Steven Gerrard leaves for training at 8am on a Monday morning, slinking away with a call over his shoulder to Alex:
"Darling, when I return for starters I expect a starter of smoked chilli-mackerel and spinach salad on the table, no more than eight minutes later present me with a medium-rare onglet of venison drizzled with spiced almond butter on a bed of steam-fried broad beans and broccoli. Please make sure there's a glass of freshly squeezed beetroot juice on the side and a lightly brewed pot of organic jasmine green tea will help wash it all down. Desert? Just a handful of blueberries will suffice".
Thinking nothing of this request for culinary mastery she replies, "yer Stevie, anything you say la".
Thankfully for Stevie G and his high-flying Premier League compatriots, there are nutritionists with at least 6 or 7 letters behind their names ready to calculate the exact rate footballer's thighs burn glycogen stores per second and who know everything possible about the biochemical composition of every edible matter known to man. Stevie wouldn't even need to think about designing his post-training menu, it will have all been taken care of at the training ground. There is probably an extra special premium 'meals-on-wheels' service available on speed dial.
Go back twenty years and imagine fellow box-to-box midfielder Bryan Robson returning home after a hard slog to find a spread reminiscent of a Gillian McKeith wet-dream on the table; there would have been tears before lunchtime and it wouldn't have been Mrs Robson doing the blubbing. The approach to fitness and nutrition in football today is light-years from the era when Robbo took a sports holdall full of biscuits, chocolate, crisps and fizzy pop to devour at the back of the coach on away trips.
Manchester United legend Robson retired in 1994, a year after the Premier League was born. This was a time when only 5% of players in starting line-ups at the beginning of the season hailed from outside the UK and Republic of Ireland. By 2001 that figure rose to 36% and in 1999 Chelsea were the first club to field a complete foreign lineup with Gianfranco Zola at the heartbeat. His dietary habits were said to have more than influenced the SW6 pallets in that wholesome Italian way adding to the good work started by Hoddle and Gullit. Over in North London, Arsene Wenger undoubtedly takes the throne in the importance-of-diet stakes, he even had booklets created to take home and show the family, (Alex G take note, water to be served at room temperature and cereals does not mean Coco-Pops). The influx of players and managers from continental Europe went hand in hand with the rapid evolution of top level football; from tactics and playing style to the Data-from-Star-Trek approach to nutrition that benefits today's footballers.
What about the luscious lure of alcohol? Resisting a bag of chippy chips in favour of a brown rice risotto must be easier than choosing a shot of wheatgrass on the sofa over a belly-trembling Sambuca after a Monday social session. Not all young players go on 'those' kinds of party sessions on their days off but the debauched binge-drinking social culture cultivated over the past decade hasn't escaped the young talent, gossip-printers have not been short of salacious episodes to report.
When the Man City 3 (Barry-Johnson-Hart) had a good old fashioned booze-up at St Andrews in 2010 Roberto Mancini said: "I just don't understand it... it must be a cultural thing". He acknowledged that it wasn't only City who had problems with errant boozy players on their days off, Aston Villa were equally as guilty. It was at Villa Park legendary Irish international Paul McGrath found refuge after his turbulent relationship with Alex Ferguson ended his days as a Manchester United player in 1989. McGrath's tale is one of woeful alcoholism that blighted his career and personal life, although consideration should be paid to how much the injuries that stop-started his career contributed to him suffering at the hands of the bottle.
During injury, good nutrition and lifestyle management is key to accelerated recovery; avoiding alcohol, stocking up on key vitamins minerals, cleansing fluids and lean proteins can make the difference between an extra week or not on the sidelines. Inebriated sessions mean staggering about and taking anaesthetised knocks that the injured skeleton simply doesn't welcome. It is easy to see how the chronically injured with a bundle of cash in the bank and no inclination to become the next James Joyce can slip into destructive drinking habits. There is a different kind of guidance in today's game that should help keep regulars in the treatment room away from the bar. Hull City's injury-prone Jimmy Bullard is a recent subject of speculation on this subject matter and was suspended for being 'unfit to train' during the team's pre-season tour of Slovenia, the root of his 'unfitness' is awaiting confirmation.
A drinking culture handed down through the generations at Manchester United from George Best to Norman Whitehead and Paul McGrath had it's collar felt by Sir Alex Ferguson's arrival in 1986 where purges on stocious episodes were enforced and gym sessions became a part of the daily routine. It was Fergie's way or the highway and look where he's ended up, those little acorns grew to take just a few branches on the Old Trafford tree of trophies.
It is ironic that in the age of He-Man style super-fitness players are more susceptible to injury and illness, finely tuned muscles and cells need looking after in a more precise way. According to Iron Curtain Labs (USA) world-class elite athletes have a life expectancy averaging 67 years after retiring at 33. There is no data to correlate this to professional footballers but those figures seem relevant considering the physical output during a professional career.
Maybe the blood-cleaning beetroot juice diet prescribed by the sports science department might add a few years onto that, only time will tell.
This is a guest article by blogger and video-caster Sarah Flotel, click here to follow Sarah on Twitter
"1999 Chelsea were the first club to field a complete foreign lineup with Gianfranco Zola at the heartbeat"
I thought Arsenal were the first...?
Well it is and it isnt, depending on what you want your body to do with it, If your a fit young man finely tuned and dont want to burn too much fat etc from the system Room temp water is perfect, for the average person drinking water as cold as possible is best! The colder the water the harder your body has to work to bring it up to body heat meaning your burning fat/calories etc by just drinking a cold drink...
One of the reasons dietitions often say to the common person, before a meal down/drink a glass of cold water, it speeds up your metobolic rate by making it work hard and thus burns the food you eat straight after quickly and more efficiently. As an extra benefit, many peoples hunger is infact dehydration confused as hunger, by drinking cold water regularly you can make sure you dont over eat thinking your hungry and therefore consume less fatty foods etc.
I believe Arsene Wenger recommended this on the pamphlet he distributed to the player's families when he first started whipping them into shape.
Here's a link to the medical information on it: