Cristiano Ronaldo signs for Manchester United: How the 36-year-old stays on top form

Cristiano Ronaldo signs for Manchester United: How the 36-year-old stays on top form
The footballer is still at the peak of his game – thanks to a strict diet, plenty of recovery and mental strength.

In case you missed the biggest sporting news of the year: football legend Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back to Manchester United

The 36-year-old has left Italian club Juventus to sign a two-year deal at Old Trafford. It’s a return to his footballing roots, as Ronaldo signed to Man U as a relatively unknown 18-year-old player in 2003, going on to score 118 goals in six seasons for the club.

Most footballers age out of the Premier League in their early 30s, but Ronaldo is still well and truly going strong – and he has the resume to prove it. Over his career, Ronaldo has won three Premier League titles, five Champions League prizes, a European Championship – and much more.

Ronaldo promises to be an explosive presence in the Premier League, but the question is: how does he do it? He’s been at peak physical fitness for over 18 years, and every so often he hints at how he optimises his lifestyle to continue to be the best…

Diet…

The Sun reports Ronaldo as saying: “I eat a high protein diet, with lots of wholegrain carbs, fruit and vegetables, and avoid sugary food. Eat regularly. If you train regularly it’s important to keep energy levels high to fuel your body for better performance. I sometimes eat up to six smaller meals a day to make sure I have enough energy to perform each session at top level.”

That isn’t to say Ronaldo doesn’t stray from healthy eating – in a 2019 interview with ChrisMD he mentions eating pizza with his son every so often because he doesn’t want to be a “bore”.

But when it comes to hydration, it’s all about water.  At a press conference at the Euros in June he pushed aside two bottles of Coke – a sponsor of the competition – saying in Portuguese: “Drink water!”

Exercise…

Ronaldo told ChrisMD “life is all about balance” – meaning he doesn’t hit the gym every day, because that might mean his muscles are tight come game time. “With age, you know 100% your body and training smart,” he said. “It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality.”

When he’s not doing football drills, Ronaldo trains in the gym, cycles on a stationary bike and does Pilates.

The star also puts a lot of focus into his recovery – favouring ice baths and handheld percussive therapy devices to reduce muscle aches after a hard workout or game.

Lifestyle…

Sleep is important if you want to perform your best, and there’s a chance Ronaldo does things a bit differently than aiming for eight or nine hours a night. Sports sleep coach Nick Littlehales counts the footballer as one of his clients, and his recommendation is to have four or five 90-minute snoozes throughout the day.

Just don’t call it a nap – Littlehales told Football Whispers: “It’s not for old people watching the TV. It’s not for snoozers and losers. It’s a way to sleep less, to improve your recovery from it. Don’t waste valuable time doing it, but zone out at the right time doing it and you can get a real handle on it.”

Ronaldo regularly meditates, and often talks about how mental strength helps him stay at the top of his game.

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