When Matt Jones ruptured his cruciate ligament twice before he turned 20, any hopes of becoming an elite athlete faded.
Fortunately for him, the silver lining was right in front of his eyes. The industry has not been cut off from him forever.
“During the second period of recovery, I started reading about nutrition because I was being treated by physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches and even had discussions with psychologists, but no one ever told me what to eat,” he says. Sky Sports.
“Then I found myself gaining weight very quickly as I switched from incredibly high energy expenditure to incredibly low energy expenditure while on crutches.
“I became fascinated by the impact of nutrition on health, performance, recovery and injury as well. In those days – about 15 years ago – sports nutrition wasn’t a real thing, so I went for an undergraduate degree in sports science, which was fairly general and then moved on to get My Masters in Nutritional Science, because it was this Sports Science degree that really led me to Sports Nutrition being the thing I was interested in.”
As he has built a reputation for himself over the past decade, Jones has worked in Brazil, UAE, Saudi Arabia and the USA, but since the summer of 2019, he has been working as a sports nutrition consultant in the Premier League with West Ham.
He spends two days a week at the Rush Green training ground in Hammers, where he works as part of the performance and medical team. So what exactly does the role include?
“I love spending time in the different areas where nutrition can affect,” he explains. “What I often do is a theory session as a group, which can be like a traditional lesson with presentation. Sometimes, I will record a video and share it with the group.
“This will be the first week of a month-long cycle and the second week will be more of a hands-on session, you could be in the dining room. We can talk about carbohydrates as fuel and how you have a small fuel tank in your muscles that fills up when you eat carbohydrates, when you do any activity Capacitor, gasoline tank goes down.
“So after 70-75 minutes of intense football work, for example, the fuel tank is completely empty and the players will suffer from fatigue. Consuming more carbohydrates in the days leading up to the match will ensure that the gas tank in the dining room is full, I would like to point out. to the different carb options and I’m talking about portion sizes and that kind of thing.
“In the third week, I will probably be on the grass with the guys, noting the intense action, for example, you just did a 10m sprint, so your fuel tank is down x percent. This is a chance to think about how to get fast fueled On the plane at half-time or during game breaks, like gels, or eat carbs to fill up those fuel tanks.
“Next month, I will take up another topic and go through the same process.
“Recovery is also a big component of what I do. If I visualize an important pyramid, the foundation would probably be sleep. The second layer would probably be nutrition, refueling, repairing damaged muscles, reducing inflammation and rehydrating.”
“We try and encourage players to make rehydration their number one priority as soon as they wake up. You can get mildly dehydrated in your sleep, but we don’t want them to wake up in the middle of the night and start drinking.
“Before their big toe hits the planet in the morning, they need to drink 500ml of water, for example. One of the first signs of dehydration is general lethargy and fatigue. This is the number one basic behavior we need to instill in players.”
In the grand scheme of things, the idea of focusing on nutrition and its impact on performance and recovery – among many other aspects – in football is still in its infancy. “When I started my career, I was there to help people lose weight. Now it’s about tuning the athletes,” Jones says.
As a result, his work, at this point, is largely based on education. And to be able to learn successfully, there must be a subscription from the players themselves.
“The purchase is huge,” he adds. “It ultimately stems from the relationship you build with the players and the trust you build.
“Changing a behavior requires three main things; opportunity, stimulus, and ability. Opportunities come from the environment, education, and, in some cases, persuasion. Motivation is the reason to do it. The ability is to give them the skills and shape the environment necessary to change those behaviours.”
“In the early days, I realized I needed a strong philosophy that I could come back to all the time, almost like a sunflower test. My philosophy is simple, purposeful, and purposeful.
“I was lucky enough to go and work in Brazil with Flamengo and they had no idea what I was talking about, so I quickly realized that everything had to be simplified and it also had to be in the language of football and food as well. Instead of talking about 30 grams of protein, you have to talk In food terms, say one chicken breast or one salmon fillet.
“The players in Brazil just want to play football, so it has to be in the language of football as well, so that the carbs allow you to run for an extra 10 minutes and play football for 10 minutes longer.
“There is much greater focus and appreciation for the impact of nutrition nowadays. There are role models within clubs and outside of clubs within football in general, like Cristiano Ronaldo, for example. Back in today, nutrition can change body weight a little bit, but now people They really understand the real impact of nutrition.
“Now I have 18, 19 – even 16 – come in and ask how they can eat better to improve their performance. Then you have more time to help them because you can help inculcate new behaviors and new habits at a young age that will put them in a really good place to move on. ahead.
“It also came from former players turning into coaches. They’ve tried working with sports nutritionists, feel the difference themselves, start evaluating it and then start introducing within the clubs they now run. They are cultural engineers.”
Interestingly enough, the work does not stop at the end of Jones’ working day. “It’s a good job I love what I do because WhatsApp messages start at 4-5pm!” Flirting.
Players are left to their own devices the second they leave the training ground, or stadium after a game, with several private chefs assigned to prepare their meals from the comfort of their homes.
It is his relationships with these individuals, often fraudulent outside office hours, that could prove pivotal in solidifying the work he and his colleagues did earlier in the day.
“We are in direct contact most weeks, if not most days because they are a really important part of delivering our nutrition plans and interventions to the players.
“We have a list of club-certified chefs, but in the end, it’s up to the players because the chefs are going to have specific kitchens that they specialize in, so we try to connect them in that way. He’s a Michelin-starred chef. They’ll literally go home, sometimes every evening, and cook for them.”
“Salmon is always a good choice after games because it is a great source of omega-3s, which helps reduce inflammation, soreness and muscle damage. Doses of curcumin and turmeric can also be beneficial, and then also polyphenols like berries, cherries, dark chocolate and pomegranate.”
But in the end, the extra work certainly contributed to the greater good.
This is Jones’ fourth season with the East London side and in the last two seasons, they have finished sixth and seventh in the Premier League.
“It’s wonderful,” he adds. “By working as part of the Performance and Medicine department, you work hard and want to see the impact of that hard work.
“It’s hard to objectively say how much work you do, so performing on the pitch, individually and as a team, is one of our best marks.”