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Soccer players tend to be lean, mean sports machines with almost zero body fat and a strict diet to adhere to. It means they can reach the peak of their performance in high-stakes matches, delighting supporters.

Sometimes, once their career is over, they can be prone to a little weight gain. We’re all guilty of letting ourselves go once we’ve hit a goal or we change circumstances. If you’ve worked hard all week, you’re sure to afford yourself a little treat at the weekend. Imagine if you’ve been on a strict regime for years; you’d be tempted to reach for junk food and soda for a few weeks, wouldn’t you?

Soccer players do, and some gain a notable amount of weight. The Brazilian striker Ronaldo was never known for being a perfect physical specimen, but it didn’t matter because he was a brilliant player. When he retired, he began to live quite a luxurious lifestyle and soon piled on the pounds. Recently, the 47-year-old became a major shareholder in the Spanish side of Real Valladolid and vowed to shed some of the excess weight to help the team. “I have not come to play,” he said after investing €30 million ($32.5 million). “I am not in shape for that. I will start training and getting fit so I can train with the boys and contribute a bit in the technical area, always in agreement with the coach.”

As he embarks on his weight loss journey, he may take inspiration from a number of other former players who have lost weight, both after playing and during their careers. Some have suffered after hanging up their soccer jersey, and others have shown remarkably quick weight loss whilst playing.

Here’s a look at some of those players.

Neil Ruddock

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Neil Ruddock played for Liverpool and England and was always known for his sizeable frame, which he launched into tackles with ferocity. His weight began to creep up when he finished playing, before exploding to 27 stone during COVID. He made a decision to drop weight, and he did it quickly.

Usually, the question how long does it take to lose weight has an ambiguous answer, with many factors coming into play, such as exercise, diet, etc. That is especially pertinent for soccer players. Often, they take on a lot of water, and early in any weight loss journey, sharp drops can be a loss of water weight, not actual weight. Ruddock experienced a sharp drop, but not because of water weight; he had a gastric band fitted, which he said wasn’t cheating but was rather a method of ‘cheating death’. Of course, soccer players usually take a less direct route, meaning weight loss is more gradual, but in some instances, drastic action is needed.


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Brazilian star Hulk is still playing despite being 37. He’s been capped 49 times by his country and has seven domestic titles across several countries. He hasn’t traditionally battled with his weight, despite being a fine physical specimen but he did demonstrate a rather dramatic weight loss achievement in January 2023, which is worth a mention. We pointed out how Neil Ruddock lost weight quickly, outside the normal parameters of dieting, and Hulk did the same without surgery. All he needed was one game.

He weighed himself before a 90-minute game, played in 30-degree heat, tipping the scales at 97.6 kilos. At the end of the game, he got on the scales, and he was down to 91.9 kilos, a 5.7 kilo loss. While this wasn’t a concerted effort to drop weight, it is an indication of how easy it is for soccer players to stay in shape during their careers.

David Seaman

David Seaman was one of England’s top goalkeepers, playing 75 times for England. He was known for his mustache and ponytail and was rarely out of shape. Unlike Ruddock, he didn’t go crazy when he retired either; he just carried on eating what he had always eaten. “When you finish football, you think you can carry on eating what you did as a footballer,” he said, referring to soccer, of course.

Without the exertion Hulk was demonstrating, Seaman’s weight began to creep up. Unlike the other two names on the list, he didn’t need drastic action. Instead, he took a balanced approach to weight loss and one worth following. He started to exercise and monitor what he ate, a manageable and sensible approach to dieting. “You know I go bike riding, stuff like that – I enjoy the exercise,” he added. “When you finish football, if you carry on eating the same, you’re gonna put weight on.”