FRISCO – It’s no secret that being a top athlete takes hard work and discipline on the pitch with hours of training and gym work week-in and week-out. Their secret to success, though, stretches far beyond their time spent at Toyota Soccer Center.
"The biggest area where we help out [in regards to nutrition] is with the younger guys," said Tracy Coleman, head athletic trainer and rehab coordinator. "They're coming out of high school or still in high school and they don't know what a healthy diet looks like." Aside from providing nutritional guidance to younger athletes, the staff provides the team with healthy meal options before and after training. "Most of the guys, when you get to this level, know what they need to be eating."
Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle give the players the fuel to succeed over the course of an often grueling eight-month season. But what does their daily intake look like? We spoke to a few about their eating habits, game day meals and, more importantly, their cheat days.
Believe it or not, Reggie Cannon has recently tried the ketogenic diet – something the 20-year old Homegrown picked up while training with the U. S. Men’s National Team in January – and has found some success. Consisting of a high-fat, adequate protein and low-carb lifestyle, the diet focuses on foods that force the body to burn fats rather than sugars and carbohydrates.
“This diet is low-carb, so most meals you can only go plus-1, which is 20 grams of carbs. But then closer to gameday and pre-game you can start loading up on carbs more which is plus-2 or plus-3,” Cannon said, acknowledging he missed carbs because they “taste so good.” The results don't lie, though. “I feel a lot more fit and overall I just feel a lot better. I think this diet really helps a lot of people.”
So what does Reggie’s diet look like on keto?
“You can’t really have cheat days on this diet because then your body gets kind of adapted more.” But he says he does indulge in the occasional cheat day, like he did after the preseason game against FC Bayern Munich II. “I had like a pizza and a burger but the next meal I had to go plus-0, which you kind of have to manage it, so that’s the tough part, but it’s a good thing to do."
The veteran defender doesn’t follow any particular diet, but instead subscribes to good eating habits and indulgences in moderation. And while it’s not a superstition, Matt Hedges does have a long-time habit dating back to his college days.
“I don’t eat before training,” said Hedges. “In college I got on a schedule. We trained so early that I wouldn’t eat and that’s just how it’s gone since then.”
The center back runs nearly four miles in training each day, and then refuels his body with AdvoCare right after. “I’ll have a few protein shakes. Probably like 2 or 3 of them.”
The team works with a nutritionist to provide meals for the players at Toyota Stadium. However, if Matt eats at home, he has an easy, go-to meal: a sandwich.
“If I go home, I’ll have sandwiches, normally. I’m a big sandwich guy. I like to snack on Uncrustables. For dinner my wife and I cook normally, we don’t go out to eat very much. She likes chicken kabobs. We also make chipotle chicken bowls.”
The 19-year-old midfielder follows a reasonable diet, but notably, Paxton Pomykal is a creature of habit. He does have a cheat meal now and then, but don’t expect him to be indulging in chocolate anytime soon.
“Every morning before training, I have two eggs and toast and vitamins, then I drink AdvoCare Spark,” he said. “After training, I drink an AdvoCare Ready-to-Drink protein shake every day, and then eat whatever is provided here, trying to get a good balance.”
So, what does a teenage athlete snack on outside the walls of Toyota Stadium? “I really love nuts and pretzels, cashews and yogurt.”
Those healthy eating habits also come with a small indulgence from time to time.
“My favorite food in general is chicken wings.” Paxton says he’ll usually have chicken wings after a match (with ranch dressing for those wondering). But don’t expect him to put in a dessert order anytime soon, “I’m not a huge dessert guy. I don’t like chocolate, but I like strawberry desserts.”
For goalkeepers, their body composition is inherently a little different than that of a field player, with goalkeeping coach Drew Keeshan explaining the “need some storage of fat because you’re landing quite often.” But the bottom line is, “A diet should be personalized. What does your ‘keeper need?”
Goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck balances a healthy diet that’s somewhat normal and expected of any athlete.
“On a usual day, I’m going to wake up and eat oatmeal with peanut butter and honey, and that’s my breakfast. And then after training I’ll have a protein shake, drink lots of water and AdvoCare OTG (a sports drink supplied in the locker room).”
As for his lunches and dinners, he mostly eats salads or soups, along with a protein - preferably turkey, chicken or steak. But don’t count out the carbs. “I always like them, so I always get pasta when it’s an option. And then veggies, usually broccoli, Brussel sprouts, roasted carrots or squash.”
The healthy eating habits don’t come without a few indulgences from time to time. In fact, Kyle is quite the baker and is known to bring his homemade treats to the locker room on occasion. “Sometimes cookies, pies, cakes, whatever. Usually I’ll make one every few weeks.” With everything in moderation, of course. “I’ll have a little piece every day or every other day as my cheat.”