We spoke with Juan Morillas, nutritionist at AS Monaco, and discussed the importance of good nutrition for footballers, the nutritional challenges faced by a top flight teams and how Soccer Supplement® products help keep the players on top form.
How would you describe your role as head nutritionist for AS Monaco?
My job here with AS Monaco is challenging. We have to control a lot of things around the team. For example, we have to manage the body composition of players and control the food that they have in the training centre and also at home. And we can’t forget the travels and hotels.
How important is good nutrition in developing a professional football team?
In my opinion nutrition is one of the key elements for performance. There are 3 or 4 things that are so important, and one of the pillars is nutrition. It can have a very significant impact on the performance of players.
How has nutrition in football changed over the years?
When I started 15 years ago I can remember that nutrition in football was not so developed. No teams had nutritionists and so many players had no one to control this aspect of their training.
What does a typical day of eating look like for AS Monaco players?
I try to control all the meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and adapt these to the needs of the day. Different days will have different energy expenditures, so I explain to the players what they have to eat for each day.
What is the biggest challenge you face when trying to get players to follow a specific plan?
One of the most difficult things is working with a player’s culture. We have footballers from a lot of different cultures and we have to adapt the nutritional plan to respect this but still provide what the player needs.
AS Monaco choose Soccer Supplement® as the club’s sports nutrition supplier. What do we offer that makes us the ideal performance partner?
I really like the wide variety of products Soccer Supplement® have. Also, the composition of those products are nice, and so specific for soccer, for football.
It’s the day of a big match. How do you prepare the players so that they have enough fuel for a tough 90 minutes?
Normally 24 hours provides enough time to store fuel for the match, but you do have to increase you intake of carbohydrates during this 24 hours. I control what the players take and amount they will need for the match. Drinks are an easy way to build carbohydrate stores, such as Hydrate90®.
What would be your ideal pre-match meal?
I try to explain to the players that the pre-match meal should usually be the same each game, so that they are used to it and do not suffer any gastrointestinal issues. Normally I will look for food that is easy to digest, with a lot of sugar or carbohydrates to restore glycogen levels. Basically a meal that is easy to digest and full of carbs.
How do you make use of Soccer Supplement® energy gels/drink in the build-up to a match?
A thing that I like about the Soccer Supplement® gels is that there is a choice between caffeinated gels and non-caffeinated carbohydrate gels, so there is a choice depending on the player and the match situation.
What role does caffeine play in your pre-match preparations?
To me caffeine is one of the most important supplements in football. It’s well known in science that caffein is a very good supplement for performance because it gives the player a boost and wakes them up. I usually give the players caffeine gels before the match, and sometimes during halftime. Of course I control the quantities depending on the player.
At halftime, how do you ensure the players have enough energy to perform in the second half?
Halftime is a very important moment during the match. As the players come back into the dressing room you have to gauge their feelings, depending on whether they are winning or not. I usually follow a protocol at halftime, giving players space to breathe and then giving giving them carbohydrate drinks or gels to restore their energy quickly for the second half.
Why is water usually not enough for hydration during an intense 90-minute match?
It depends on the weather and the player. Different players have different sweat ratios and this can change depending on the temperature. If they’re playing 16 to 30 minutes water might be enough, but when they play 60 minutes or more they can sweat a lot, so we have to control it more. If a player loses a lot of minerals like sodium and calcium it can negatively impact their performance, so we follow a protocol of hydration before the match and at halftime, and if we can we also use short stoppages in play.
When the match is over, which Soccer Supplement® products help the players recover?
After a match I usually give the players a smoothie of protein mixed with carbohydrates, for recovery. It helps to get the protein system started.
It’s a rest day. How does a player’s nutritional needs differ when they are not training or playing?
I have to explain to the players that on a rest day they should eat differently to a match day, or the days before and after a match. With Covid they pass a lot of time doing nothing on rest days, so their energy intake should be in keeping with their energy expenditure. If energy expenditure is high, energy intake should be high. If energy expenditure is low, energy intake should also be low.
How do Soccer Supplement® products make a difference to the player’s day-to-day health and recovery?
It’s important that players have the right minerals and vitamins. Vitamins are important for the immune system, so with the vitamin range we can be sure that they are covered.
What advice would you give to an amateur footballer who wants to enhance their own match day preparation?
Visit a sports nutritionist to get a guideline to follow. After this, follow the same routines as professionals. The keys are good nutrition, good carbohydrate stores and supplementation that could help during key moments in the match.