Like a fine-tuned machine, the body of a professional athlete requires the correct fuel to deliver an optimal performance. To gain knowledge about healthy eating, as opposed to the gluttonous consume-anything-and-everything diet we food writers normally follow, CityBeat recently sat down for lunch at Taft’s Ale House with FC Cincinnati soccer players and relative Cincinnati newbies Jimmy McLaughlin, a midfielder who hails from Malvern, Pa., and Andrew Wiedeman, a forward from San Ramon, Calif. who is known as “Wiede” by his teammates.
The two began by scanning the menu for items that would fit their self-professed picky eating habits — the tri-tip steak salad for Wiedeman and the smoked half chicken with mashed potatoes for McLaughlin — and then proceeded to talk diet, their extreme love for their fans and who makes the best roommate on road trips.
CityBeat: Why did you guys choose Taft’s Ale House?
Jimmy McLaughlin: My parents come here very often when they’re in town to get a good meal before game days. We love the décor and the environment and the atmosphere, so it was an easy choice.
Andrew Wiedeman: The beer is good and the barbecue is also great. I like barbecue. It fits in with my diet, so this is one of the places I enjoy.
CB: Are you guys encouraged to stick to particular diets for work?
AW: No, you eat what you like. Everyone’s body is different and everyone has a different diet that works for them, and at the end of the day if you’re mentally happy eating a pizza and that’s what gives you the edge to play the game because you’re happy, then eat a pizza. I just do this because it’s what works for me. Jimmy can eat anything and not put on weight. I fluctuate a lot, so if I’m not watching what I’m eating as closely, then my weight will go up, so I have to be cognizant of that.
CB: So let’s get right down to it: picky eaters?
AW: I’m picky by choice. I’ve been playing for eight years and over that time you figure out, in regards to a diet, what works for you and what doesn’t. I’ve pretty much done everything: whole wheat pasta, breads, and then a few years ago when I was playing in Toronto, we went to Florida for a month for pre-season and our physio/trainer said, “Give this a go: Don’t eat any refined sugars and refined carbs.” So basically, instead of having bread, eat quinoa, instead of having pasta, have potatoes, and so I switched that out while we were down there and I found out that I had a lot more energy and I could eat a lot more and not keep in mind how much I was eating and my weight wouldn’t fluctuate as much. I just felt better over all and it’s just something I’ve just stuck with. So I eat a lot of salads, I eat a lot of potatoes, quinoa and protein, and I stay away from bread. Jimmy is a picky eater.
JM: I would compare Wiede’s eating habits to past girlfriends I’ve had, like when you take them to lunch or dinner, they don’t like anything on the menu and they don’t like certain places because they can’t go there because it doesn’t have the particular salad they like. Dealing with him is like dealing with a girlfriend.
AW: Keep in mind that this is coming from the guy who only eats foods that are the color beige.
AW: Yeah. Chicken, rice, not a single veggie — he’s allergic to vegetables.
CB: You’re allergic to vegetables?
JM: No, please, no.
AW: He eats like a 5 year old.
JM: He’s not totally wrong, but I’ve actually come a long way with my eating. Ever since I was young I didn’t really like any foods.
Our waitress delivers a complimentary and very tempting appetizer platter of smoked chicken wings and crispy-fried Alehouse onions.
CB: Jimmy, these appetizers are mostly all beige, will you eat them?
JM: I mean wings work for me, and I’ll probably have some of those onion crisps.
AW: He won’t touch the wings because they have a sauce on them.
JM: He’s not wrong. I probably won’t have them.
AW: He recently got used to Indian food and he likes it.
CB: Where do you go for Indian food?
JM: We go to Shaan in Oakley like once a week with a big group of guys. I enjoy the Chicken Tikka Masala. The people there are awesome.
CB: Nippert Stadium is filled to the brim every time you play and the fans seem to be crazy for FCC. How do you feel about the Cincinnati scene?
JM: It’s tough to put in words, but it’s truly amazing. I don’t think any of us were expecting it to be anything like this. We look around at the other teams in the league and the standard team is getting a couple thousand fans if they’re lucky. Basing it off of what the past has shown average attendance has been for these other teams, they were telling us that maybe we’d get 8,000 to 10,000 people at a game and that sounded like a lot, and we showed up at our first game ever and there were 14,000 people. At that time it was unbelievable.
AW: We’re spoiled because if we got 14,000 this year we would be wondering what happened. We’re averaging over 20,000 right now. The fact that we’ve been able to put Cincinnati not only on the national soccer map but we’ve been able to make a global mark in such a short time, that’s 100 percent due to them.
JM: We have this section behind one of our goals called The Bailey. It’s where all the supporter groups sit, and really, they’re the heart of the crowd and the heart of the game. They provide the whole atmosphere. It’s pretty special what they do there, and they really are the environment. What they bring is contagious throughout the whole stadium, not only through the fans in the stadium, but to us on the field. They really are something special and something I think would rival any other professional soccer team here in the United States.
CB: Do either of you have any interesting pre-game rituals?
JM: I have the same meal before every home game. It’s very simple: It’s a grilled chicken breast with a brown rice/quinoa medley and a Pedialyte for extra hydration. And I go every home-game day to The Sleepy Bee in Oakley for breakfast, and then I have my chicken breast before the meal. Andrew does some weird stuff with his Chapstick.
AW: That’s more of an addiction, I don’t go anywhere without Chapstick.
JM: When we go on away trips, we’re roommates on away trips so Wiede always has to have the bed closest to the door and I’m in the bed closest to the window in case a burglar breaks in.
AW: That’s because Jimmy’s too small to fend for himself.
CB: It’s not about size, it’s about who’s the fastest runner.
AW: That’s Jimmy, he would run away, and I would actually try to fend the guy off.