Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background.
My name is Ashley Porterfield and I am a Sports Performance Dietitian working alongside Erica Capellino covering the nutrition needs of all of the teams at Galaxy from the Academy, to the second team, all the way to the first team. I am also running the LA Galaxy Performance Blog, providing our readers with sports nutrition articles, recipes, and more. So stay tuned for more articles!
I’m originally from Dallas, Texas, but I moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science. Originally, I wanted to be a therapist, but shortly after graduating, I realized I wanted to couple my passion for health, nutrition, and fitness with my lifelong dedication to understanding human psychology and decision-making. This shift led me to completely change my career path to pursue becoming a Registered Dietitian (RD). I graduated from USC in May where I earned my Master’s in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity, and am now actively studying for the national exam to officially obtain my RD credentials.
What inspired you to begin working in professional sports and what was your pathway to working with LA Galaxy?
I had the privilege to be a dietetic intern for a couple of last season for my Specialty rotation, and then I came back for another two months this season for my Foodservice Management rotation. I played soccer for most of my life, have always been a massive fan of the sport, and became a Galaxy fan when I moved to Los Angeles, so needless to say I was beyond ecstatic when the opportunity arose. When I learned there was a job opening while I was finishing up my second rotation with the organization in April of this year, I jumped at the opportunity, and I could not be more excited to be here full-time as of June 2023.
Can you please describe what a typical day in the life of Sports Performance Nutrition looks like?
Every day is a little bit different, so you really need to be flexible, adaptable, and innovative to be successful in this role. On a typical day, we prepare and deliver each of the teams’ pre-training and post-training fueling using Herbalife24® products, which are NSF Certified for Sport® and designed to fuel elite athletes on and off the field. These fueling beverages are based on each player’s individualized nutrition needs, body composition, and performance goals. We also supply each player with NSF-certified nutritional supplements, based on their labs which we assess pre-, mid-, and end-of-season. We also work closely with our chef Mark Killian to design the menus and develop recipes for our daily Training Table in the Champions Lounge, fueling the teams appropriately to support both performance and recovery. On some days, we spend extra time measuring body composition and assessing the hydration status of the athletes, counseling the players as needed. On other days, we may spend more time creating materials for -or presenting on- various sports performance nutrition topics. Overall, it is a hands-on and active role overseeing the first team, the second team, the Academy, and Youth Camps, which can be challenging at times but is also extremely fun and rewarding.
Why is your role crucial for the team’s success?
Nutrition is absolutely critical for athletes! Making sure that each player is healthy, hydrated, energized, and able to perform at an elite level means that they need to be fueled appropriately, adequately, and at the right time.
This involves supporting their fueling and hydration needs pre-training and post-training along with pre-match, during the game, and post-match, as well as bolstering their knowledge regarding how to approach their nutrition needs at home and on the road. Coming from a wide breadth of cultures, each player is also unique in terms of their food and nutrition preferences, so we base all recommendations and education around the individual and their specific needs and goals.
What is your favorite part about your role?
My favorite nutrition moments so far have been those where we are educating or coaching players on their nutrition and fueling needs. I believe that there is an especially huge opportunity with nutrition education for the Academy kids. Reaching these athletes at a young age should instill lifelong proper nutrition practices to maintain optimal wellness across the lifespan as well as support performance to hopefully make it to the first team one day.
Additionally, as someone who is extremely data-driven, I also really enjoy tracking the data we obtain from bloodwork, hydration testing, and body composition testing to assess the success of our nutrition interventions and to inform any adjustments to the individualized protocols.
Non-nutrition related, I also really enjoy seeing all the efforts taking place behind the scenes working alongside the team behind the team, including departments ranging from Sports Science and Cognitive Performance to Operations.
What is the most challenging part about your role and how do you respond to it?
The most challenging part about this job is that you have to carefully manage your time between a heavy load of various tasks and an infinitely growing to-do list. To work in this role means you have to be a master of multitasking, prioritizing, and reprioritizing as new duties arise.
While I was still in school, I was the manager of a gastropub, so I have a lot of experience working through chaos, and coming up with innovative solutions to problems instantaneously. I truly feel that I thrive in an environment where not every day is exactly the same, and where there are a variety of challenging projects to work on at any given time.
Do you have a nutrition or food philosophy?
My food and nutrition philosophy is a blend of plant-forward, intuitive eating, and all foods fit. Plant-forward describes my belief that the majority of a healthy plate should be composed of whole, plant foods to support overall health and longevity. I believe that we should be eating intuitively by truly enjoying our meals and focusing on our body’s cues surrounding hunger, digestion, and how our bodies and minds feel after eating. Paying attention to these cues can help us make informed decisions that will fuel the body and help us to feel healthy and thrive.
Then finally, all foods fit simply means that you can still enjoy any food you’d like. The caveat for me is that all foods fit, but not necessarily all the time, which is especially true for athletic performance since we abide by specific fueling strategies for various situations. This ties back into intuitive eating because an athlete will feel that they are not able to perform optimally if they eat certain foods prior to training or games.
Describe your favorite meal you’ve ever had.
My favorite meal of all time is not the healthiest, but I consider it food for the soul. I don’t eat it very often because you can’t easily find it outside of a Dallas Tex-Mex restaurant. Spicy, chunky salsa with chips followed by sour cream enchiladas filled with fajita vegetables served with a side of rice and beans.
What is your favorite Herbalife24® product and why?
As a caffeine addict, I am a big fan of using Liftoff or Prepare before a workout for a boost in the feeling of energy and to maintain focus, and Prepare is formulated with Arginine to support healthy blood flow to my working muscles during training. After training, you can find me reaching for Vanilla or Strawberry Rebuild Strength with 24 grams of protein with L-Glutamine to support muscle repair and recovery**. I blend this with fresh berries, chia and hemp seeds, and Greek yogurt for some extra protein, micronutrients, and phytonutrients.
Do you have any advice for anybody pursuing a job as a Sports Performance Dietitian in professional sports?
Put yourself out there, be confident in your skills, and take any opportunity that comes your way! Suspend any expectations you may have and be ready for the unexpected and to learn something new every day.
Can you leave us with 3 fun facts about yourself?
- My other biggest passion is travel, learning about different cultures, and enjoying new (to me) foods! I have been to 31 countries and counting.
- I have been a vegetarian for 15 years.
- One of my cats is named after footballer Wayne Rooney. My other cat is named after the band, Slayer.
*Certified for Sport® is a registered trademark of NSF International.
**This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.