By Ryan Bailey

Sports Dietitian Alicia Fogarty focuses on the performance and health needs of Charlotte FC’s Academy teams. Fogarty is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a licensed dietitian with the North Carolina Board of Dietetics, and a certified specialist in Sports Dietetics with a masters in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.

What exactly does your role with the Charlotte FC Academy entail?

I work with the Academy teams in understanding how nutrition can support their performance. Last fall, I provided a series of group education sessions to explain good nutrition habits and how an elite athlete should fuel and hydrate their body.

Following those sessions, I started working with individual players to help tailor their nutrition planning, taking into consideration their individual preferences, health information and many other components that impact food choices.

I also plan the game-day snacks and travel meal options when the teams are on the road.

How important is nutrition in soccer?

While nutrition is important for all athletes, soccer is an endurance-based team sport with explosive movements including sprinting, shooting and jumping. There is also a need for mental quickness. This requires fueling with the right types of food and well-timed hydration.

Nutrition is also very important at the Academy level, as the players are all still growing. It is vital to ensure they are getting the nutrients that they need for both performance and growth.

I have truly enjoyed being part of Charlotte FC and seeing the attention to detail that helps create success. Nutrition plays an integral role.

Are diet plans tailored to specific players, or positions?

The foundation of good performance nutrition remains the same, but the individual implementation is where I have worked with the players. Each athlete is different in terms of age, height, weight, growth, position, food preferences, tolerances, school schedules, sweat rate and many other factors.

Also, working with a great coaching team has been helpful in implementing these strategies. For example, using data to determine which players are doing more sprints or covering more distance in a game will ultimately dictate how much energy they need to consume. This is very helpful in giving the players direction for game-fueling tactics.

What does the typical daily diet look like for an Academy player?

This will vary, but we focus on some key concepts:

– Try to eat within an hour of getting up in the morning
– Eat regularly throughout the day, typically around every three hours
– Have a pre-training, carbohydrate-based snack to “top off the fuel tank”
– Recover with a meal or snack within 30–60 minutes of training, and eat quality protein and carbohydrates within two hours

We talk a lot about how exercise can create inflammation in the body, and the nutrient-rich foods that can help with recovery. We also talk a lot about how much quality protein, carbohydrates, and fat they should have, and make sure they are monitoring the signs of adequate hydration.

I will say, the players are very dedicated, and have also done a remarkable job with learning and implementing the suggestions we have discussed. They have indicated they have more energy, they maintain their energy levels, and don’t think about their stomach while on the field.

Do the players have ‘cheat’ meals?

We don’t necessarily use the term ‘cheat,’ but we do discuss the ’80/20′ rule. This means they focus on good options for fueling and hydration 80 percent of the time, and 20 percent of the time they may have what would be classified as their ‘fun’ foods. I encourage them to lean into the 80 percent in the periods before and after training and games.

We have some great personalities within our Academy teams. How enjoyable is it to work with this group?

I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the players! There have been times in my past when people I work with worry their favorite foods will be taken away, or that they need to ‘”go on a diet,” but the coaches and players have been very receptive to working with me.

Food is such a personal matter and everyone’s choices are so vastly different—and they can be tied to heritage, past experiences and many other factors. I have enjoyed getting to know the diversity of food culture that the Academy teams have.

Finally, how do you define success?

For me, success can be found in how you navigate challenges. Life is full of obstacles: I feel that it’s how you deal with those obstacles that can create success.