Here’s How a Professional Soccer Player Trains for Game Day

This week's Sweat Diaries features plenty of large meals, mock soccer games, and recovery sessions in the hot tub.


Matt Real is a professional soccer player for the Philadelphia Union. He shares a week in his preseason life with us. / Photograph courtesy Philadelphia Union

Welcome to Sweat Diaries, Be Well Philly’s look at the time, energy, and money people invest in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle in Philly. For each Sweat Diary, we ask one Philadelphian to spend a week tracking everything they eat, all the exercise they get, and the money they spend on both. Want to submit a Sweat Diary? Email [email protected] with details.

Who I am: Matt Real (@MattReal3), 19

What I do: I’m a professional soccer player (a defender) for the Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion).

What role healthy living plays in my life: As a professional athlete, maintaining a balanced, healthy lifestyle is incredibly important. From the foods I eat before and after each training session, to my workouts both on and off the field and recovery methods, I constantly push my body to stay in top physical shape.

Tuesday

Matt Real

Real jumps in the hot tub before and often after practice to relax his muscles. / Photograph by Matt Real

6:30 a.m. — I wake up for the first day of preseason. The offseason is officially over, and I’m ready to start training.

7:30 a.m. — Report to the Union training facility for breakfast, which is always prepared for us on training days. Today, I have steel-cut oatmeal with almond milk, scrambled eggs, skillet potatoes, watermelon, and toast.

8:15 a.m. — I jump in the hot tub to relax and prepare my muscles.

10 a.m. — We start our two-hour training session at an indoor facility nearby, which includes stretching and warmups, small-sided games (literally a small number of players on each side), and work with our positional groups. In my case, that’s the defense.

Noon — I grab some fruit snacks and coconut water provided by the team before jumping in the van to head back to our training facility.

12:45 p.m. — Quick 15-minute team meeting to kick off the season.

1 p.m. — We all lift weights for 30 minutes — focusing on the upper body — in a session known as a “team lift” to end the training session.

2 p.m. — Lunch is also provided on all training days. I have penne with garlic and parsley, chicken with lemon and capers, and some watermelon. A mix of protein and carbs is crucial for us to recover after heavy days of training.

3 p.m. — Post-workout hot tub session to help my muscles relax and recover after the first full day back.

10 p.m. — Head to bed.

Daily total: $0

Wednesday

Matt Real

The Philadelphia Union organized a photo shoot to promote the team’s jersey release. / Photograph courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

7:30 a.m. — We have weigh-ins every morning that I get done before going to breakfast.

7:45 a.m. — I dig into Greek yogurt, home fries, turkey sausage, grapes, and milk.

8:45 a.m. — Take my daily pre-training soak in the hot tub.

10:15 a.m. — Today’s two hour-training focuses on passing drills, and then we split into teams to play small-sided games.

12:15 p.m. — I have media interviews to discuss my role as captain on the U-20 (under 20) Men’s National Team and to talk about the Union’s upcoming season.

1:30 p.m. — Today is the only weekday that we don’t have a team lift, so I jump right in the hot tub for my recovery soak.

2 p.m. — Grab some lunch of baked ziti, grilled chicken, and salad before leaving for the day.

3 p.m. — I head over to a studio in the Union offices with a few teammates to shoot some promotional photos and video for our upcoming jersey release.

4:30 p.m. — Off to get my haircut in preparation for media day on Saturday, when the organization will shoot video and take photos of us to use all season.

Daily total: $0

Thursday

Matt Real

Real’s breakfast is rarely small when he’s training / Photograph by Matt Real

7:30 a.m. — Weigh-in and breakfast time: mini omelet, hash browns, steel-cut oatmeal made with almond milk, and a bagel.

8:45 a.m. — Back in to the hot tub to get my muscles ready for the day.

10 a.m. — During today’s training session, we work on shooting accuracy before splitting up into teams and playing tournament-style, small-sided games.

1 p.m. — Another team lift today, focusing on the lower body.

6 p.m. — I head to my girlfriend’s graduation from massage therapy school, and afterward we go to dinner with her family to celebrate.

8 p.m. — Her family treats us to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Fogo de Chão. I order steak, and we share sides of garlic mashed potatoes, pão de queijo (cheesy bread rolls), and caramelized bananas. I’m Brazilian, so I always feel right at home at this Brazilian steakhouse.

Daily total: $0

Friday

Matt Real

Lunch has a Mediterranean/Moroccan theme./Photograph by Matt Real

7:45 a.m. — Report for weigh-in and breakfast, which is protein pancakes, turkey sausage, and hash browns.

8:45 a.m. — Take my daily pre-training soak in the hot tub.

10 a.m. — Today’s training focuses heavily on conditioning. After stretches and warmups, we power through a few drills and then spend the rest of practice alternating between running and recovery.

1 p.m. — We have our last team lift for the week — full body today. I jump on the bike for a few minutes after to cool down and loosen up my legs.

2:30 p.m. — Today’s lunch has a Mediterranean/Moroccan theme. I eat some Moroccan grilled chicken, Mediterranean chopped salad, Hasselback potatoes, and Moroccan couscous.

6 p.m. — Take my girlfriend out to dinner at Uno Pizzeria & Grill to celebrate her graduation and to spend some time together before the team leaves for Florida for preseason games on Monday morning.

Daily total: $45.62

Saturday

Matt Real

Real and his teammates weigh in every day before training. / Photograph courtesy Matt Real

10 a.m. — I get to wake up a little later today for an afternoon practice, which means a simple breakfast at home of scrambled eggs and juice.

1:30 p.m. — Report for weigh-in and lunch at the training facility. The meal is linguine, roasted potatoes, and grilled beef.

3 p.m. — Last day of training for the week. After getting warmed up, we play full-field, shortened games for our entire two-hour practice.

5:30 p.m. — Arrive back at our training complex for media day. Dinner is provided. On the menu tonight are chicken skewers, lentil pasta, roasted vegetables, and sweet potato wedges.

6 p.m. — Circle through stations of headshots, action shots, social media content, and videos for the rest of the evening.

10 p.m. — Get back home and ready for bed. We have an off day tomorrow before the whole team leaves the cold weather behind and heads down to Florida.

Daily total: $0

Weekly Totals

Money spent: $45.62

Training sessions: 5

Team lifts: 4

Hot tub sessions: 10

Graduation dinners: 2

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