How far do elite footballers have to push themselves to stay at the top of the game? What obscure marginal gains do they use to give them the slightest advantage over their competitors?
Cristiano Ronaldo partially answered that question on Monday, when eagle-eyed fans spotted him painting his toenails black for practical reasons – to prevent fungus and bacteria from affecting his foot.
The Portuguese superstar, who now earns £175million a year in Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr, is notoriously obsessed with his health and fitness routines.
But it’s clearly working – indeed, a test found the incredibly toned 38-year-old veteran had the body of an athlete 14 years his junior, with 7% body fat – (the average footballer is 11) and 50% muscle mass.
Painting his fingernails is far from the only unusual method Ronaldo uses to fuel his body – and below, Sports Mail look at what else the striker is doing to stay in exceptional form.
‘Magic’ chicken, strict nap schedule and at-home cryotherapy – Mail Sport looks at health hacks that could help Ronaldo stay in top shape at 38
SIX mini meals throughout the day
Rather than sticking to the traditional three-meal structure of breakfast-lunch-dinner, Ronaldo prefers to refuel with six smaller “mini-meals” throughout the day: breakfast, brunch, breakfast, snack, supper, dinner.
While scientists are still debating the merits of several smaller meals for others, Ronaldo’s eating pattern is not unusual for athletes.
This model is It is said to help meet the high nutritional needs of footballers, giving them the energy they need for the range of training they do throughout the day. Diet is clearly very important to Ronaldo, who is said to have a nutritionist who has been following him since his days at Real Madrid.
He loves nutrient-rich avocado, fresh fish and generally sticks to high-protein, low-fat foods like chicken, with Ronaldo once calling it “magical” for its healthy properties. Salad, whole grains like quinoa and fresh fruit also pile up on his plate every day.
Other Portuguese players have said that Ronaldo’s favorite dish is Bacalhau a Bras, a traditional dish combining scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and salt cod.
And one thing he apparently won’t touch is sugary drinks. The footballer infamously caused a Euro 2020 sponsorship headache when he ostensibly removed bottles of Coca-Cola from his seating area during a press conference before shouting in Portuguese: ‘Drink some water ! “.
Ronaldo is strict about what he eats and eats small meals on several occasions, often including fresh vegetables and avocado on toast, as well as chicken, which is high in protein and low in fat.
Lots of little naps rather than a big sleep
Ronaldo gets seven and a half hours of sleep, which most people should aim for, but he gets it in an unusual way: with five 90-minute naps rather than just one big sleep.
Known as polyphasic sleep, the basic concept is to divide the normal sleep cycle into half a dozen naps, although the exact method can vary.
It’s pretty much the same pattern babies use to sleep, which usually comes at the expense of their parents’ sleep schedules.
The purported benefits of the practice include increased productivity, alertness, and the ability to learn and retain new information.
Some scientific studies have shown that taking a 90-minute nap during the day can improve reaction times for tasks. Other scientists claim that polyphasic sleep has no proven benefit over a regular sleep schedule.
But Ronaldo reportedly embraced the theory advanced by sports sleep expert Nick Littlehales, whom he met at Real Madrid.
“Good sleep is really important to get the most out of training,” he says. “Sleep helps muscles recover, which is really important.”
Ronaldo has previously said sleep is key to muscle recovery. he takes five 90-minute naps a day
A £50,000 cryotherapy chamber
When he returns to Manchester United in 2021, Ronaldo is said to have had a £50,000 cryotherapy chamber brought to his home. Cryotherapy chambers use frozen liquid nitrogen to quickly plunge air to -200C (-328F).
The therapy, which has athletes like Usain Bolt and fellow footballer Erling Haaland among its fans, is believed to help reduce inflammation and swelling from injuries by boosting blood circulation as the body reacts to extreme cold.
For these reasons, some athletes use it to relieve muscle soreness and improve recovery times between games and training. However, people cannot spend more than five minutes at a time exposed to extreme cold, as it could damage healthy tissue.
Ronaldo, a fan of cryotherapy for nearly a decade, takes its safe use seriously. In a video posted to Instagram in February, the star was seen neatly bundled up in a mask, headband, gloves, as well as a pair of socks and crocs as he used a cryogenic chamber after a training session intense in Dubai.
When using it at home, the footballer preferred a cryotherapy session lasting just three minutes at a relatively mild temperature of -160°C (-356°F). Scientific consensus on cryotherapy, however, is mixed.
Some experts say that although the technique has no objective evidence that it works, it can act as a positive placebo, allowing athletes to feel better and recover faster.
Also known as cold therapy, cryotherapy uses extremely low temperatures to promote recovery
Train up to four hours a day
As well as training with his club, Ronaldo supplements team sessions with a personal training plan.
He swears by Pilates, regular swimming and five trips to the gym a week.
These include 25 to 30 minutes of cardio, high-intensity sprinting, and targeted weights to build muscle strength.
In total, he trains three to four hours a day.
And when the Portuguese star isn’t kipping, he’s working out or working out on his own
paint your nails black
In a recent social media post, fans noticed something unusual in that Ronaldo’s fingernails were painted black, with one fan replying: “Did I miss something or did everyone miss it .” Did Ronaldo paint his toenails?
There is a good reason he does this and it is for the same reason that many top athletes such as MMA fighters also paint their nails.
Athletes are said to paint their nails or cover them with a protective coating to protect their nails from fungus and bacteria.
They said: “Many top athletes do this to protect their nails from fungus and bacteria when stuck in sweaty shoes for hours on end. Even Mike Tyson.
This isn’t the first time he’s been photographed with his fingernails painted black. In January, MMA fighter Francis Ngannou posted a picture with Ronaldo where they are seen kissing and the Portuguese star’s painted fingernails are visible.
Fighters such as former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski would do the same when they got into action. It’s another sign of a player who always looked to go the extra mile to prove he was one of the best of all time.
Cristiano Ronaldo is seen with nails painted black as he enjoys some downtime in the sauna
Fans have already noticed his big toe painted black in a photo with Francis Ngannou (left)
CRISTIANO RONALDO’S DIET, TRAINING, REST AND PHYSICS
His typical daily meals:
Breakfast: Cheese and ham, light yogurt
Brunch: Chicken and salad
Lunch: Tuna, olives, egg and tomato
Snack: Fresh fruits, avocado on toast
Supper: Fresh swordfish and salad
Dinner: Steak and calamari
Ronaldo complements team training sessions with a personal training plan.
His five weekly outings to the gym include 25 to 30 minutes of cardio, high-intensity sprints, and targeted weights to build muscle strength. In total, he trains three to four hours a day.
The superstar takes a nap five times a day. “Good sleep is really important to get the most out of training,” he says.
“Sleep helps muscles recover, which is really important.”
A test revealed he had the body of an athlete 14 years his junior, with 7% body fat – (the average footballer is 11).
He has 50% muscle mass.