Philly McMahon’s scientific approach to nutrition led to FitFood
Player saw gap in market to create an ‘affordable’ healthy food delivery service
Philly McMahon: “There are little things in everybody’s body that they won’t understand unless they change their diet and do little experiments.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
In the early spring of 2013, Philly McMahon’s footballing life couldn’t have been going better and it couldn’t have been going worse. Ballymun were county champions for the first time in 17 years and they’d beaten Dr Crokes in an All-Ireland semi-final that they’d gone into as complete underdogs.
But the gurgling joy of heading for Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day came with a price – Dublin had a new manager in Jim Gavin and McMahon was missing out on the chance to impress him at close quarters.
By the time summer came around, he spent far more time out of the team than in it. He had to wait until the All-Ireland final for his first start.
“I felt I had to do a bit extra and that I had to show that I was so desperate to get into the team that I was prepared to go that bit further. So I wanted to work out what more I could do.
“I didn’t want to load up on too much extra training on my own in case it would affect me when I went to training with the team. So I wondered was there anything I could do to improve my nutrition.
“I wanted to really take control of it and be more scientific with it. But my problem was that I was starting to get so busy. I was opening another gym and I just didn’t have time to do all the prep I needed. So I went to a personal chef and said, ‘If I pay you will you cook my meals for me?’
“And I gave him the things that I needed in my meals and with him doing that, I got back into the shape I needed. Eventually, I decided that there was a business in this. I knew a few places that were doing it but the problem with them was the cost. I went off and did a business plan to see could I make it more affordable for people and that was the basis for the business.”
The result is FitFood, a meal delivery service that caters to healthy eaters. McMahon has two chefs beavering away in a commercial kitchen in Glasnevin to keep up with demand and a Facebook page that will need a secretary one of these days.
You order a week’s worth of lunches, stick them in the freezer and take them out as you need. The science behind nutrition fascinates him, all the more so when it comes to seeing how other sportspeople approach it.
“There are little things in everybody’s body that they won’t understand unless they change their diet and do little experiments. My biggest passion is how the body works, how it moves, how it processes things. The fact that the body rebels against you if you put certain things into it is very interesting.
‘Focus on the future’
“I’ve started taking a little bit of dairy again in the off-season and I can tell I’ve got a little bit of a cold today because of it. It’s just the body’s way of reacting to something different going in. So that’s the kind of thing I’m really keen on and it’s what I’ll focus on going into the future.”
McMahon has started to cater for different teams as well, including some in DCU. He chuckles when asked if he’s got the deal for the Dublin team yet: “I can’t say anything about that yet but I’d like to in the future, yeah.”
Joking aside, while the rumour that went around during the summer that Dublin’s players were having their meals delivered to them isn’t true, McMahon can see it becoming the norm in time.
“If you think about it, we can monitor our training: what loading we’re doing, what targets we’re looking for, all of that. But we have no way of accurately monitoring nutrition. A team nutritionist can tell you what to eat . . . but we have no way of determining exactly what a player is eating.
“So the idea that I have is that, say in the week of a game, is it possible for us to develop lunches for each player for each of the seven days in the run-up to a game so that we’re more accurate in telling exactly what each player has eaten?
“I think there has to be a way of doing that and gaining an advantage from it. You can tailor those meals to get exactly what you need from each player. That’s not being done at the minute.”
Find out more about FitFood at fitfood-ireland.myshopify.com.