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Pickle juice and group bonding: The health and fitness secrets of the Euro’s top teams



Pickle juice and group bonding: The health and fitness secrets of the Euro’s top teams

Sitting in front of the television watching the Euros all summer might be fun, but it’s not particularly healthy. By the time the football tournament reaches its final stages, some of us have been almost completely sedentary for almost a month, refuelling on a diet of heavily salted snacks and carbonated drinks. But, if you pay close attention, you might actually be able to improve your health and fitness while bingeing on non-stop football matches this summer. 

The Euros is basically a gathering of the world’s most finely tuned, expensively developed young athletes. “There was a time when football lagged behind other sports in terms of sports science,” says James Witts, author of Training Secrets Of The World’s Greatest Footballers: How Science Is Changing The Modern Game.

“But nowadays, the sheer amount of money involved in the game means that elite football is at the very forefront of athletic conditioning. It’s about basic accountability: if you’re paying a player £300,000 a week, then you’d better make sure they are keeping in the best shape possible.” 

For this reason, the latest trends in fitness, diet, recovery and sports psychology are all being driven by the Beautiful Game. Here’s what normal people with busy lives can learn from the training practices of Euro 24’s eight quarter-finalists.

Drink pickle juice like England

“Every team at the tournament will focus on muscle recovery because the break between matches is so short,” says Nicolas Dyon, a football fitness coach who has worked with elite clubs in France and Switzerland. “Combating cramps in games requires proper hydration.”

When Kieran Trippier, England’s left back, suffered cramps in the opening match against Serbia, he was seen drinking a small sachet of ‘pickle juice’ at the side of the pitch. The unpleasant-sounding drink has been found in studies to reduce cramp 40 per cent faster than drinking plain water. Not only does it help replace lost salts during exercise due to its sodium potassium and vinegar content, it is also thought to help trigger a reflex in the mouth which sends signals to the brain to stop muscles from cramping.

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