The all new, all balanced soccer diet

21st January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Real Madrid has hired a chef to ensure optimum performance from its players.

21 January 2008

MADRID - "You are what you eat," the old saying goes. And a lot of first-division soccer teams are taking that very seriously - not least Real Madrid. Two months ago, the club put chef Jesús González on its payroll - or Chechu, as he is known around the Valdebebas training ground - to prepare daily lunches for the team under the supervision of the nutritionist Luis Serratosa. As Serratosa explains: "After so much physical exertion, recuperation is fundamental. And at the foundation of solid recuperation are good dietary habits and rest."

Real is currently the only club to have an in-house chef, and also offers its players the chance to eat their regimented and specialised meals together after practice. The benefits of the philosophy are best explained by Real's physical trainer Walter di Salvo: "Now we can control 80 percent of what a player eats without driving them crazy, and also helping them a lot."

At the training grounds, Chechu begins preparing the day's menu around 7.45am. The players arrive around 10am to begin their training sessions, and leave around 3 or 4pm, in time for their afternoon nap. They spend a total of six hours at the ground - which some say is beginning to look like the cohabitation model followed in England's Premier League, where team meals are a habit like any other.

Javier Lozano, in charge of Real Madrid player relations with the club, says: "More than a forced-model, it's a common sentiment. None of this is obligatory. We have decided to make it voluntary, because it's better to do things by mutual agreement than by imposition."

At some of the other Spanish clubs, nutritionists and dieticians are also taking more of an interest and imposing more control over their players' dietary habits - although none have gone as far as to hire a team chef. Spanish bocadillos, or hero sandwiches, have not disappeared from the diet of Real rival Barcelona. But thanks to the watchful eye of its nutritionist, they are also accompanied by pasta, rice and sushi.

At Sevilla, team nutritionist Antonio Escribano has become famous for his porridge, which the players eat at half time to regain strength. Escribano, who also sends intricate food-preparation details for hotels to follow for away games - including having them peel all tomatoes to avoid gases and cut them into small bits for easier digestion - has also proposed the idea of delivering catered meals to the houses of each player for lunch and dinner. But at the moment, his ambitious plan has been limited to doling out daily alimentary guidelines to the players.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / E. GIOVIO / K. RAMUNDO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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