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Is the soccer player of the future 'plant-based'?

Video Credit: Reuters - Sports - Duration: 04:02s - Published
Is the soccer player of the future 'plant-based'?

Is the soccer player of the future 'plant-based'?

Some soccer players are giving plant-based diets a cloer look as they try to find an edge in the competiton.

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SHOWS: UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (CALEB RICHARDS - ACCESS ALL) 1.

CALEB RICHARDS RUNNING 2.

RICHARDS SHOPPING FOR VEGETABLES UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 3.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALEB RICHARDS,

Class="kln">NORWICH CITY DEFENDER, SAYING: "We have GPS vests at Norwich so you can map your top speeds, how much you're sprint in a session.

My top speed was 9.7 metres per second before, that's the top one that I ever got, and then two weeks after this we did some sprint tests and I managed to hit 10.2 metres per second, which is quite a drastic improvement." UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (CALEB RICHARDS - ACCESS ALL) 4.

RICHARDS OPENING HIS CUPBOARDS UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 5.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALEB RICHARDS, NORWICH CITY DEFENDER, SAYING: "Since I've been at home I can cook for myself every day so I've been more strict on the vegan diet and I've been more strict on my running, and that's when I've noticed bigger improvements in the cardio-vascular.

At first it was just speed, but you can't really tell in games, I could tell I was feeling a bit lighter but now just running every day I feel like I'm getting a lot fitter." UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (CALEB RICHARDS - ACCESS ALL) 6.

RICHARDS PREPARING FOOD UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 7.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALEB RICHARDS, NORWICH CITY DEFENDER, SAYING: "Because we had quite a good understanding of nutrition it was quite easy.

We didn't just jump straight into crazy dishes with all lentils and mad stuff, we started quite easy with Quorn, not fully vegan just eating meat free stuff, then started adding a few chickpeas and different types of protein sources elsewhere.

And then we did it kind of gradually so it wasn't hard, it was quite an easy transition." UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (CALEB RICHARDS - ACCESS ALL) 8.

RICHARDS COOKING UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 9.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CIAREN JONES, NORWICH CITY DEFENDER, SAYING: "I was meant to be out for eight weeks but then I was only out for six weeks in total.

And when I was coming back from my injury I was getting quicker results than I was when I was fully fit.

Like Caleb said about his maximum speed, my max speed as well went up and obviously my recovery process was quicker which was quite shocking to both me and my physio because of how badly I'd ruptured my ankle." UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (CALEB RICHARDS - ACCESS ALL) 10.

RICHARDS COOKING UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 11.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CALEB RICHARDS, NORWICH CITY DEFENDER, SAYING: "Everybody still has a joke obviously, the big meat-eaters calling you a rabbit and stuff.

Even my family now, we had a barbecue a couple of weeks ago and there was like, they were just laughing at me saying you can't have anything, you can have a Quorn burger and it's not the same.

It does taste as good but you obviously do get stick.

Even the stick you get now, a lot of those people now who have read the book have started transitioning and saying I never thought this would be me, and now I can give the stick back to them." UNKNOWN LOCATION, ENGLAND, UK (RECENT) (CALEB RICHARDS - ACCESS ALL) 12.

RICHARDS EATING STORY: The days of English football's once notorious drinking culture are long gone and few professionals would now list the once obligatory 'steak and chips' as their favourite meal but things are moving to a different level entirely when it comes to what players used to call "looking after yourself".

Whether it be the influence of dieticians, sports scientists or foreign coaches and team mates, you only need to look at the physique of modern Premier League players to realise they take health and nutrition very seriously.

The game is faster and more demanding than ever and the competition for places means young players, in particular, are on the look out for any 'marginal gains' they can make to improve their performance.

And for some that now means giving up meat altogether and adopting a plant-based diet.

Norwich City's 21-year-old full-back Caleb Richards has gone a step further by putting his experiences and thoughts on his diet into an e-book "The Transition - an athlete's guide to a meat-free diet".

Richards, who was on loan at U.S team Tampa Bay Rowdies last year, was prompted to try to give up meat by the Netflix film "Game Changers", which he watched in January.

The 2018 documentary, which features Arnold Schwarznegger and vegan athletes such as UFC fighter James Wilks, ultra marathon runner Scott Jurek and six-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, has won loyal followers but also received some criticism.

The Salford-born player decided to try two weeks without meat and said he noticed immediate benefits.

Richards had some of his Norwich Under-23 team mates, like centre-half Ciaren Jones, join him in the experiment, helped by the fact that the club's first team have several vegan players and the club's canteen provides meat-free options.

"I was meant to be out for eight weeks but then I was only out for six weeks in total.

And when I was coming back from my injury I was getting quicker results than I was when I was fully fit," said Jones.

"My recovery process was quicker which was quite shocking to both me and my physio because of how badly I'd ruptured my ankle." Debate among experts continues to rage about the benefits or otherwise to athletes of a vegan or plant-based diet but the approach appears to be increasingly popular in football.

Arsenal's Spanish defender Hector Bellerin is a prominent advocate and top women's player, Alex Morgan of the World Cup- winning U.S team is also a vegan.

Other players, such as Burnley forward Jay Rodriguez, have dropped meat but eat some fish and the modern player's diet in any case is low on red meat.

It is a long way from the days of players enjoying fish and chips with a can of lager on the coach back from an away game but Richards has been on the end of some dressing room banter.

"The big meat-eaters calling you a rabbit and stuff.

Even my family now, we had a barbecue a couple of weeks ago and there was like, they were just laughing at me saying you can't have anything, you can have a Quorn burger and it's not the same.

It does taste as good but you obviously do get stick.

Even the stick you get now, a lot of those people now who have read the book have started transitioning and saying I never thought this would be me, and now I can give the stick back to them."




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