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A turning point in my football career…

October 2013. I was a few months into my first football season in the Championship with AFC Bournemouth, I had a 2 year old and my wife had given birth to our second daughter only weeks before.

I was physically and mentally pushed. I was so aware that this was a pivotal time in my life and football career. I had dreams to play in the premier league and a young family to support. I developed a now or never mentality. I knew this was my opportunity to reach my goals and I needed to do absolutely everything possible to not let this moment pass me by.

Although I was more than holding my own playing in the Championship for the first time, I knew that if I wanted to reach the premier league it would require so much more of me. I needed to up my performances and my recovery in between games.
I started to analyse everything I did. I was looking for any small improvement I could make in my life that would give me an edge on the pitch.

I always gave my all in training and in the gym, I had moved into the spare room to ensure I was getting a full night’s sleep for recovery, I religiously did mindset work and was in a good place mentally, it was then that I realised I hadn’t really considered my diet and how that might be effecting my performance and recovery.

I had always relied the chef’s at work or my wife at home to prepare my meals for me. I was never a ‘bad’ eater and it didn’t really cross my mind that I could do better. I did what I had always been told – I carb loaded before games and I ate my 5 fruit and veg a day.

Knowing what I do now, this was holding me back from reaching my full potential.
I was uneducated and making poor decisions without even realising it.

This is when I decided I needed to be responsible for my own health, I needed to hold myself accountable and make my own choices when it came to what I was putting in my body. I had heard the phrases ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘food is fuel’ so many times and not taken the time to really think about what that could mean for myself as an athlete.

‘An evening free from darts and football’. This is a photo that my wife posted on her Instagram 7 years ago today – it shows me at our dining room table studying nutrition to take my football career to the next level.

I started by googling things like ‘What should a footballer eat in a day’ and ‘Foods to recover after a football match’.

I soon realised there was so much conflicting advice out there. I needed to get back to the basics and learn about how the body works and how what we feed it affects us. I needed to educate myself so that I could make informed decisions for myself, rather than taking someone else’s word for it.

I found an online 18 module nutrition diploma and decided that would be a great place to start. I would study on away matches and in the evenings and was surprised at how much I enjoyed learning this topic.
I was keen to implement some of the things I had learnt and started to help with the cooking at home. This was something I had never done before but I quickly fell in love with being in the kitchen and it wasn’t long before I retired my wife as the family chef.

I would spend hours looking at recipes online, watching videos and TV shows trying to pick up new skills and improve my football career. It’s incredible what you can learn on YouTube.

Over time this then moved on to reading books, listening to podcasts about nutrition and getting creative in the kitchen with my own recipes. I was always looking at how I could make our meals at home healthier without them becoming boring or lacking flavour. I became so aware of what I was eating, when and why. I was purposeful with each and every meal.

I had more energy and my performances improved, I wasn’t suffering from brain fog anymore, my recovery in between games was shorter, I wasn’t picking up silly little injuries, I felt fitter and stronger then ever. I achieved my dream and was playing regularly in the premier league, and best of all, I felt like I belonged there. I didn’t feel out of place playing against some of the most talented footballers in the world. I put this down to the work I put in off the pitch. I wouldn’t of been able to make that step up without educating myself and changing habits in my football career back in 2013.

In 2019 I started my thefoodiefootballer Instagram page. Simply because I was so passionate about what I had learnt that I wanted to share it with others. I definitely got some stick from the lads at work about my love for cooking – but they never complained whenever I would bring things in for them to try that I’d made at home.

Healthy Grilled skewers recipe by The Foodie Footballer.

I wanted to inspire others to think about their health and how they could improve small percentages. I wanted to prove to people that eating healthy wasn’t boring and didn’t mean you had to eat salad every day. I wanted younger players coming into the game to have access to information it had taken me years to learn.

In 2021 I qualified as a gym instructor and personal trainer, as well as completing another nutrition qualification specialising in athletic performance and weight management.
I love to learn and am always looking to improve myself in order to help others.

In 2022 I launched my own online health coaching app where I work 1-2-1 with clients.
I absolutely love this work and find it so rewarding. I work with a real mix of people ranging from professional athletes to older men and woman looking to stay fit and healthy in retirement.

All of this came about because at age 26, I decided I wanted to reach my full potential and took responsibility for myself and my health.

I encourage everyone out there to stay curious, be accountable and always look to improve those small percentages – especially when it comes to your health.

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