The Blues use a holistic approach to healthy eating at the club, as nutritionist Ollie Turner explains to BUT in an exclusive interview
Chelsea aim to win, which means constantly striving for excellence on all fronts.
Indeed, talk to anyone in Cobham and they will tell you that they want to be the best at everything they do.
This doesn’t just mean finding and recruiting the best young talent, it’s also about improving and honing their skills.
It also means educating them on what it takes to reach the highest level, showing that what they eat plays a key role in their performance.
“There’s a no-nonsense approach,” said Chelsea nutritionist Ollie Turner. OBJECTIVE.
“We have a team of practitioners: James Collins is the strategic manager; Andy Casper is there for the first team; and I’m the academy nutritionist.
“The idea is the same philosophy, the same approach to food, from the under-9s to the senior team. We really try to integrate good nutritional practices into the players.
“For me in the academy it’s about preparing the guys for the rigors of the first team. So they have to have the knowledge and the skills.
“Knowledge can be what types of food to eat and when. Skills are cooking, which we train just like football itself.
“We can show kids what the first team does before and after games, and apply that to their own preparation.
“The club works extremely hard to develop not only footballers but also rounded human beings. You really get that sense at the club and nutrition can play a part in that.
“The culture around nutrition is like the general culture of the club. It’s not a specific request but it’s ingrained.”
The commitment to healthy eating is underscored by the fact that the club’s team of chefs are not only responsible for looking after the elite senior teams, but also hundreds of underage children.
“We have a whole catering team led by James Adlan who is doing a very good job,” Turner added. “I’m in constant contact with the chefs to come up with new ideas. We do things like breakfast specials.
“The night before a game can be high in carbs, like pancakes with maple syrup and fruit. We like a variety of lunch meals for players and explore different flavors for players.
“We have a lot of different cultures in our academy, so it’s important to keep everyone happy. As for the people who eat there, it’s all the club’s players from the under-12s onwards. The canteen can sometimes be very busy!”
“We also provide snacks like flapjack bars and energy balls, which are made up of dates, fruit jars, snack-a-jacks and rice cakes, so players can snack on them as well.”
Clearly Chelsea’s approach is working, considering Mason Mount, Reece James and Ruben Loftus-Cheek currently fly the academy flag in Thomas Tuchel’s first team, while fellow Cobham graduates, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham, also excellent in Serie A. .
Turner is quick to point out, however, that while they want to instill healthy eating habits in all Chelsea players, they aren’t being too hard on youngsters.
“As practitioners, we are aware that we are not the food police,” says Turner. “These guys are kids growing up so they don’t always eat to perform.
“It’s broken down into different areas with where the kids are in their development, so under 9 to under 12 is very education-based.
“From under 13 to under 16, we are getting more specific and introducing recovery strategies.
“From 18 to 23, it becomes very individualized because people are at different levels with knowledge, skills and what they need.
“When it comes to going out and getting a McDonald’s or things like that, I’m aware that it’s okay sometimes.
“It’s about giving knowledge about what it will do to your performance and it naturally helps people turn to fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein and different types of grains like whole grains.”
As well as the club’s impressive in-house approach to diet, it’s also worth noting that the Chelsea Digital Ventures unit has branched out into creating consumer-focused products.
Alongside two apps, Perfect Play and C-Score, is a range of sports supplements called Blue Fuel. Such is the quality of the product, the club use it from the under 18s, with players constantly receiving the products around their matchdays to use to enhance their own performance.
However, it is also sold to the public and Chelsea believe Blue Fuel can become another big moneymaker in the future.
“We recruited people like head of sports science Jack Christopher and club nutritionists, and we did blind taste tests with players and got feedback from staff,” says Emma Barraclough, head of product.
“You can’t get a tougher audience than Chelsea players. An amateur can take it two or three times a week, but our players use this stuff every day. So you have to have standards with what they make.
“We wanted to cover a full range of energy, hydration, protein and recovery, all while making it taste great. It comes with an app that allows you to monitor intake while creating meal.”
Chelsea believe their holistic approach to nutrition can help the club achieve the marginal gains needed to continue to compete with Manchester City and Liverpool in all aspects of the game.
For Les Bleus, a good meal can be the difference between winning and losing.
For this reason, while Chelsea remain hungry for success, their players are always well fed.