Wolverhampton Wanderers FC enjoyed a 2018/19 season to remember as they finished 7th in the Premier League and qualified to play Europa League football for the first time in 39 years.
PH are the Official Hydration Partner of Wolves and we caught up with the club's Head of Nutrition, Dr Mayur Ranchordas, to take a look behind the scenes of the nutrition and hydration strategies of pro footballers...
Hey Mayur, let's start by taking a look at what a typical day in your role as Head of Nutrition at Wolves looks like?
A typical day would involve coming in to the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground for 7.30-7.45am (depending on the traffic) and I usually start in the office for the first 20 minutes to catch up on emails and general admin.
From 8.15am, I’ll set up in the dressing room where I’ll take players' body weights and body fat measurements, and have a general catch-up with everyone before training gets underway.
I’ll pop into the physio room as well and see how the injured players are getting on and if there’s anything I can do for them. Basically, a lot of the small educational conversations happen during this time in the morning.
Whilst the lads are out training, I’ll usually catch up with my admin tasks like menu planning for the next few weeks; so plan for home games, away games, food for on the coach, food for on the plane when travelling by air, post-match foods, snacks and so on.
This is usually a good time to write any individualised programs for players and catch up with the chefs to talk about the following week’s menus.
During lunch I’ll be in the canteen trying to influence the player’s choices depending on what the goals are that week (i.e. if there's fixture congestion with lots of match coming up I might focus more on recovery foods) and I'll also give out supplements to the lads.
And when it comes to match day, what will the players be eating and drinking when preparing to play the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and co.?
Match day is usually quite simple. We don’t mess around with the menus too much as the players really like their routines.
Breakfast is usually a mix of porridge, bircher muesli, fresh fruit and eggs, with some players preferring an omelette or scrambled eggs. There will be a probiotic drink, yogurts, fresh fruit juice or smoothies.
Lunch is usually either rice and chicken or pasta (some players have gluten free pasta) with a turkey bolognaise. We try to avoid red meat and other heavy fatty foods on a match day.
A PH drink is given to players during dinner the night before the match and again with their pre-match meal as part of their hydration preload.
How have the players responded to their personalised hydration plans and do they take ownership of their own hydration strategies?
We monitor the hydration statuses of the players a day before match day and advise accordingly, although I try and educate the players on how much (and what) they need to drink throughout the week.
We test their hydration status before games and adjust their drinking strategies accordingly.
We educate them as much as possible by measuring their sweat rates, and PH tested our players during pre-season so all of the lads know their individual sodium losses and they each have their own hydration plan.
There's been great buy-in to the hydration side of things from the players. A 'one size fits all' approach doesn’t work so when you give them an individualised plan the buy-in is better and results in more effective behaviour change.
Do the players get to enjoy many 'cheat days', perhaps during the Christmas period for example, or do they follow a strict diet throughout the season?
We had too many fixtures over the Christmas period so we couldn't really afford to have any days off or 'cheat days'. We always try and incorporate some cheat foods within the menus during this time, so we might put on a chicken curry with rice or healthy pizzas after matches. And duck pancakes are a particular favourite.
At the training ground we also put on some healthy desserts like cheesecakes and mousse, but sneak in extra protein and polyphenols by tweaking the ingredients.
So, when it comes to the players' nutrition, what areas do you particularly focus on? I read recently that players can cover 9-12km and expend around 1,100 calories during a match (as well as ~3,500 calories during daily training)...
We periodise our kcal and macronutrients depending on what is happening in the week. For example, when we have two fixtures in 3-5 days we will increase the calorie and carbohydrate intake, and then during the recovery phase we 'up' the amount of protein they take in.
The squad have already been on a few far flung trips for Europa League matches this season, but has it been difficult to keep the players appropriately fed and watered when faced with the challenging logistics of travelling long distances to varying climes?
It's tough but it’s the same for all the teams that play in Europe. We stick to the basics and do them well, and bring in any innovative strategies when we feel they might add some benefit.
We plan ahead as much as possible and the chef travels with us which makes things easier. Whenever we fly we control all the drinks and meals on the plane, and when we get to the hotel our chef will already be there so it’s a pretty smooth operation.
We try and keep on top of the lads by nudging them in the right direction when it comes to hydration, fuelling, and recovery strategies.