One of the most talked-about players in the Bundesliga this season is Claudio Pizarro. The 37-year-old Peruvian has scored 12 goals in his last 11 games. He attributes much of his recent success to a new dietary plan.
Claudio Pizarro recently revealed that part of the secret to his goal-scoring streak is dietary plan drawn up by the Italian nutritionist Giuliano Poser, who helped Lionel Messi get in shape for last year's Champions League final - and who has also helped Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero shed a few excess kilos.
The rewards of good nutrition
The Peruvian striker, who has scored 100 goals for Werder Bremen and played more than 400 matches in the Bundesliga,has lost about four kilograms (13 pounds) in a short period of time - without losing any muscle mass or energy reserves.
"There are very few areas in which an athlete can make more mistakes than when trying to lose weight," said Dr. Klaus Pöttgen, a specialist in sport medicine and current team doctor for Bundesliga side Darmstadt.
Ursula Girresser, a consultant who has advised a number of German Olympic athletes and Borussia Dortmund players about nutrition, agrees.
"Whenever it comes to diets, there are a lot that are trendy but not necessarily good, since every player's requirements are different," she said.
A good nutritional plan, such as Claudio Pizarro's can be only be designed after a complex study of the athlete's individual needs has been conducted. A footballer's nutrition program is designed to facilitate muscle regeneration while at the same time stimulating muscle growth. It also needs to keep the player within the appropriate body-mass-index range, something that is different for every individual.
In Pizarro's case, age also needs to be taken into account, along with his level of will power and discipline when it comes to making the daily adjustments required for him to follow his nutritional plan.
"The older the athlete is, the longer it will take for his or her body to regenerate. In football, it is up to the player to take responsibility for his or her nutrition and it depends exclusively on how and when he or she eats. Fortunately, as seems to be the case with Pizarro, there are some professionals out there who understand that their body is the tool of their trade and their maximum capital," Dr. Pöttgen explained.
What he can and can't eat
Poser, the Italian specialist, designed a diet plan to meet the Peruvian striker's specific nutritional needs. The plan is not about shedding a few kilos, instead, it is designed to help him maintain an optimal weight, getting rid of fat and replacing it with muscle mass. It is also not about building bulkier muscles, it's about making those muscles more efficient with respect to the tasks they have to perform on the pitch.
"I no longer eat potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, products containing white flour, milk products, bread and I don't drink alcohol or soft drinks. I also don't eat chocolate because I cannot digest it well," Pizarro said.
Poser tells his clients to be picky when grocery shopping, and to look for organic products that have not been exposed to herbicides, pesticides or antibiotics.
What Pizarro does eat are large amounts of rice, fish, seasonal fruits and vegetables, all cooked with olive oil. He also has his choice of three beverages; mineral water, soy and almond milk.
"Unfortunately I can no longer eat certain things that normal people can, but it’s not that bad." the Bremen striker told FIFA's website.
The results on the pitch have been there for all to see, and nutritionists are very complementary about the new path he has embarked upon.
"The sense of responsibility and desire to improve his body and try to maintain it at its highest level of performance is not something that all players value," Girresser said.
It is also one of the main reasons why, at the ripe old age of 37, Pizarro has recently been one of the most efficient goal scorers in German football.
The Peruvian is hoping to add to his goal total on Saturday, when Bremen face his former club, Bayern Munich, in the Bavarian capital. However, whether he will be fit in time for Saturday's late match is unclear, after he suffered a knock in training on Thursday.