one-time player and sports nutritionist AARON PORTER is the latest person to answer Gavin
When did you first start to take an interest in sport and nutrition?
When playing football I always thought about what I was eating. But it was probably towards the end of my sports science degree that I really grew into it. I was fascinated by the elite end of sport and what allows people to reach and stay at that level.
I think the fact that nutrition is a significant factor in health and performance of all athletes interested me the most and I wanted to understand how. And the fact that I love food!
What things, or people, have been instrumental in building your knowledge base around the area?
Professor Graeme Close and Prof James Morton from Liverpool John Moores University played big roles in my decision to go down the nutrition route and offered a lot of support throughout the degree. My uni mates were great to bounce ideas off and to share practical experiences with.
Since joining Peterborough United, James Baum has offered me no end of support, allowing me to grow as a nutritionist and develop the role at the club.
Alongside this my coaching role at ICS has really developed my coaching and my personal skills to work with people on an individual level.
While at university getting degrees in sports and exercise science and sports nutrition, you did a work placement with rugby league club Toronto Wolfpack. Tell us about that experience.
That was an insightful part of my development as a nutritionist. I was completely new to rugby league, so spent some time researching the game; but it wasn’t until I got there that I appreciated the physical demands of the sport.
I took away a lot from working alongside established nutritionist Andy Kasper and it was interesting to see how the club operated on a day-to-day basis. I worked with players and staff to assess body composition and provide support.
You’re now a nutritionist at Peterborough United’s Academy. Who do you work with and what sort of information are you passing on?
I work with the u9s just starting their academy journey up to the u23s, who are pushing for first-team places. I deliver a mix of presentations, practical activities and cooking sessions with players, parents and coaches.
In the younger ages it’s focused on the foundations of the whats, whys and whens of food groups for health and development. With the older squads it is an individualised programme with a performance-focused environment, bridging the gap to the first team set-up.
Ultimately it’s trying to develop individuals with the knowledge and skill set to make informed choices about their nutrition to maximise health and performance.
Does the role offer similar rewards to coaching with ICS?
Yes because I’m really passionate about nutrition and love the idea that I could help these individuals develop. If I can improve their nutrition knowledge and skill set, this can be beneficial in life away from football as well.
Seeing some young players genuinely excited about nutrition sessions and having enthusiastic parents is a great boost for me.
You’ve been a tidy player yourself and have featured for Swaffham Town. Do you still play or have other things taken over?
No, I don’t play any more. That faded out during university, and was taken over by jiu jitsu.
However, running is now very much No.1. I’ve been running since the start of 2020 and haven’t looked back. I’ve done a couple of half marathons and completed my first marathon in Liverpool last October.
At the start of this year I started running with Renegade Runners, which has been really enjoyable to run with other people. I always like to challenge myself and running with others pushed me to my limits and helped me improve.
You’ve completed one marathon, how often do people underestimate or misunderstand the amount of fuelling required to achieve their goals? How was the experience for you?
Fuelling a marathon correctly is vital to achieving your goals. I think it’s more people not being aware of how much fuel you actually need as an endurance runner, not only in the marathon but during training as well. Carbs will be your best friend so spend time practicing nutrition in training.
I loved the whole experience of my marathon; the training, the build up, the event. I am now training for London in October, where I’m raising money for Sarcoma UK in memory of Mark Doades and aiming for a new personal best time. To sponsor him, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/Mark-Doades
You’re already working in the professional game but where would you like to be in five or 10 years?
I would love to be working as a nutritionist in a full-time capacity. This is growing in elite sport and the need for it across football clubs is there. I would like to be involved in a first-team set up to really experience the matchday buzz.
I would also love to branch into other sports, endurance athletes interest me a lot with the direct impact nutrition has on performance.
Longer term this could be my own consultancy business, working with different teams and athletes, but I don’t like to look too far into the future.