Football - The European Experience
When the 2016 football calendar came to an end, I decided it was time to tick a big solo Europe trip off my bucket list. The trip was mainly a holiday, however I also visited some elite European sporting organisations while I was there for some professional development. I was fortunate to organise time at Arsenal and AS Roma with members of their respective high-performance teams to talk all things athletic performance nutrition. While I was excited to simply gain access to the facilities, and spend time with some very experienced professionals, I was particularly keen to discuss what these clubs were doing from a food service and injury nutrition point of view.
My first visit was to the Arsenal training facility where I spent an afternoon with James Collins who is the club Sports Nutritionist. Gaining access to a club such as Arsenal can be very difficult, and there are often strict rules and regulations on when a visitor can attend the venue and what they are able to see. Given all of this, I was very appreciative to be allowed the opportunity to visit the training facility.
Later in the trip, I stopped in Rome for a few nights, where I was able to spend a full day at the
AS Roma training facility. Darcy Norman (Director of Performance) and Ed Lippie (Head Performance Coach) were very welcoming and introduced me to the athletic performance team, including the Sports Nutritionist, Guido. I did, however spend most of my time talking nutrition, hydration, supplements, and body composition with Darcy and the team doctor, Helge, as the Nutritionist could only speak minimal English, and my Italian, unfortunately does not extend beyond the basics.
Similar to Arsenal, all of the facilities were very impressive. The supplements room, which housed all of the snacks, supplements and sports-drinks, was large, new and well designed. The Nutritionist at AS Roma has worked hard to ensure every player has an individualised fuelling and recovery plan, which he is responsible for delivering every day. Similar to Arsenal, the food service program was extensive, with a number of meals and snacks being provided to the playing group each day. My own experience in this area is most elite sporting clubs in Australia might be able to provide a few subsidised meals to players each week, not a number of meals and snacks per day, at no expense to the athletes.
Overall, the time I spent at Arsenal and AS Roma was insightful and stimulating. It was an amazing experience to see the training facilities and hear about the level of servicing, such as the quality and frequency of meals, which are provided to the athletes at the big European football clubs. It was also pleasing to realise the main difference in these nutrition programs really comes down to funding, and that the key components and foundations are similar to those I am familiar with.
This article was published in edition #150 of the Sports Dietitians Australia's (SDA)
online publication FUEL. You can download the entire edition by following the link below: