When someone mentions “professional athlete”, it usually conjures up images of elite sportspeople at the top of their game, with fit and muscular physiques to go along with their sporting ability. Cristiano Ronaldo comes to mind with his chiselled physique and world class ability. But it appears that being too muscular can actually have detrimental effects depending on what sport you’re in.
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has come under fire for gaining too much mass lately, and he recently admitted to The Guardian that the change in his physique has actually impacted the way he plays football.
“A little bit of muscle, yeah. It was at the World Cup,” Lukaku admitted, when asked if he gained more mass. “I just felt great and I think I played great over there, and then when I came back it is a different type of style.”
While he plays the same position for Belgium as he does for Manchester United, tactical differences mean how he trained to play for his country has been incompatible with his playstyle in the Premier League.
“In the Premier League, I cannot play with the same amount of muscle as international football,” he said. “That was something that when I came back I knew straight away: ‘Nah, I cannot play in this style like this.’ I had to lose muscle basically. So you just stay out of the gym, drink a lot of water, and a lot of veg and fish and it helps.”
According to a study published in Nutrients journal, a high omega-3 intake decreases the risk for weight gain, and boosts the sensitivity of leptin, a hormone that regulates metabolism. Drinking sufficient water has also shown to have positive effects on weight loss, according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Lukaku could get away with using his mass to power his way through international games where the pace might be slower, but in doing so, he sacrificed his agility and speed in the faster-paced Premier League.
It turns out, this isn’t entirely surprising. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the more muscle mass you have, the less agile you become. Not only that, the study shows that an increased amount of muscles negatively affect overall speed and power in vertical leaps.
But it seems that Lukaku has recognised that this is an issue and is starting to put in the work to lose all that excess mass, as well as do more speed and agility training to get back to his past playing levels.
“[There is] more prevention in the gym and I am trying to do speed bursts in training and that’s the most essential,” he said.
Looks like we might be able to see a leaner, quicker Lukaku in the near future if he sticks to this training and diet plan.
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer