We’re all about helping people meet their goals at Herbalife Nutrition – and we’re taking it quite literally as a proud sponsor of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team. Earlier this year we announced the addition of two registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) from Herbalife Nutrition, Brooke Ellison and Nicolette Leffler, to work closely with the team’s athletes to help them understand their specific nutrition and hydration needs as they balance rigorous travel schedules and physically challenging practice sessions to reach peak performance on game days.

Turf, courts and locker rooms are familiar territories for these RDNs. Brooke had previously worked for two seasons alongside the LA Galaxy’s sports nutrition team. She holds a Master of Nutritional Sciences from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of New Mexico. Nicolette, the Herbalife Nutrition education coordinator, will run nutrition education programs for high-level youth athletes enrolled in the Galaxy Academy as well as with the Galaxy II, the official reserve team for the LA Galaxy. She will be drawing on her prior experience at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she worked with Division 1 collegiate athletes in sports dietetics*. She holds a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Science from California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychobiology from UCLA*.

As the 2018 MLS season gets underway, I asked Brooke and Nicolette to share what they’re looking forward to most and what they wish more people knew about sports nutrition.

What excites you the most about working with the LA Galaxy?

Brooke: We are given the opportunity to implement nutrition programs and positively impact the performance of some of the best athletes in soccer. Not only are we committed to our work as sports dietitians, but also, the players are eager to perform at their best and they’re enthusiastic about following our recommendations.

Nicolette: Working in a competitive sports environment definitely pushes us to produce our best work!

What does your day-to-day work with the team look like?

Brooke: Beginning with breakfast, we select food items to promote optimum athletic performance. We set them out in the team lounge each morning so they’re readily available. Next, all athletes weigh in prior to training and weigh out after training for the purpose of monitoring their fluid loss through sweat. It’s a simple but effective way to track their hydration and see where they need to make adjustments.

Nicolette: Hydration is a major focus for us. Before they start training, we offer them pre-workout drinks, such as Herbalife24 CR7 Drive, Herbalife24 Prepare, or Lift-Off; afterward, we prepare shakes for them, which they consume within 15 to 30 minutes to promote muscle recovery and refueling of energy stores. They then eat a team meal we design based on their training and intensity. We put cards next to each dish that describes the nutritional benefits.

We can make adjustments in our approach by periodically analyzing their overall hydration levels and body composition. We’re looking at trends in muscle and fat gain and loss during the season—endurance sports favor lower body fat percentages so athletes can move efficiently over long distances. And loss of muscle can result in decreased athletic performance.

Brooke: We also coordinate with other members of the Sports Science and Sports Performance staff and examine data around walking, jogging, high-speed running, heart rate, acceleration load, power load and mechanical load so that we can better evaluate individual players’ nutritional needs.

Nicolette: Recently, we hosted a cooking class for the LA Galaxy Boys Academy. The students were divided into teams and competed making pre- and post-workout recipes while learning the importance of providing the right nutrients at the right time. We, along with one of their instructors, got to judge the entries. Everyone had fun! The students were very engaged and anxious to learn how they could maximize their performance through nutrition. There will soon be another class for the Academy’s girls and for LA Galaxy II, the reserve team. We hope we can help these kids establish good habits early on that will continue throughout their lifetime.

What are you teaching these athletes that they don’t already know?

Nicolette: We began by teaching these athletes the nutrition basics: The more they know and understand nutrition and how it affects their performance, the more likely they are to apply the recommendations we give them. We emphasize that improved performance starts from the inside out.

Brooke: We also focus on recovery strategies. Effective and efficient recovery is necessary for the professional athlete who needs to be ready for daily training sessions and weekly games.

What are some common misconceptions about sports nutrition?

Nicolette: One of the most common misconceptions is that it’s all about protein shakes. Athletes should consume a variety of foods. They need the right proportions of grains, lean proteins, and vegetables based on the type and intensity of exercise they do. While protein shakes are a pivotal component of post-training recovery, carbohydrates are the main fuel for the athlete.

While the basics of sports nutrition are fairly straightforward and are based on the principles of general nutrition, with elite athletes we can get very specific and personalized making it more complex. We consider the timing of nutrient consumption (how and when you eat carbohydrates, protein and fat), specific foods for injury recovery and prevention, adequate hydration, and so many other things. Sports nutrition recommendations differ for each athlete, from sport to sport, and even between positions in the same sport.

Brooke: There is a misconception about the importance of sports nutrition. Nutrition has a significant impact on athletic performance. It can affect endurance, explosiveness, power, strength, muscle soreness, injury prevention, injury recovery, and much more. Proper nutrition is required before, during, and after training in order to achieve optimal performance. Nutrition extends beyond the training session, and athletes must properly refuel their bodies after exercise for adequate recovery. You’re on a 24-hour schedule as an athlete, and your nutrition can never, ever take a break.

What else do you want people to know about your work with the LA Galaxy and the Herbalife Nutrition partnership?

Brooke: It’s a win-win. We are extremely honored to bring our time and talent to these athletes, and for the team members, they’re getting access to some of the best sports nutrition products on the market.

Nicolette: Having support from a company whose purpose is to make the world healthier and happier enables us to bring our philosophy to team members while we help them reach their highest potential as professional athletes.

* The University of California does not endorse specific products or services as a matter of policy.

Dana Ryan

Dana RyanPh.D. – Director, Sports Performance, Nutrition and Education

Dr. Dana Ryan is the director of Sports Performance, Nutrition and Education at Herbalife Nutrition. She completed her doctorate in physical activity, nutrition and wellness at Arizona State University. She earned an MBA from USC and a master’s in kinesiology from San Diego State University. Dr. Ryan is also certified in nutrition for optimal health, wellness and performance.

Before joining Herbalife Nutrition, she taught exercise physiology and related courses at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), and conducted research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA),* on the impact of community-based nutrition and physical activity programs on heart disease risk. A passionate athlete, Dr. Ryan enjoys all water sports, especially rowing. Her favorite Herbalife Nutrition products are Herbalife24® Liftoff®, Herbalife24® Rebuild Strength and Enrichual Hemp Facial Serum.

*The University of California does not endorse specific products or services as a matter of policy.