#Expert knowledge

James Collins on nutrition in football

James Collins, 20 Jun 2024


Today, elite sporting performance is synonymous with healthy eating. However, this wasn’t always the case. In the following presentation, James Collins, Managing Director of INTRA Performance Group, recounts nutrition’s progress in football over the last 20 years and sheds light on areas where development in this field is still needed.

At the INTRA Performance Group, Collins works with top clubs and associations to roll out more advanced nutritional practices. In what follows, Collins uses his expertise and that of his organisation to present a clear roadmap for any nutrition practitioner, club or association looking to deliver an effective nutrition strategy within their organisation.

The available evidence tells us youth players do not eat sufficiently to meet the high energy demands of maturation and training.
James Collins

Watch presentation

Part 1: The evolution of nutrition in football
Part 2: Training and matchday nutrition
Part 3: Embedding nutrition within clubs

Read summary

Part 1: The evolution of nutrition in football 
Collins explains that nutrition hasn’t always been such a prominent feature of elite football. As recently as two decades ago, nutrition had negative connotations for coaches, who felt a nutritionist’s primary role was telling players what not to eat. However, nutrition as a pillar of performance eventually began to gain traction. Collins cites his time working at Arsenal with Arsène Wenger as a period where the sport started tapping into the benefits of good nutritional practices. In 2020, Collins led the UEFA Expert Group Statement in Elite Football  a consensus that updated the best practice guidelines for nutrition in football across Europe, marking a major milestone for the field. Today, nutrition in football is relatively established, but still one of the sport’s newest domains.

Part 2: Training and matchday nutrition
A key role of a practitioner is to help players periodise their nutrition according to their performance needs. Collins explains that periodisation accounts for the physical demands of the particular training or matchday in a similar way that coaches periodise their training sessions. Matchday nutrition brings unique challenges to practitioners as they must ensure players eat their pre-match meal three to four hours before kick-off. Another essential responsibility of the practitioner is considering a squad’s cultural tapestry and subsequent eating requirements. With the high number of expatriate players in top divisions, this is a comprehensive task.

Part 3: Embedding nutrition within clubs
In part 3, Collins lays out INTRA Performance Group’s three principles for embedding an effective nutrition service within a club (see image below). He stresses that clubs need to pay extra attention to how they deliver nutrition to youth players as energy expenditure increases with age. Research has highlighted that U12 players exerted 2800 kcal per day, whereas this increased to around 3500 kcal per day in U18 players – comparable to or exceeding senior English Premier League players. Currently, many youth players aren’t consuming the amount of food they require to fuel their high-energy demands, which can have several serious health and performance consequences. To combat this, INTRA Performance Group use a competency framework to educate youth players on nutrition throughout their development.

About the expert

Rate your experience

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.