“Nutrition is the players’ fuel”

Talent and hard work at training are key factors in the success of a high-level athlete. But each detail counts to make your performances better. Off the field preparation is just as essential to succeed in reaching your goals as an athlete.

This season, the Montreal Impact Academy has added Gladys Dibling, a nutritionist intern, to its team. Her mission is to establish a nutritional education with the young players.

“I saw right away what I was going to put in place here,” said Gladys Dibling. “I want to teach the players that nutrition is not a constraint but something fun that can really increase your performance and push you closer to the high level. After, I have to be there to follow up with the teams.”

Dibling did a bachelor of science in France before starting a nutrition bachelor degree specialized in sports, in Montpellier, where she was able to do different internships and reach multiple areas of work.

“I work in the hospital environment and in restoration, but my goal was to work in a sports structure. I started with an internship at FC Metz. I was in charge of the U19 team over there. Then I did an internship in Montreal at the Peak Centre of high performance, where I was able to see a different nutrition culture that wasn’t present in France, which pushed me to find another internship in Montreal. I think we don’t give enough attention to nutrition in sports in general.”

Dibling argues that before becoming a professional player, it’s important to have a certain vision and be conscious that nutrition is a performance factor that can’t be neglected.

“Nutrition is the players’ fuel and energy. A healthy, natural and adapted diet helps reach different sports goals. It also plays an important role in the recovery process. We tend to forget this, but during the physical exercise, the athlete will draw in his energy reserves. To have an optimal recovery, three criteria have to be taken into consideration: the reconstitution of glycogen reserves, which is a fundamental aspect of recuperation, hydration and the reconstitution of muscle fibres which are affected by the effort.”

Each sport has specific nutritional needs. The ones of a soccer player differ from the ones of a tennis player or a body builder. Different muscle groups are affected and different physical efforts are made. It’s the same with the goals, giving another way to recover for the body.

Soccer teams such as the ones at the Academy often have to deal with constraints, for example the ones they see on the road. Anything unexpected can come to interfere with the plans for a healthy and precise diet in preparation for a game. 

“There’s always a way to adapt to trips. People often think nutrition is limited to specific food. To deal with the trips and the unexpected, players can always bring oilseeds for example, which is a food rich in plan proteins and quality fats. You also can’t neglect fruits, rich with water, vitamins and minerals.”

The Academy nutritionist intern also insists on the notion of fun linked to nutrition. Players put their body and mind in a stressful situation during the physical effort. Nutrition then becomes a comfort and fun element for the mental recovery.