Dubai: We have all heard the old saying ‘you are what you eat’, but just how is a Premier League giant like Liverpool Football Club fuelled?
Well, there are departments dedicated to nutrition and a healthy diet and Mona Nemmer, head of nutrition, has been leading the charge behind the scenes at Anfield since 2016.
She was recruited by coach Jurgen Klopp from Bayern Munich having previously worked with the German U-21 national team and recently published her first book, A Taste of the Liverpool Way.
She writes about the health and nutrition regimes used by the Reds and explains how the squad eat the right things in the right way and at the right times.
Nemmer, regarded as one of the leading nutritionists in elite sport, visited the Liverpool FC Store in Dubai Mall recently and Gulf News sat down for a chat…
Was it hard to leave Bayern Munich for Liverpool?
It was Pep Guardiola’s last season at Bayern before he moved to Manchester City but I never considered leaving the club. I was quite happy there but it happened at the right time and at the right moment. It just came naturally and it was the right move.
Were you headhunted for the job?
That’s a question we need to ask Jurgen Klopp! But I believe there were conversations between former players from Bayern Munich and players who played for Jurgen Klopp. I don’t think I was headhunted but obviously in the professional football world there are probably not too many of my breed around. There are a lot of really excellent sports nutritionists but with the combination I had of being the chef and the head of nutrition with an applied approach of a food first philosophy I think that probably helped quite a bit and it worked out.
What are the big differences between the Bundesliga and Premier League?
What we see is that the Premier League has a much higher intensity simply based on the number of fixtures. They are playing more matches a year than they are playing in Germany and that explains why there is such a high demand wherein nutrition can be helpful for better recovery, better sleep, better refueling and hopefully better performances from our side.
Do some players like to cook for themselves?
We have quite a lot of players from the squad who are really interested in nutrition and cooking but cooking is not just fueling and just feeling like your belly is filled up. It is also about relaxing and having something to do with a passion and something to do with emotion and it is a very social thing. It’s nice to have a big table with a lot of people and enjoying good conversation and nice food. For us it is a real big thing to provide education, to provide knowledge around food, and if you know what some foods do to you inside your body it is much easier for players to make a decision.
Is junk food totally banned?
Footballers are professional athletes but they are also normal human beings. So we need to bring in the balance. They know what we are doing for them is to help them in their job but they also like having a normal social life and I think the balance is the key.
What is a typical pre-match meal for the Liverpool players?
Normally we are very creative and attractive and colourful and have different tastes but for pre-match it is really important for us to keep the match routine. So, we don’t have surprises where the bellies are bloated or players are burping or having any discomfort so we have quite a nice match day routine where we know that’s our meal that we provide and then hopefully all goes well on the pitch.
Do you encourage them to try different cuisines when they visit different countries?
Local cuisine is a super important thing to integrate, there is so much to discover around the world – tastes, flavours, textures - and it is also mind opening in a way. There are so many different types of cuisines that are super appropriate for athletes and we try and integrate that in the right way and obviously open up the palette as well.