Teaching athletes how to eat for maximum performance

By Sergi Bonillo, Food and Beverage manager at Academia Sánchez-Casal, Barcelona.

In the Sánchez-Casal Academy, we have the firm belief that in order to reach maximum performance level and develop in the best possible way, young sports players must be educated in the field of nutrition. Our aim is to teach them how to choose the right foods for each period of training and/or competition, and to follow a diet which reflects the continuous changes that happen on a daily basis in their sporting lives.

The objectives of nutritional training are:

  • Learn the food groups according to their nutritional characteristics.
  • Understand the concept of a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Know the recommended servings and frequency of meals.
  • Distribute food correctly throughout the day into 5 or 6 meals, adapted to the player’s timetable and the content of their training.
  • Know how to modify the volume of food to ensure energy levels are high enough depending on the cycle of training.
  • To raise awareness, and provide guidelines, for hydration in different situations and environmental conditions.

It is our belief that nutritional education is not a passive action but something that requires active participation of the individual. It is important that players acquire the theoretical knowledge to put the proposed nutritional strategies into practice.

At Sánchez-Casal we have a number of specific nutritional objectives we aim to achieve with our players, through the different programs that we offer:

  • To ensure players acquire the basic information and knowledge of the training process and metabolism of energy.
  • To highlight the relationship between the nutritional plans and performance.
  • Establish appropriate diet monitoring systems for reference and check the results obtained.
  • Provide accurate information on the virtues of certain supplements and ergogenic substances.

Nutritional Education in the Sánchez-Casal annual program

Going to the dining room is one of the most important parts of eating properly for our athletes. When our players eat at the Academy’s sports dining room buffet, we have available a series of special monitoring and follow-up measures for each student, which aim to set parameters and achieve the objectives outlined by the Sánchez-Casal nutritional training.

Between 8-12 years old: Children aged 8-12 have a more rigid and controlled plan, in which we encourage the children to open their minds and try new flavors and textures in the food we offer, which is based on the Mediterranean diet. We encourage the habit of eating a varied diet, and emphasize the need for each meal to contain all the food groups.

Between 10-14 years old: At 10 years old we give the player the opportunity to choose their own food and actively participate in creating their own menu. Our focus is for them to be much more aware of their choices, as well as how to rectify them if they deviate from their nutritional needs.

From 14 years old onwards: From 14 years old we stress that the player is old enough and has the experience to make decisions for themselves and choose the foods that best suit them, respecting their decisions if they are informed of the consequences.

Servicios de nutricion

Our objective is to provide nutritional advice so that the players can manage their diet individually and independently, and take on board a base of knowledge which includes the consequences of not following a healthy diet. This is sure to have benefits on players’ health and their performance in sport. The dining room regulations are established with the head of nutrition at the Sánchez-Casal Academy, coaches, personal fitness trainers and supervisors, and assisted by trainees studying a Master’s course in Sports Nutrition at the University of Barcelona.

In the dining room, the players can rely on the knowledge and support of the professionals that help them, asking questions and raising doubts with those who are present to advise them during mealtimes.

The annual program also includes talks on nutrition and diet, advice and hydration recommendations.

To complement these services included in the annual package of the player/student, we have a program available to deepens understanding of nutrition and the personalization of nutritional and dietary services.

Our sessions on sport nutrition

The pack of sessions on sport nutrition is made up of a series of theoretical and practical sessions that teach students how to eat a balanced diet and reach maximum performance with a complete and varied diet. These sessions are held in groups of up to four players accompanied by a tutor.

The sessions are divided into 4 blocks, with one training session per block and each session lasting 60-90 minutes.

  • BLOCK 1: A balanced diet.
  • BLOCK 2: Hydration and sport.
  • BLOCK 3: Nutritional strategies for competitions.
  • BLOCK 4: Ergogenic nutritional support in sport.

The sessions include:

  • Didactic material.
  • 1 individual personalized visit with a dietician specialized in sport nutrition.
  • Interaction between sessions.
  • Tests for nutritional monitoring.

Personalized diet consultation

We offer the possibility of individualized consultations that provide detailed information on food habits, meal timetables and physical exercise.

  • Diet analysis.
  • Includes anthropometric measurements (weight, height, bioelectrical impedance analysis).

Monitoring consultations

  • Personalized food plan.
  • Anthropometric measurements (weight, height, bioelectrical impedance analysis).
  • Diet guidelines for before, during, and after competitions.
  • Follow-ups and adjustments to food plan.


Sergi Bonillo

Food and Beverage manager at Academia Sánchez-Casal Barcelona

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