Cristiano Ronaldo’s obsessive fitness regime and age-busting diet have kept him in incredible shape throughout his career… but are his superpowers starting to fade at the age of 38 as Al-Nassr boss reveals the superstar is suffering from fatigue?
In the world of sports, players have repeatedly tried to bend time to their will.
Tom Brady won a Super Bowl six months before his 44th birthday, while James Anderson continued to take wickets with metronomic accuracy long after he turned 40.
Lionel Messi was relatively wet behind the ears when he inspired Argentina to World Cup glory at the age of 35.
Ultimately, Father Time remains undefeated, even against the very best, no matter how strict their diets and how obsessive their fitness routines.
Cristiano Ronaldo got a brutal insight into the life of an aging athlete this week when he missed Al-Nassr’s Asian Champions League match against Al-Duhail on Tuesday due to fatigue.
Cristiano Ronaldo was rested for Al-Nassr’s AFC Champions League match against Al-Duhail
Al-Nassr head coach Luis Castro stressed that Ronaldo needs rest after recent matches
Castro said Ronaldo was suffering from fatigue after a challenging recent schedule
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Al-Nassr head coach Luis Castro emphasized that the Portuguese needed to recover from the efforts of the past matches.
“Cristiano Ronaldo will not participate in the Al-Duhail match because he is tired from his many participations,” he said.
‘I know there are people who want to see him, but he needs to rest. It’s not ready yet, but we have a lot of stars.
‘I have not decided to rule out the legend Cristiano Ronaldo, but his abilities have decided that.
“Because he played a match 48 hours ago, and 120 minutes before that.”
Under normal circumstances, resting a 38-year-old so he can recover from a grueling schedule would hardly be newsworthy.
Except Ronaldo is not a normal 38-year-old athlete.
Ronaldo (pictured playing for Man United in 2021) is still in incredible form for a 38 year old
The Portuguese is a notoriously dedicated trainer and follows a strict regime
Tests carried out earlier this year showed Ronaldo had the body of an athlete fourteen years his junior
Like Brady, the Portuguese is notoriously picky about his diet and wears his obsession with his health and fitness routines proudly on his sleeve.
Ronaldo supplements the selection training with a personal training plan.
His five weekly trips to the gym include 25-30 minutes of cardio, high-intensity sprinting and targeted weights to increase muscle strength.
In total, he trains three to four hours a day and the results are visible to everyone.
The former Manchester United star is still insanely tight for someone who is two years shy of his 40th birthday. Tests carried out earlier this year showed he had the body of an athlete fourteen years his junior, with seven percent body fat – the average footballer is eleven – and 50 percent muscle mass.
“Cycle wherever you can,” he said in 2015 when digging into his “top 15 health and fitness tips” he follows.
Ronaldo’s five weekly trips to the gym include 25-30 minutes of cardio, high-intensity sprinting and targeted weights to increase muscle strength
Ronaldo trains three to four hours a day in addition to his team training
The Al-Nassr star credits dedication and making his workouts part of a daily routine as the reason he stays in incredible shape
‘You can do an abdominal workout in your bedroom when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed. When you get into a routine, it becomes easier because it becomes a habit.”
But even the best training regimens would be useless without the commitment to follow them regularly.
And Ronaldo believes dedication is the key factor behind his transformation from the skinny teenager who arrived at Old Trafford in 2003 into a ripped athlete whose abs routinely grace the covers of glossy magazines.
‘(You have to) Be disciplined. Keeping yourself motivated and sticking to your routine is essential. For me there is no room for relaxation, so I have to be strict.’
Ronaldo follows his diet as closely as he trains, eating six smaller meals throughout the day, as opposed to the average man’s traditional three-meal structure of breakfast-lunch-dinner.
The Portuguese has employed a nutritionist since his time at Real Madrid and enjoys nutrient-rich foods such as avocado and fresh fish, and generally sticks to high-protein, low-fat foods such as chicken.
Unsurprisingly, Ronaldo avoids alcohol and is also notoriously averse to sugary drinks.
He famously caused sponsor headaches at the 2020 European Championship when he pointedly removed Coca-Cola bottles from his seating area during a press conference before shouting in Portuguese: ‘Drink water!’.
When Ronaldo returned to United in 2021, third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant revealed his strict eating regime had an immediate impact on his new teammates’ diets.
Grant told talkSPORT that United players avoided desserts ahead of Ronaldo’s debut against Newcastle after noticing the Portuguese had been flipping pies themselves.
“Not a single player touched the apple crumble and custard, not a single player went up for that brownie because everyone sat down,” he said,
“One of the guys said to me, ‘What does Cristiano have on his plate?’
“So we kind of looked at what he has and it’s clearly the cleanest, healthiest plate you can imagine.
“And it just amazed me that not a single player dared to get up and grab that junk food that was laid out.”
When he returned to Old Trafford, Ronaldo also reportedly had a £50,000 cryotherapy chamber installed at home.
Ronaldo is also notoriously meticulous about his food and follows a very healthy diet
From ‘magic’ chicken, a strict nap schedule and cryotherapy at home – Mail Sport explores the health hacks that helped Ronaldo to a long career at the top level
The therapy, which is also used by Manchester City star Erling Haaland, is said to help reduce inflammation and swelling from injuries by boosting blood circulation as the body responds to the extreme cold.
Ronaldo is similarly conscious when it comes to his rest: he gets his seven and a half hours of sleep with five 90-minute naps instead of one big sleep.
But despite his obsessive diet and training regimes, it’s no surprise that Ronaldo is finally starting to slow down.
The five-time Champions League winner has never suffered any serious injuries throughout his career and his durability has meant breaks in play have been few and far between.
Ronaldo has played at least 30 games a season since turning professional in 2002, only reaching the 40-game threshold in his debut season and the last two seasons.
Ronaldo previously said that sleep is key to muscle recovery; he has five 90-minute naps a day
Ronaldo continues to have a tough schedule as he remains an important player for club and country
Ronaldo missed Al-Nassr’s first Saudi League match of the season in August, but played the full 90 minutes in 10 of their next 11 league matches. He was substituted four minutes from the end in the 4–0 win over Al-Shabab on 29 August.
Before being rested for the match against Al-Duhail, Ronaldo had also played the full match in Al-Nassr’s three Asian Champions League matches this season and played 120 minutes in the King Cup of Champions Round of 16 match against Al-Ettifaq last. week.
The Portuguese legend was given a game off when his side edged past Ohod 5-1 in the same competition in September after returning from international duty.
Ronaldo has made three appearances for Portugal so far since the start of the season, missing the match against Luxembourg in September due to suspension.
He is Al-Nassr’s top scorer this season, scoring fifteen times in sixteen games.