss the evidence for and against certain types of diet depending on the goals that need to be achieved.

Nutrition is fast becoming the number one issue for sports teams; how do we optimise dietary intake, how do we start good dietary practices early enough in athletes to better develop them for the future? For real success, to achieve real behaviour change and garner the maximum results, athletes need the motivational support and the counselling process from qualified people.

England women’s footballer, Ellen White, who has 56 international appearances scoring 17 goals, and starred at the recent Women’s World Cup and the Euros, talks candidly about the dietary programme we worked on.

She said: “Following the right diet is a huge part of my life. There is no better feeling than when you eat and drink right, which benefits performance.

"As a full time professional footballer, this is now a part of my job on a daily basis. Education is a key part of it, so people really understand clearly how nutrients benefit performance and periodising the diet to achieve different results.”

Elite players should turn down the urges to eat chemically induced, sugar laced, preservative packed foods for more natural foods that have come from the ground, sea, or trees. Listening to the athlete to be able to diarise and prescribe an individualised plan is much more likely to yield success, rather than going into a consultation with a pre-made worksheet, which tells them what you think they should do.

As the new season starts, we will likely see which players are fully fuelled, and ready to maximise their potential. I pay huge attention and analysis, to the final 15 minutes of the 90, when most goals are scored and conceded.

The evidence base is clear; nutrition can be the difference between winning and losing.

Taken from fcbusiness issue 103. Read the full issue here: http://bit.ly/FCBusiness103

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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