There are many factors that explain a football team’s success and one of the most important is the nutrition that fuels the players who step onto the pitch. At LaLiga Santander club Granada CF, there is a clear understanding of how vital efficient nutrition is to performance and therefore they are bringing technology, artificial intelligence and big data into the processes that shape the players’ diets.
Over the past few years, the club from Andalusia have incorporated biomechanical analyses, body composition analyses and genetic studies into their diagnostic procedures, helping them to build a detailed database with information on every player. By keeping track of metrics such as weight, body fat percentage, skin mass, muscle mass and intracellular and extracellular fluid, Granada CF have all the information they need to calculate what and when their players should be consuming.
As club doctor Manuel Arroyo explained: “Those of us in Granada CF’s medical services have been working over the past four seasons on combining the experience of our medical professionals with the latest scientific developments in the field of nutrition. We have three main objectives: to preserve the health of our players; to treat and prevent injuries as much as possible; and to help improve sporting performance by looking after the fine details. To detect the fine details that can boost sporting performance, it’s necessary to use different technological solutions.”
During the coronavirus lockdown and the busy run of fixtures that followed it, Granada CF took their monitoring of player fitness to the next level. They worked in partnership with the University of Granada to bring artificial intelligence into their processes and to develop Readiness Soccer, an innovative app that helped them track and monitor their players at the start of 2020. So successful was this project that it was recently showcased at the Wanda Congress.
Doctor Arroyo added: “The next step is for artificial intelligence to help us organise all the information we have, to make it relevant and useful for our objectives. We have started this in the past few seasons. In the coming months, our objective is to increase the number of variables that are specifically adapted to the unique aspects of this field. As part of this, we’ll look at nutritional variables related to our players’ daily consumption, both in terms of quantity and quality.”
As part of this evolution, Granada CF are partnering with Tabalú, a foodtech company that specialises in nutrition for sports. They’ll work hand in hand with club staff to prepare all the footballers’ meals, those that are consumed at the club’s facilities as well as those taken home. Working with the club doctors and the available big data and technology, they will develop specific plans for each player and use artificial intelligence to automate processes, identify patterns and plan in an efficient way.
This investment in the nutritional needs of the first-team squad will pay off in the long term for Granada CF. As club nutritionist José María Giménez explained: “Those of us involved in the players’ nutrition must work with them every day to facilitate the correct intake. With the help of the coaching staff, we plan weekly menus based on the stage of the season we’re in, the number of matches played and the workloads of the training sessions. It’s important to supervise the body composition of the footballers, given the biomechanical and metabolic impact this has on their sporting performance.”
Giménez continued: “Each player’s daily diet will on depend on different factors. One element is their genetic predisposition. Another is the stage of the season we find ourselves in, meaning there will be variety based on collective and individual requirements. We need to provide nutrition that ensures recovery is right, which reduces fatigue and the risk of injuries. For this, quality food, hydration and supplementation are fundamental.”
As Granada CF and other football clubs manage to automate and streamline some of these nutritional plans, sporting performances should improve and injuries should become less frequent. This, logically, will be good for the sport as a whole.