When you’re in a foreign nation that you’ve never been to before, how do you refuel before playing the greatest soccer match of your life? If you’re Juventus F.C. and U.S. Men’s National Team player Weston McKennie, you bring a chef.
The 24-year-old football player is competing in his debut World Cup match today in Qatar, much like his teammates. Just before he made his debut on soccer’s greatest stage, McKennie spoke with GQ about preparing for the competition and why his pre-game ritual includes taking a shower.
GQ interviews athletes, celebrities, and other high achievers for Real-Life Diet to learn about their diets, workout regimens, and quest for wellbeing. Remember that not everything that works for them will necessarily be good for you.
The World Cup has started. What mood are you in?
Weston McKennie: I’m anticipating it. Not just myself, but the whole crew has spent their entire lives daydreaming about it. Few of us had previously competed for this country’s national squad in the World Cup. Given that we didn’t make the cut for the last one, I believe the whole nation is prepared as well. Thus, we have all been waiting for eight years.
Do you prepare differently for this tournament than you would for another tournament since it’s such a big one and it’s your first one?
Since it is part of your daily routine, you just continue to do what you have been doing. The World Cup is being played in the midst of the season, so I believe you are a little bit more careful leading up to it because you don’t want to risk injury.
You yourself have been healing from an injury. How do you occupy the time you would often spend at the gym or on the field when you are physically unable to do anything?
I prefer to fully disengage from soccer when I’m not working out or recovering in some other way. I like making music, and I have a recording studio in my home. I play video games or watch movies. I have two dogs.
I attempt to explain to the physicians that the greatest place for me to heal is merely at home because when I cut off from everything, my body is free to repair itself.
I had no idea you were a musician. Is that primarily for your own artistic expression, or will a mixtape soon be released?
I’ll probably hold off on releasing it till I feel confident enough. I just like being creative, however. I like just creating rap lyrics and doing several other activities. I have several tunes, but I’ll hold off till the proper moment.
Describe your pre-game ritual for me. How do you prepare yourself mentally for a game?
I simply try to get as much rest as I can on game days. I’m going to watch a Netflix program, maybe The Office, and then unwind.
I’ll simply listen to music till it’s time to go. Without it, I couldn’t survive. I like listening to all genres. In the days leading up to the game, I would even listen to somber music. Not every song has to be an aggressive pump-up.
Most of the time, I have a habit of taking a shower in the locker room before games, much as I would if I were getting ready to be a model in a photo session. I apply body oil, face cream, and hair products. It’s simply something that, while I’m focusing on anything else, helps me to take my mind off the game. As they often say, play confidently by projecting confidence.
What You Should Know: Doha, Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
What kind of diet do you usually follow?
To be honest, I’ve always had trouble with it. Every team I’ve joined has told me I need to become better at it. I just follow my own procedures.
It’s a little strange, but whenever I’ve followed a rigorous diet, eaten everything that others have told me to eat, and shed pounds, I’ve never felt good afterwards. My body doesn’t feel as at ease, nor does it have the same amount of energy. I’ve gone down to the weight that people wanted me to at least four or five times in my career.
For me, this means that I go to training and then likely eat some pasta with chicken and marinara or pesto sauce, along with some spice. I’ll take a small break from eating till supper once I come home. I have a chef at my house who cooks a variety of foods, including risotto, chicken salad, salmon, and octopus. I try to consume foods like that.
Snacking is my greatest weakness throughout the day. I’ve started making an effort to eat better snacks.
What do you often choose when you deserve a cheat meal or cheat snack?
I had a completely different summer last year since I was injured for about two months before to the summer vacation.
And I was having a great summer. I was consuming less carbohydrates and, when I did, I made sure they were from quinoa or rice. I prepared salads. I think I had dessert a total of three times throughout my vacation month. I made a concerted effort to avoid any sugary foods. I abstained from drinks.
If it’s a typical summer and I get to chose what I eat while maintaining my exercise routine, I’ll probably order Chick-Fil-A or something similar. I make an effort to complete it within that time since I am aware that I will need to take extra care once I return to the field.
Even though I’m still youthful, I’m not as young as I once was. Many things that I used to be able to get away with are now impossible for me.