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Saturday, May 23, 1998 Published at 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK

Sport: Football

The menu for World Cup success
image: [ Glenn Hoddle is a strong believer in the use of specialised diets ]
Glenn Hoddle is a strong believer in the use of specialised diets

There is an old adage that you should always go to work on an egg. However, England's football squad will be going to work at next month's World Cup on a plate of broccoli.

David Seaman talks about the Arsenal diet
The performance of the Arsenal football team was transformed this season by the introduction of a very strict diet - along with an innovative training schedule.

The Gunners' new manager Arsene Wenger laid down the law to his players and they responded with a cup and premiership double. Now their championship-winning regime is likely to feature highly in the England camp during France 98.

Not only is the England manager Glenn Hoddle a big admirer of the techniques employed by Wenger, his old boss at Monaco, but Arsenal's club doctor Dr John Crane will be on hand to advise the England team.

The Arsenal squad eats a diet that is high in carbohydrates, but low in fats and protein.

Where footballers once lived on a diet of steak, the Highbury players are more likely to eat boiled white meat, such as chicken or boiled fish, served with mashed potatoes and boiled vegetables - particularly greens like broccoli. Other favourites include rice and pasta.

Alcohol is frowned upon and fluid intake is tightly controlled. Meals are eaten approximately three hours before a match, and nothing is eaten within an hour of the game.


Wenger's methods have been greeted with astonishment in some quarters.

[ image: Powered by broccoli]
Powered by broccoli
But according to John Brewer, head of sports science at the Lilleshall Sports Injury and Human Performance Centre, the Arsenal manager's methods are nothing new. In fact they have been widely accepted on the continent for some time, and are commonplace in this country in endurance sports such as marathon running and long distance cycling.

Mr Brewer, who has helped football's world governing body Fifa to draw up guidelines on nutrition for the last two world cups, said: "Carbohydrates are the main fuel a footballer who is playing and training regularly needs.

"Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in the muscle, and glycogen is needed for sprinting and for slower running. The body only has a fairly limited store of glycogen and towards the end of a 90-minute game of football, it is quite likely that those stores will be emptied.

"Research shows players with a very high pre-match glycogen store are the ones that maintain a high work rate throughout a match. Conversely, those with the lowest stores flag towards the end of a match. If you do not start a game with a full store of glycogen you are going to look tired before the game is up.'

Crucial to England

A sensible approach to fuelling the body helped Arsenal power to the Premiership title, but could be even more crucial to the success of England's world cup bid.

[ image: England and Arsenal keeper David Seaman was sceptical at first]
England and Arsenal keeper David Seaman was sceptical at first
Statistics show that 40-50% of goals are scored in the last 20 minutes of match when glycogen stores are depleted - players get tired and make mistakes.

Teams that do not take care of their diet are at a considerable disadvantage when playing just once a week, and during the world cup teams will be expected to play every few days. "Restoring carbohydrate stores are absolutely crucial to improving recovery after a match," Mr Brewer said.

"If players do not eat carbohydrate in the first 4-5 hours after a match has finished, it could be 2-3 days before they are fully recovered. If they do eat within that time, they could be recovered within 24 hours.'


According to Mr Brewer the other major factor which must be rigidly controlled in France is the amount of fluid taken on by the players.

"July in Paris can get extremely hot and it will an additional challenge will be to ensure the players do not become dehydrated. A proper intake of fluid by all the players will be absolutely critical, and during training it could be as high as 2-3 litres an hour.

"If the players become dehydrated they will find it very difficult to run fast, they will get tired very quickly and their heart rate will be higher. They could even overheat, a condition known as hyperthermia.

"It will be very important to weigh the players before and after training to get a feel for how much fluid they lose, and the old tea urn in the dressing room should go out window in favour of properly formulated sports drinks."

BBC World Cup Site: Hoddle Warns Gazza

BBC World Cup site: Gazza on 20 a day

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