England Women are teaming up with a sports research and nutrition service designed to “truly understand the female athlete” and enhance performance.
The service, launched in March by Science in Sport, will embed an expert in the team’s performance staff. It is run from a department at Liverpool John Moores University, whose partners include cycling’s Team Ineos, sailing’s Ineos Team UK and the British Olympic gold medal swimmer Adam Peaty.
“A lot of the sports science current state of knowledge has all been based on males and a lot of practitioners over the years have used a kind of a copy and paste approach,” said James Morton, a professor of exercise metabolism at the university, who is heading the service.
“And there’s many specific examples of studies that probably don’t hold true. What we want to get to now is a really detailed layer of understanding of the female athlete.”
Morton, who has worked with Liverpool FC and was the head of nutrition at Team Sky, said: “What we’re trying to bring to the sport is a way of working to help them truly understand the determinants of performance in their specific sport. Then it’s about identifying the priorities, which one of those determinants will make a difference to winning. Once you understand the performance priorities it’s about bringing a bespoke solution to the sport.”
The England manager, Phil Neville, and physical performance manager, Dawn Scott, have spoken of the importance of the fine margins that affect a player’s performance.
“Nutrition could be the difference between winning and losing,” Morton said. “There’s such fine lines in sport these days but the amount of work that needs to happen to cross that line is quite large. So even something as simple as making sure players are fuelling correctly could be the difference in the last 15 minutes of a match.”
The lead performance nutritionist for the Football Association, Chris Rosimus, believes the partnership “will help to better profile the performance nutrition needs of our players and lead to increased performance”.
A PhD researcher will work with Rosimus and his colleagues. “Collectively we might decide that in order to improve performance for this specific athlete we need to understand their physiology a little bit better, so we would do some individualised research, which would then manifest itself in an individualised plan,” Morton said.