Saturday 23 September 2017

Liverpool eating their way to success

Klopp’s background is in sports science and he expects Liverpool players to be as well prepared as any of their rivals. Photo credit: Dave Howarth/PA Wire
Klopp’s background is in sports science and he expects Liverpool players to be as well prepared as any of their rivals. Photo credit: Dave Howarth/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp is doing more than oversee a football transformation at Liverpool. The club are in the midst of a food revolution as well.

Last summer, the club appointed their first full-time nutritionist - Mona Nemmer, who was lured from Bayern Munich.

Since then, changes on the training pitch have been replicated in the canteen. Players have been enrolled on food-education courses and provided with tailor-made nutrition programmes. The canteen has been revamped with food 'stations' - hydration, bread, salad and fresh pasta. Tomato sauce is off the menu because of its sugar content and the club also have 'no egg days' ahead of games.

This is far from unique among top-flight English clubs - many have food stations at their training grounds and Manchester City boast two nutritionists on their staff - but Klopp's conditioning team, led by another summer recruit from Bayern, Andreas Kornmayer, are setting the bar higher.

The club have entered a partnership with nutrition company Science in Sport, who list Chris Hoy, Andy Murray, Team Sky and 34 of Team GB's Olympic medallists from Rio among their clients.

The timing was appropriate - not only as Klopp sought the right fuel for this season's title bid, but because Liverpool were still reeling from the failed drugs test of Mamadou Sakho at the end of last season.

Although Sakho was exonerated over his use of a slimming pill, his subsequent exile from first-team duties demonstrates that Klopp took a dim a view of the circumstances surrounding that controversy.

Klopp's background is in sports science and he expects Liverpool players to be as well prepared as any of their rivals - not just tactically, but physically. For that, they must all assume more responsibility about what they consume.

"It makes a massive difference," says Ted Munson, a performance nutritionist at SiS. "If you have a highly paid young player who thinks of the game solely in terms of skill and technical ability, how do you motivate them to eat well? It is education."

The SiS partnership is essentially about providing Liverpool with elite-grade supplements. But in individualising nutrition programmes, Liverpool are going further than before, with players urged to reassess their diet to suit their role in the side.

"There are positional differences that will make a difference to a diet," said Munson. "With GPS tracking, you can now highlight differences in the metabolic needs of a player.

"A full-back will use more energy than a player in another position, for example. It's a completely different role and needs a different type of athlete. Full-backs who are sprinting up and down more than others will burn most energy.

"Strikers might need more power to challenge centre-halves, so you would increase their protein intake to strengthen muscles. Those who cover more of the pitch might take more carbohydrates.

"That kind of data takes time to collect and a huge buy-in from the club.

Marginal

"Nutrition is marginal gains. Players can coast by without thinking about nutrition - I've seen that -but they're missing out in particular on maybe five to 10 per cent, particularly at a time where a game could be won or lost in the last 10 minutes.

"A lot of clubs have now gone into creating food stations -protein stations, hydration stations, etc. Psychologically, when you're hungry, you will pile on your plate more of what you see first. A day before a game, you will see more carbs available."

As the Sakho case demonstrated, there are serious considerations when monitoring a player's intake and Munson revealed: " A recent study with 150 supplements from supermarkets and health food stores found one in 10 contained a banned supplement."

So far, Liverpool's players have responded with enthusiasm to the changes, which mean that the training-ground canteen is now as integral to the collection of Premier League points as the boot room.

© Daily Telegraph, London.

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