Monday 29 November 2021
The new Spurs manager, Antonio Conte, has banned his players from eating ketchup. Is no condiment safe?
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today… is Antonio Conte’s ketchup ban really necessary?
In Britain, tomato ketchup is an institution. You need proof? In 2020, we spent two hundred and thirty nine million pounds on the stuff.
We dip our chips in it, drizzle it over scrambled eggs and slather it all over a bacon sandwich. Unless you play for Tottenham or Aston Villa.
Because both Antonio Conte and Steven Gerrard have banned their players from eating it.
They’re being killjoys, right? I mean, doesn’t a little bit of what you fancy do you good?
“Alright then Alessandro, let’s talk shall we? You know Antonio Conte very well, you played under him, you played with him… what has he got against ketchup? What has it done to him in a past life?”
“I completely agree, I mean, we are living in a period of football where, alimentation, nutrition, it’s so important. And yes, when you play a lot of games at that kind of level where you need to perform at that level, you need to be perfect.”ESPN
But surely, unless you are going overboard, a dollop of ketchup can’t make that much difference, can it?
I mean, what’s the issue here? Is the ketchup ban an end in itself or are the coaches taking aim at the food we add ketchup to?
And can’t we trust players to make their own decisions on diet?
Well, funny you should ask that… because it’s one of the issues covered in a TV documentary about Conte’s former club, Juventus.
In it, the veteran player Giorgio Chiellini – 37 years old and still going strong, is horrified by the diet of his teammate – the 23-year-old American, Weston McKennie.
“Do you like pasta? In Italy we eat very well. If I don’t eat well, it’s impossible to play.”
“We throw a little bit like a cookie, or like a brownie or a burger, or something in there like this, you know? Then I’m like OK!”
“Pizza, yeah. Do you know what ranch dressing is? Ranch?”
“No, I never.”
“It’s a white sauce. It’s normally for salad. If you put the sauce on the pizza… pfft.”
“What are you saying to me? I am scared about American dressing.”Amos Murphy – Twitter
He’s right to be – the Juventus nutritionist finds that McKennie is overweight.
No more ranch for him, then.
You see, Conte has a point.
With football matches at the highest level being won and lost by fine margins, can he be blamed for seeking an advantage, however small?
For Conte, food is fuel… something to be used in moderation.
Here’s Nawal Gurung. He’s a sports therapist at the Fulham Academy.
“I love the word fuel. If I have a KitKat, is that going to fuel me for a ninety minute game…in comparison to broccoli. So when you start thinking about fuel, you can actually make better decisions as well.”Pro:Direct Soccer YouTube
If you look at what’s on the ketchup label, you’ll see its nutritional value is minimal.
There’s no fat, and there are traces of protein – fifteen calories per fifteen gram serving. The problem is sugar. In that tiny serving, there’s 3.4 grams of it, and that’s a lot.
“People craving for sugary stuff, people craving for fizzy drinks, people craving for biscuits, sugars, and that’s probably a sign that their nutrition isn’t whole, isn’t complete. And so your body is trying to get these extra sugars, extra vitamins from somewhere else. I think that’s probably the red flag, when you start craving for sugary stuff you realise you’re either in overtraining mode, you’re probably dehydrated and you’re not fuelling yourself with the right nutrition.”Pro:Direct Soccer YouTube
A nutritionist will tell you that too much refined sugar… the stuff that’s found in ketchup… is addictive: it feeds your desire for more.
And it may cause resistance to leptin, the hormone that sends your brain the message to stop eating.
Sugar is also linked to visceral fat… that’s the fat around the middle that’s linked to heart disease and type two diabetes.
So you can see why ketchup – OK for mere mortals when eaten in moderation – is no good for an elite athlete.
Of course, the ketchup ban makes for amusing headlines.
But there’s a reason for it. Sorry!
Today’s episode was written by me, Chloe Beresford, and produced by Studio Klong.