Alberto Mastromatteo is one of football’s biggest nutrition gurus who helped Karim Benzema play the best football of his life in his thirties… now Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham – and England
- Benzema attributes part of his success to putting the chef in charge of his diet
- Bellingham uses the same chef and has enjoyed a great a start at Real Madrid
- Inside Postecoglou’s Tottenham: IAKO looks at culture and philosophy changes
When Karim Benzema began playing the best football of his life in his thirties – winning the Ballon d’Or at 34 – he attributed part of the success, to having put top chef Alberto Mastromatteo in charge of his diet.
Now Mastromatteo, through his company Summumm, is advising Jude Bellingham as the England midfielder takes La Liga by storm with 13 goals in 14 games. Sports Mail spoke to one of football’s most important nutrition gurus.
Competitive sport is about the finest margins and Mastromatteo believes footballers are slowly waking up to the idea that diet can be just another tool in the battle to be the best.
‘It is the great forgotten aspect in the world of football,’ he says. ‘In Europe we still have to improve this a lot if you compare it to what already happens in the United States.’
Things are changing however and he believes around 70 per cent of top players now have their own chefs.
Bellingham’s Summumm chef lives-in and prepares the food that the company headed by Mastromatteo have selected for him based on a rigorous biometrical study analysing what most suits his needs.
‘Jude and his family wanted this aspect to be kept under control from the outset,’ Mastromatteo says.
‘He has great people around him. He is very centred and he realises what it means to be at Real Madrid. He knows what he wants and he is doing everything he can to make it go as well as it possibly can.’
Every player is different and Mastromatteo has a professional responsibility to not discuss in detail his clients’ personal recommendations but he outlines the general guidelines that all top athletes are advised to follow.
Rice, oats, quinoa, fresh vegetables, fish and some lean meat are the staples for a top sportsman and he says: ‘Saturated fats, which are not, shall we say healthy fats, which is the case with the omega 3 in Salmon or Avocados, don’t tend to be good for health.’
What is surprising is that nothing is completely off limits and and Mastromatteo says that players need a day off from their strict regimes otherwise it becomes too much.
‘From 18-years to 32-years it’s necessary for a professional to have one day a week when they forget everything and relax and maybe eat a hamburger or a pizza or whatever they fancy.
‘In the cycling world, for example, this is not so appropriate. But in the world of football these players are under significant pressure. And these types of things help them unwind a little, and relax mentally. You can’t have diet, diet, diet every day. In the end they get bored.’
But one day off a week – usually rest days after a game – cannot translate to forgetting about the importance of diet during a whole summer.
‘Holidays are the hardest part,’ he says. ‘That’s when it can all go wrong. But there are players who take their chefs with them. Eduardo [Camavinga, another client] for example took his with him this summer.
‘Some footballers are their own worst enemies. They don’t have that drive, and the people around them can lead them astray. Others say: “my friends go one way but I am going to work with professionals who know about these things”. They invest in their own health.’
Clubs often recommend the services of companies such as Summumm, but in the end it is the player who pays. ‘We have a health package that includes a coaching service to improve mentality, a nutrition service, a chef service, a physio service and a personal trainer service,’ he says. ‘It’s very comprehensive.’
Mastromatteo is not evangelical, although perhaps a little at the mention of Spirulina the protein supplement derived from algae that helped Benzema. ‘I’m a major fan; I would recommend it for everyone,’ he says.
‘Karim’s problem was a [muscle] fibre problem for which you might normally concentrate on animal protein intake but he wasn’t a fan of meat, so the Spirulina, as well as promoting gut health, was an energy supplying food source that was easier for his intestine to metabolize.’
A lot has changed since every footballer’s favourite meal was steak and chips. Nothing in the world of nutrition and diet is the same any more and top athletes are turning away from more traditional habits in a bid to improve performance. Where Benzema leads, Bellingham is now following.