Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Vicky Losada, star soccer player and midfielder for Manchester City and the Spain national team, is a standout on the field. With an international career spanning the 2000s and 2010s, Losada has scored goals in countless games – including impressive performances in the 2018 Cyprus Cup, 2019 Algarve Cup and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Such an extraordinary athlete needs the right fuel to hit every training session and game with strength and energy (and can’t overlook the all-important recovery). So, Clean Eating had to ask: How does Losada manage to stick to healthy habits while training hard?
Losada shared her favorite tips for sticking with a healthy diet even in the midst of a demanding schedule with CE, giving us a sneak peek into what she eats and how she preps for her biggest games. Even if you’re not a pro footballer who’s playing multiple games each week, you can eat and hydrate like you are! Whether you’re hitting the gym for one seriously tough workout or trying to balance a hectic schedule, try her tips to keep clean, healthy habits at the forefront of every day.
1. Eating right is key for performance and recovery
In order to be able to perform at her best and stay healthy, Losada puts nutrition first. “I think nutrition is one of the most important things in my career,” she shared. “We play a lot of games, sometimes three games in eight days, and what I eat helps me to recover 100 percent.”
Without the right fuel – clean, good-for-you foods and a balanced diet – you’ll face potential challenges like a lack of key strength-building nutrients and much-needed fuel. Choosing the right foods can help you boost your endurance and stamina, enhance your performance and even prevent fatigue.
And when your workouts are over, what you eat afterwards is just as important. Just like Losada mentions, your recovery is tied to how you eat. The right foods, like those rich in potassium and calcium, can help you increase recovery markers within your body so you can bounce back and hit the field (or gym) again tomorrow.
2. Plan ahead – but adapt when your needs change
The perks of meal planning are endless! We’re big fans of prepping your food in advance and planning your meals from breakfast to dinner weekly at CE, and it’s a process that can save you both time and stress. And when you’re a pro athlete who’s clocking entire days in practice sessions on and off the field, planning ahead is even more crucial to ensure you’re getting nutritious meals without sacrificing even more energy.
That’s why Losada turns to meal planning herself. “For me, it’s easy because my team gives us food before and after training or on game days,” she says. “It’s hard to cook if you don’t have time. I try to organize my week and cook some food in advance to use during the week.”
As Losada recommends, in addition to meal planning it’s a good idea to find an eating approach that can meet your needs. But just because it’s planned doesn’t mean it should necessarily be set in stone. “I follow a diet plan to make sure I eat what I need in different moments of the season. A specialist helps me every day, especially on game days. We always talk about how I feel, how hard I think the training sessions and games are, and from there, we keep working daily to find the best way to recover and also perform my best.”
You can use this very same approach when you’re meal planning and prepping. Ask yourself if your workouts have been tougher lately, or if you’re trying a new kind of exercise. Are you training for a marathon or an upcoming event? Is building strength or increasing your energy most important right now? You can choose a meal plan and dietary approach that will satisfy those changing nutritional needs.
And should you decide to switch things up again in the next weeks or months, you can adapt and swap your meal plan too. Changes happen, and changing your plans to suit new nutritional needs is a smart move to ensure you’re feeding and fueling your body with what it needs at the moment.
Don’t forget to check in with an expert, too. “Not everyone needs the same, the ideal is always asking a professional in nutrition to help you the best way possible,” Losada notes. If you’re planning to overhaul your diet and need a new meal plan, you can ask a dietitian for the best approach. And when you’re an athlete hoping to hit new goals, a strength-building or recovery meal plan may be a fit for your unique nutritional needs.
3. Save time and opt for filling, grab-and-go snacks
The busiest schedules require smart snacking, and that’s why Losada likes to rely on grab-and-go foods that can be eaten anywhere. While having meals planned in advance is hugely helpful, quick and easy snacks can help you stay satiated, especially when you’re burning a lot of calories and nutrients while training.
“There are good healthy snacks for those times when you are busy,” she suggests. “One of my favorite snacks are nuts, especially pistachios. It’s a healthy snack, easy to bring with you anywhere and full of all the nutrients I need.”
Crunchy, satisfying and packed with a whole lot of potassium, Losada’s go-to snack pick is perfect for athletes. Pistachios offer an impressive 36 percent of your daily recommended potassium, a key nutrient for anyone who’s looking for better post-workout recovery. Plus, 1 cup of pistachios offers 25 grams of protein to satisfy hunger and 13 grams of dietary fiber – totaling 50 and 52 percent of your daily totals for these must-have nutrients, respectively.
Snack on these great-for-fitness nuts, and you’ll get a solid serving of the nutrients you need for performance and recovery. And, as Losada notes, you can opt for salted or unsalted varieties depending on your day-to-day sodium needs.
If you aren’t eating nuts, you can look for other grab-and-go snacks that offer similar nutrients. Dried fruits and bananas are also potassium-rich, and they’re easy to carry with you. Protein-packed Greek yogurt and lean meat jerky are great options if you’re looking for an increase in protein. Just make sure you’re keeping it clean by choosing products that don’t contain unwanted extras like added sugars or artificial additives.
4. Don’t overlook hydration – or rest!
You already know that sippin’ on enough water each day is key to keeping your body and all of its most important functions running smoothly. But when you’re working out or training, pushing yourself to new heights of strength and success, Losada points out that you’ve got to make hydration part of your regular routine.
“Always hydrate, especially before and after training and games,” she suggests. Make sure you’re carrying your reusable water bottle with you when you hit your neighborhood streets to train, your local gym for a tough workout or even your living room when you’re getting an at-home workout in.
And while it’s tempting to want to keep pushing yourself to build strength and get in another workout or training session, you can’t forget to rest. When your body rests, it rebuilds and recovers – critically important details that will help you get up and perform again tomorrow. As Losada notes, “For me, it’s very important to have good rest every day.”
So, let yourself take a break (especially when you’re feeling tired!).
5. Protein and healthy fats are must-eats before and after tough training
Speaking of protein, you can’t overlook the importance of this crucial nutrient when it comes to exercise. And exceptional athletes like Losada depend on protein to stay satiated, strong and at their peak performance.
But protein alone won’t provide everything that a pro soccer player needs on the pitch. That’s why Losada opts for a balanced diet that prioritizes protein alongside healthy fats. While she supplements extra protein for her training, the rest of her diet is made up of balance and fresh, high-quality foods.
“Some of the foods that are in my diet are vegan protein, sometimes chicken and fish, rice, potatoes, healthy fats and fruits like papaya, pineapple, banana or red fruits,” Losada says. Together, these foods create a well-rounded mix of nutrients that can fuel everything from day-to-day life to the toughest practice sessions or workouts.
Along with strength-building protein, healthy fats help athletes of every kind fuel up. And when you opt for the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in foods like fish and olive oil, you’ll deliver nutrients that can help deliver the energy you need for moderate-to-intense training.
And you can’t overlook the benefits of carbohydrates found in potatoes and rice or the vitamins and minerals provided by fresh produce. Both help round out the rest of the energy-boosting, recovery-fueling nutrients you need when you’re pushing yourself to reach new physical heights. You can support your fitness goals best with any diet style – but one that’s clean, nutrient-forward and easy to stick with can help you keep overall health in mind too.
Vicky Losada will be live on Facebook for the Friday Fuel-Up on February 4, 2022.