Lloyd Parker, who is working on his PhD by studying the nutritional needs of female soccer players, took on the job at the club five years ago. While the team had sought nutritional advice from a well known academic, that consultant was only on site one day a month. As a result, Parker said, the situation when he arrived was a shambles.
Little thought given to nutrition
“It was a quite underutilized area when I arrived. It was quite undervalued and undeveloped, I’d say,” Parker told NutraIngredients-USA.
“A team of us arrived around four to five years ago now. We set about trying to raise the standards of food in the club, from the first team all the way down to the academy and in the women’s team as well,” he said.
Over a year Parker and his team upgraded the level of food at the club and improved the facilities in which it was made. When Parker started at the club little more thought was given to how the club fed the players on whom it was spending millions of dollars than an elementary school might on its marching band.
“It went from kind of a school canteen to actually looking like a restaurant. It took about a year and we revolutionized the food over that year. It went from really bland food up several notches to really performance food,” Parker said.
Research on energy expenditure
In addition, Parker facilitated ground breaking research to measure the precise energy expenditure of the team’s academy members, who are teenage professional players participating in the club’s structured training program, which is a standard feature of many professional soccer clubs. The research found the youths were expending as much as 5,000 calories in a typical day of academic study and sports training.
“It really provided us some food for thought about we were providing to them to make sure they don’t break down and that they develop as they should,” Parker said.
Supplements making inroads
Parker said rugby as a sport in the UK has been quicker to adopt dietary supplements as part of its feeding strategy for players. But supplement use is gaining ground rapidly among soccer players as well, which Parker said can be something of a two edged sword.
“That can be positive and negative,” Parker said. “I think now there is a lot more outside noise about supplements around the players.”
Parker said he strives to make sure that supplements players may be exposed to from friends, family and others are made with the right ingredients to meet minimum quality standards. With the players getting more information about supplements, and buying and being offered them on their own time, it has become an ever bigger part of his job just to figure out what players are receiving.
The new devotion to supplementation has helped the club hold up under a more hectic than usual playing schedule brought on by the pandemic. Everton is fighting for one of its highest placings in years.