What pro athletes really eat

From footballers to sumo wrestlers: What pro athletes really eat

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From chowing down on egg yokes Rocky-style before a big run to a hearty carb-heavy breakfast before a sumo wrestle, professional athletes need to fuel their bodies to be on top of their game

Different sports require different diets – a jockey’s lunch will bear little comparison to a body builder’s, as one athlete is seeking to stave off weight, while the other needs to pile it on. We’ve profiled the diets of four types of sportsmen to see what it takes to get a physical edge in a modern world of protein shakes and energy bars.

Professional footballers

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Arsene Wenger is widely credited with revolutionising the dietary habits of Premier League players. When the Frenchman first set foot on English shores two decades ago to become Arsenal manager, the ageing squad he inherited was renowned for its weekly Tuesday Club drinking sessions. Once “Le Professeur” arrived, out went the lager and Mars bars, and in came chicken and pasta. 

These days, footballers tend to feast on a good variety of protein and carbs. Turkey, beef, salmon and mackerel all prop up the menus at football club canteens across the land. For breakfast, quinoa porridge is in vogue at the moment, and snacks like protein flapjacks are great for muscle recovery after intense matches or training sessions.

Sumo wrestlers

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Pro sumo wrestlers don’t just intimidate opponents with their (considerable) girth alone, some of them are also as big in Japan as Premier League footballers are in the UK. Unlike other forms of wrestling or boxing, there aren’t any weight divisions in sumo wrestling, so they can bulk up as much as is humanly possible. 

A traditional Japanese diet won’t cut the mustard, so sumo wrestlers eat their own special type of food called chankonabe. Essentially a stew served in a giant pot, chankonabe doesn’t have a set recipe, and is tailored to each wrestler’s preferences. 

There are a few rules though: it has to have protein (tofu, chicken, fish, beef) and lots of veg. Noodles, bread, cereals and rice are also staples to ensure wrestlers get as many carbs as possible.

8 foods every athlete needs in their fridge

Admittedly, tofu tastes rather bland in its natural state. But when it's well-seasoned and sautéed, the soy product is not only delicious, but also a really good provider of protein and minerals. There are around 15 grams of protein in every 100 grams of tofu.

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In order to be successful, jockeys have to be as light as possible, and mustn’t weigh more than 55 kilos. This involves a strict, calorie-controlled diet. Anything heavier than a salad the evening before a competition is a no-no, and breakfast on the morning of a race is completely out of the question too, as the higher the jockey’s weight, the slower the horse. Gyms are also off limits, as muscle weighs more than fat.

A standard jockey’s diet will consist of meals between 300 and 500 calories per serving, with vegetables, salads, chicken, beef, fish and rice. Sweet drinks and fruits are generally avoided, due to their high sugar content.


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A proper, regulated diet is as important in arguably no sport as it is in bodybuilding. As muscles take priority, protein-heavy portions are a must, with little place for fries and burgers in a bodybuilder’s diet. This mean that breakfasts consist of eggs and protein shakes, lunch features fish and another protein shake, before finishing off with chicken in the evening with, you guessed it, another protein shake. This is done to ensure the body takes in more calories than it uses for bulking up.

Rene Campbell, one of the best bodybuilders in Europe, swears on a “calorie bomb” of chicken, rice and eggs which she takes every three hours, seven times a week. Prior to a competition, she adopts a special low-fat diet to shave off any excess fat and to allow her muscles to stand out.

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10 2016 The Red Bulletin

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