The Nutrition Secrets of the Premier League's Wolverhampton Wanderers FC

By Dave Colley | 6 Minute Read

We work with a long list of professional teams in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, the English Premier League and beyond but we usually can't name names because we're not "Official Partners" of the organisations.

But, last Summer, we became the Official Hydration Partner of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, who'd just won The Championship and were set to make their return to the top flight of English football (soccer), The Premier League. 

We've known the club's Head of Nutrition, Dr Mayur Ranchordas, for years now and he was keen to personalise the players' hydration strategies ahead of the new season. 

Fast forward 8 months and Wolves are currently sitting in 7th place in the league with just 8 games to go. To put that into context, Cardiff and Fulham - who were promoted at the same time as Wolves - are both sitting in the relegation zone in 18th and 19th place respectively.

 

Raul Jiminez Precision Hydration ad

Raul Jimenez couldn't have positioned his FA Cup Quarter Final winning goal any better for the camera there really could he?!

 

They also recently reached their first FA Cup Semi Final in 21 years, beating league leaders Liverpool and 12-time cup winners Manchester United 2-0 to get there. It's been quite the season!

We caught up with Mayur at the Supporting Champions conference last week and asked him to reveal the nutrition secrets that have helped Wolves perform so fantastically well this season...

 

What are the main nutritional principles you try to get the players to adhere to on a daily basis?

I think one of the main things is to keep things simple and to nail the basics. We try not to overcomplicate nutrition. We take a very much "Food First" approach. Every player has breakfast at the training ground, we all eat together at lunch and I would say at least 50% of the players take food home with them from the training ground at the end of the day. 

One of the main messages we try to get across to the players is that, when you eat, think about building your 'performance plate'. The players know in advance when the heavier days, the double days and game days are and they can plan for that.

Friday is Matchday -1 and so their performance plate will look very different to what it'd be on a Wednesday, for example.

Thursdays are usually a harder day, so again the nutrition plan is constructed differently.

We also try to encourage the players to get more plant-based foods. It's really about teaching the players to unleash the power of food.

 

Do all the players buy in to the nutrition strategies you give them or is there sometimes resistance?

It's a bit like a normal distribution curve. There are a small group of players who are very good when it comes to nutrition, they eat really well, very clean, lots of vegetables and they're very knowledgeable. 

And of course there are players are at other end of the spectrum who struggle to eat plant-based foods, salad, vegetables etc and they're obviously more of a challenge. 

The majority of the squad are somewhere in the middle, where they tend to need some guidance but they are generally quite good with their eating.

At the start of this season we appointed two new chefs and finished a new dining room. It's always a bit more challenging when you're at the start of a new process, but you get to know what the players like and we're able to adapt the menus. 

 

Precision Hydration Wolves drinks

  

What do the players typically eat before, during, after a game?

The players stay in a hotel the night before a game - even home games. From a nutritional perspective, for me, that's great because we can control what they're eating. They're away from distractions and we then control their evening, breakfast and pre-match meals.

Football players tend to be creatures of habit, so we don't change the menus too much. Typically what you'd have on a Friday night is a high carbohydrate meal, typically rice focused. We try and educate the guys to stay away from too much gluten based dishes (pasta, bread etc), instead we'll have gluten-free rice or potatoes or quinoa. 

The breakfast is, again, quite high in carbs. Porridge, cereals, smoothies/juices and so on.

Then the pre-match meal is actually fairly light. Three hours before kick off, we'll serve a bit of a top-up rather than a large plate of food. It's mainly about getting your liver glycogen topped up before the game.

So, it's really the meal the night before and the breakfast that are the key.

 

And what about fluids, what do the players drink before a game?

This is where we're really innovating this season. At the start of the season we got Precision Hydration in to Sweat Test the players, so we've now got a personalised hydration plan for each individual. We know how much salt they're losing in their sweat and we have a pretty good idea of their sweat rates as well.

 

Andy Sweat Testing Wolves' Joao Moutinho

Andy Sweat Testing Wolves' and Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho

 

The night before a game, each player has a PH drink with their evening meal. At breakfast they might drink a smoothie or juice for the carbohydrates but then we switch them back to an electrolyte drink with their pre-match meal.

Moving to a personalised approach has had a really positive impact.

 

How do you use nutrition to promote an effective recovery after training and games?

We break this down into three phases.

The first phase is tricky because the players tend not to want much to eat or drink when they have just finished a game. We try to encourage them to take in a 500ml drink with about 30g of protein and 50g of carbs - your typical recovery drink really. What we're trying to do here is promote protein and glycogen synthesis.

We'll always have a hot buffet in the changing rooms - even at Away games - this'll be healthy finger food like burritos, healthy chicken strips, sweet potato wedges and so on that the guys can pick on. This is phase two.

 

Wolves PH fridge

 

The players are usually in the changing rooms for up to two hours after a game as they might be getting a massage, doing some cold water immersion, doing post match interviews etc. So it's just about helping them get some initial calories, carbs and protein back in at this point.

The third phase is to educate the players on what they need to eat and drink later in the day to aid their recovery and to give them a recovery bag to take home with them. This'll typically include a PH drink and an overnight protein drink to have before bed. We'll also sometimes put some cherry in there as we know that Montmorency cherry helps promote sleep. 

 

It's clear you do a lot to encourage the squad to stick to a performance based diet throughout the season. What happens at the end of the season when the players go off on their break?

At the end of the season we'll do body composition testing (which we also track throughout the season) and we'll give them targets to meet when they check back in for pre-season training at the start of next season. 

They'll also have a loose training programme to follow during their time off after a couple of weeks of complete shutdown. The majority of guys are very professional and will follow that and come back in pretty good shape.

When the players report back, it's all about testing and seeing where they're at fitness-wise and health-wise (both from a body composition standpoint and from an injury prevention point of view).

Off the back of that assessment, each player will get an individualised pre-season training plan. 

 

How much importance does the manager place on nutrition, hydration and sports science in general?

I would probably say that Nuno is the most forward-thinking manager I've worked with. A great thing about him is that he'll intervene when he needs to but he largely lets the team get on with their jobs and facilitates where needed.

 

Are there any other factors you attribute the team’s success to this year?

I think we do the basics really very well and then each discipline adds a layer of innovation on top of that, be that from a medical point of view, or conditioning or nutrition or the psychology side of things. 

And when you get a talented group of athletes who buy into what we're all doing, coached by a very forward-thinking manager and you have a clear set of guiding core principles (train hard, be humble, be respectful), you have a recipe for success.

 

Ok, so who's going to win the FA Cup this year then Mayur?

The smart money's got to be on Wolves!

 

We wouldn't bet against it Mayur! Good luck with the rest of the season and thanks for giving us an insight into how the world's best players fuel to perform.

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