Week of the dietitian: day 2
This week is the week of the dietitian. The next 3 days we will post an interesting article about the work of our dieticians Jonas Melis and Lander Van Genechten in the sports world. Today, it’s mainly about what a football player eats during a match day.
Yesterday, we already talked about the basic nutrition, but we also briefly talked about specific nutrition. What does specific nutrition mean?
With sport-specific nutrition you are going to personalise and time your training. It is logical that you will not feed a goalkeeper the same as a striker. Equally, you do not give the same on a training day as on a match day. At the right times you give certain players sports drinks, gels, bars and shakes. On match day, the equipment men get a schedule, so they know when to set up and take out which sports nutrition. In this way, the players can only get the right sports nutrition at the right time.
What does a match day look like?
About 3 hours before the match, the players are served a carbohydrate-rich meal. Unlike the rest of the week, we give them hardly any vegetables and less meat or fish. Traditionally, the meal is white pasta with tomato sauce and possibly a small piece of chicken. After that, the players can eat rice porridge. Not exactly healthy daily food but exactly what the players need at that moment. When the players arrive in the dressing rooms, they can have another bar or banana and a sports drink. Just before the warm-up and the match, they can also take extra quick sugars in the form of sweets, gels and sports drinks, which also remain available during half-time. Immediately after the match, the players are given a shake which meets their needs at that moment. The composition of the shake will be different in weeks when a midweek match is played. After that, the players will be offered a meal.
That all sounds very good, is there nothing that can be improved according to you?
Of course there is room for improvement. When we first started here, we immediately had lots of ideas on how we could do things differently and better. We tried to change a lot right away and then you notice that you run into resistance. Sometimes you really have to balance between old habits and well-founded innovations. We then considered where we could have the greatest impact in the short term. We then started from there. On the other hand, you have to be tough as a dietician, you don’t always make yourself popular by making certain changes. Players have to understand that you are there to make them better and to get the most out of their career, you are not there to become their new best friend. In this way, the team also gets better and you can create added value for the club.
Do you put all players on a strict diet?
No, certainly not, there is room for most things. It is mainly about the timing. After the match, we sometimes eat pizza or rice cake. That is when the players have just made a heavy physical effort and they can use the extra energy. During the rest of the week, we try to offer a healthy and varied diet. Sometimes we also serve classics such as stew or ham rolls but then with a healthier twist. When a top athlete has to perform, it is not the intention to really go on a diet. If a player needs to lose weight, this is actually something for during the preparation or winter break. During the season you keep the players as fit as possible and you peak towards the match every time.