Published on November 18, 2013 | by David Petter0
Nutritional benefits paving the way to on-field success
Reading FC’s head of science and medicine, Ed Franklin, has stressed the importance of players refraining from smoking and drinking if they are serious about succeeding as a professional footballer.
“In football the financial rewards are phenomenal, but in the same breath it’s a ruthless business and you could be out of the game in a flash,” Franklin told Arts London News.
Franklin, who also assists in the day-to-day coaching of the Championship club, is seeing first hand the rewards of his beliefs as Reading lie sixth in the table after a tremendous start to the season.
Reading have produced a long line of quality players, including top strikers Kevin Doyle and Shane Long. The duo were part of the group of young players who benefited from their time at the Reading academy where they were educated on what to eat and how they should be looking after themselves on and off the field.
Franklin instigated two programmes called ‘24/7 Pro’ and ‘Eat To Win’. Each programme lists precisely what is the best way to get the most from your body and how this gives the players the best possible chance of making it as a top-flight footballer.
“We expect our players to follow the club guidelines of ‘24/7 Pro’ and sleep professionally and train professionally,” said Franklin, a life-long Reading supporter.
Nowadays if a player is seen to be not looking after themselves as they should, they are instantly panned by the media and punished by their club, which is something that the coach agrees with.
The debate over a healthy lifestyle for players came into focus again recently after Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was photographed smoking outside a London nightclub – despite claims by the England midfielder that he was only holding the cigarette for a friend.
Immediately after the picture was published on the front and back pages of the national papers, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger announced he would be talking to his midfielder about his action, as he believes that smoking is not in the best interest of either club or player.
Lifestyle and culture has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, when as long as players turned up and performed on the day, coaches and the general public didn’t really take note of what the players got up to in their own personal time. The 90 minutes on a Saturday was all that really mattered.
“Long gone are the days of drinking after games, eating takeaways and going out till the early hours of the morning,” Franklin insisted.
“Back in the day footballers were never really idolised as much or seen as role models but now being a Premier League standard footballer means you are a role model to millions of people all around the world.”
Franklin added, “The public are more likely to copy their actions and attach the reputation of that player to their club.”
“Also the amount of games that professionals have to play now, what with League Cup and internationals, there is more need than ever to maintain that high level throughout the season a player must take extra care in how they look after themselves.”
Wilshere certainly isn’t the first Premier League player criticised for living an unhealthy lifestyle, as many other top-flight players have also been singled out in the past for not behaving as might be expected away from the training ground.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s newly published autobiography he criticised former Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich for being “a terrible professional” and claimed just before a game away at Wimbledon that he was “tucking into everything, sandwiches, soups and steaks.”
Franklin wholeheartedly believes having an increased knowledge of nutrition will ultimately benefit players on and off the pitch: “Every professional club should have a nutritionist which will only aid the development of players and gain the one per cent extra of fitness that coaches are looking for.”
Path to success
The club’s academy players are expected to follow these two programmes:
The main point of the programme is to teach the players from a young age that it isn’t only training and match performances that make you into a top level player, it’s diet and lifestyle also.
1) Periodise energy and carbohydrate intake according to the fuel demands of training and competition
2) Consume fluids and carbohydrates during prolonged training sessions to support hydration and fuel needs
3) Consume nutrients after training sessions or matches to target elements of recovery – this includes fluids and electrolytes for rehydrating, CHO for refuelling and a source of high quality protein to promote muscle adaption.
4) Prepare for matches with CHO intake for the player’s needs. Look to start loading meals 24 hours prior to kick off.
5) Choose a pre-match meal according to the time of day, 3 hours before kick-off.
6) Develop a plan for eating and drinking during games.
7) U18+ can consider use of sport supplements: Gels, drinks and bars
8) Start cooking: enjoy being in the kitchen.
This programme teaches the players that they are a professional off the field not just on it.
• Players should take pride in looking after themselves; what time they sleep, how long they sleep, whether or not they socialise on certain nights, drinking habits etc.
• Also they are taught they are always in the public eye nowadays and are an ambassador for the club.
• Players are responsible for how successful their career ultimately is and their lifestyle needs to reflect a professional lifestyle.
• Try to stay out of publicity