Athletes have to take their diets seriously; their career depends on it. So when you travel to Brazil for World Cup 2014, what do you pack? Your uniform, your shoes, your shinguards, and your team chef and nutritionist of course. Because your chef and nutritionist know what's best for you.
According to the Associated Press, "Long before the U.S. team traveled to Brazil this month, chef Bryson Billapando and sports performance dietitian Danielle LaFata visited the team’s hotels in Sao Paulo, Natal, Manaus and Recife to scour the kitchens and dining spaces and scout food options."
The U.S. has recently put more emphasis on food and the diet of its teammates, which means meals aren't just left up to chance, they're an exact science. Then again, when they came to Brazil, they brought along Cheerios and A1 Steak Sauce. But maybe that's just to have a taste of home. Italians bring along pasta, Parmesan, and yes, wine. England is happy to have ketchup back on the menu now that the current manager lifted the previous manager's ban on the condiment.
Because of their physical activity, the average World Cup player needs up t0 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, a lot more than the average Joe that's not on a world class soccer field. For example, the U.S. team goes through an average of one case of avocados per day.
Having a nutritionist along ensures that the players get what they need nutrition-wise. LaFata won't let them skimp. As Bloomberg reported:
“Is this stir-fry?” defender Geoff Cameron asked, standing in front of the buffet spread.
Cameron made a feeble attempt to stick with the heap of rice and beans already on his plate, alongside a pair of buttered French bread rolls. LaFata wouldn’t let him get away with it. The players, who need to eat every two to three hours, were departing within the hour for the airport and were facing a 4 1/2-hour flight with no hot food.
“You need to eat more than just beans and rice so they’re going to make some chicken right now,” LaFata said. Plain chicken, no teriyaki."
Besides playing the role of nutrient police, having a nutritionist along also ensures that the players are getting a day-by-day plan of what to eat. "Generally, the nutritionist establishes a dietary plan for the squad based on the type of training necessary match by match," Elisabetta Orsi, the Italian team's nutritionist, told the AP. "The physicians are responsible for pointing out problems with individual players so the nutritionist can formulate a specific diet."
The basic policy for the U.S. team is simple: colors. Players are required to have two cooked vegetables in two different colors on their plate. Then they're encouraged to add more from the salad bar. As for drinking, LaFata drags around a cooler of fruit so that she can put fruit in water instead of having the team drink juice.
What about caffeine? She has them on a maximum of three cups of coffee per day. You wouldn't want the team missing out on Brazilian coffee culture now would you?
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Image: Alex Murphy