The diet of a footballer

The diet of a professional footballer is measured and calculated to the last gram. Everything they consume has been studied and authorised by their club’s team of dietitians to ensure they are only doing good things to their body; as well as ensuring their energy levels peak just as they head out to play football that week.

As a slightly overweight man preparing to get married in under a year, I am paying much more attention to my diet than I ever have in my life. The whole thing is rather telling; in that I know very little other than very simple mantras that have no doubt been consumed by me through watching television and reading newspapers. “Five a day” is about all I know to stick to.

As such; my first port of call was to discover what my heroes and idols do on a day-by-day basis. I’m not intending on running 10km on a Saturday afternoon but as I try to lose weight by running more and playing the odd bit of (5-a-side) football along the way; I figured the diet of professionals, in moderation is a way to go.

In short, it’s rather uninspiring. Speaking to FourFourTwo Performance, Diego Forlan outlined what he eats on a regular day and it almost seems too healthy. Toast, egg whites, chicken, rice, pasta and soup. There is little to get the taste buds flowing or the mouth salivating. It might be the way Diego refers to his lunch with potential excitement that break my heart a little:

After two or three hours of training I will go straight for lunch. Maybe I’ll have it at the club; maybe at a restaurant in Madrid with friends or family… I tend to have pasta or rice and chicken. Perhaps I’ll have spaghetti with oil on top and maybe a little bit of cheese. If I take the chicken, then it will be grilled and never fried.

Thankfully, spicy food is encouraged. In Men’s Health, they detailed how to eat like a pro footballer and sports nutritionist Gavin Allinson seemed to be keen to encourage the consumption of hot food that would help increase the oxygen in the blood cells:

Hit the soups. “These will help with your hydration,” says Allinson, who particularly recommends tom yum: “It’s got lots of chilli, turmeric and ginger, which all help to thin your blood – and thinner blood goes round your body quicker, delivering more oxygen to your cells.” What’s more, a study in the journal Gut found curcumin, a principle component of turmeric, significantly curbs liver cell damage and scarring. Making those post-match pints slightly more guilt-free.

Food with a bit of exciting flavour and the ability to argue that I can have an extra couple of drinks because my curry was especially spicey. Sounds like a win-win situation.

Of course, the regime for a footballer is stringent, unrelenting and ultimately worth it. In most cases, footballers start the season playing two games per week until Christmas; pushing their bodies close to the limit to ensure their side get off to the perfect. Some will no doubt use creatine monohydrate to help their energy levels. They don’t have time for an afternoon celebrating the end of the summer; or one last boozy weekend before the new regime kicks in on Monday (I seem to have one of every three weeks at the moment).

Were it not for the lucrative contracts and the adoration of millions, the whole thing may be enough to put me off the idea of being a professional footballer. Of course; at 27, my time is long gone – sadly. At least I get to eat what I want; as long as my fiancée doesn’t know.

(Photo credit: stevendepolo via Flickr)

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