Nutritional Therapist, Ian Craig talks about the training the Nedbank Keyona team goes
trough and why is it important for a soccer player should live a healthy lifestyle!
SunSport Reporter: What is your role in Ring of steel?
Ian Craig: My focus is completely with the nutritional support of
the players, helping them towards peak health and also improved performance in
training and on the field.
SR: What advice do you have for aspiring soccer players to stay healthy and
IC: When it comes to food, look at what you can learn from your Granny….
Good nutrition starts with the basics - nature made food and not man-made food.
Quality, preferably organic, local and seasonal meat, fish, dairy products,
vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and whole grains.
Contrary to the pitch of the food manufactures,
there’s not too much more to it than that. Of course, the nutrition for each
player needs to be individualised with regards to ratios of carbs and fats
(such as in popular media discussion these days), but the basics for staying
healthy are actually pretty straight forward.
SR: Can soccer players have a big meal a few hours before
IC: This will depend very much on the player. Some people
digest food really readily - I’ve worked with cyclists who can eat a full
English breakfast one hour before embarking on a 200km race. But many people
have a compromised digestion due to competition nerves, so since most football
games are played in the afternoon, I would generally recommend a good breakfast
and a light lunch.
SR: There is a myth that says soccer players shouldn’t
have sex the day before a game because it decreases their performance, is that
IC: That is one of these silly statements that really
needs to be put into context. If a player is up all night, having wild
passionate sex several times, yes there is a good chance that his performance
is impeded the next day. But, if he has sex with his wife or girlfriend before
his normal bedtime and it helps to relax him and have a good night’s sleep,
then it’s definitely a good idea.
SR: Whats your opinion on junk food for players and for
people in general?
IC: Junk food is junk; need I say more? Is that old adage
of the type of fuel you would choose to put in a Ferrari?
SR: What are some of the important points you tell the
players in the ring of steel?
IC: Beyond the basics of day-to-day food, they need to
fuel their bodies properly for training and competition. This requires ensuring
adequate calories to balance daily exercise expenditure - inadequate fuel
intake means a depleted body over time and poor training returns. Protein, fat
and carb needs have to be covered and there are guidelines that help here.
However, beyond the general sports nutrition guidelines, we need a high
priority approach on quality of food and not just quantities of these nutrients
that some sports nutritionists tend to become lost in.
Additionally, as I’ve already noted, each player must
be treated as an individual and the whole team should not be painted with the
same brush - this individual approach should help to get the most out of each
player. In addition to these points, specific sports nutrition is essential -
what they consume before, during and after training and competition - i.e. pre,
during and post-exercise nutrition. I favour the use of DIY healthy sports and
recovery drinks over commercial brightly coloured products that have little
SR: What foods should people stay away from to be healthy?
IC: Junk food….
Sugar in general is a big no-no in general because it impedes health in many
ways, including pro-inflammation, which will slow recovery. Having said that,
during and immediately after exercise, sugar of some sort is important for
performance and recovery - but I favour natural sources such as raw honey. The
other big no-no for a player is processed oils such as vegetable oils (I prefer
olive or coconut oil) and margarine (I prefer farm grade butter). Also,
processed oils get into pretty much any processed (or man-made) foods.
SR: Which food is good for your health?
IC: Any food that comes from nature. Although, some
players will do better on a low-grain diet and others will do better on a
low-animal food diet - this is the importance of individuality.
SR: Are there any food myths that you’ve come across in
your career that made you laugh or ones that are just ridiculous?
IC: Probably the current ones that are floating around:
either fat is extremely bad for your health or it is extremely good for your
health. The same applies to carbs - either it is the elixir of healthy nutrition
or it is the devil’s food. Nature made fats and carbs are good for us in the
right quantities for the right person. Man-made fats and carbs must be strictly
eliminated from a player’s Ferrari body.
SR: What do you want to achieve with the Ke Yona team
IC: Above aiming for health, vitality and peak
performance, my role in life is to educate. That way the players can learn how
to look after themselves while they are a footballer and also throughout their
life, perhaps also empowering people around them along the way.