Female England: supercharged by pizza


A trolley containing cakes and pizza passes through the mixed zone of the Amex Stadium on its way to the victorious England dressing room after their 2-1 quarter-final win over Spain at Euro 2022.

It doesn’t seem like the type of food that should head to a room full of elite athletes, even if they’ve just won a knockout game at a major tournament, but footballers enjoying pizza from post-match are a long-standing tradition in both men’s and women’s football.


And it’s not just the English either. Earlier in the tournament, the Spanish players also strolled through the media area after their group stage win over Denmark with boxes of pizza in hand, ready for their post-match dinner at Brentford’s Community Stadium.

Claudio Ranieri was known for treating his players at Leicester City to pizza after strong performances during their Premier League title-winning campaign in 2015-16 while one of the most famous post-match spats of all The times, ‘Pizzagate’, came at Old Trafford in 2004, when Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas allegedly threw a slice at Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Even Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been known to enjoy a slice of pizza after a game while a mountain of pizza boxes was spotted in a clip from Gareth Southgate’s dressing room after England’s 10-0 win over St. Marin in November 2021.

At the other end of the scale, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola banned his players from eating pizza during his first season at the Etihad Stadium, telling his players that if they were overweight, they would not train with the first team.

And while it’s not the meal of choice for Guardiola teams, pizza has nutritional benefits, as well as being seen as a reward, as Matt Lovell, a nutrition and performance coach who has worked with players in England, Manchester City and Aston Villa. , Explain.

“High-intensity, intermittent sports like soccer rely heavily on glycogen for players to fuel activity,” he says. “Replenishment of glycogen is dependent on dietary carbohydrate intake because carbohydrates, when broken down, become glucose, which is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles, where it is the main source of fuel for the activity.

“Rebuilding those reserves quickly is vital for frequent matches in a league or tournament.

“Pizza is an energy-dense source of carbohydrates and it is also high in calories. After the game you need high calorie and high energy foods to recover and usually it is also a forgiving time of the week so finger foods are often used with the pizza such as wedges and chicken dips, etc.

“Some of these types of food are appealing to players after the game because sometimes the appetite will be affected for some time after the game due to nerves. Often a protein and carbohydrate recovery shake will be provided in first, then pizza and sides will be available for a few hours after.

The recovery shakes given to England players at the Euros are likely to contain water, protein, fish oil, electrolytes and supplements for each individual, as well as more carbohydrates. Greek Caesar salad was also on the menu and was offered after the 8-0 win over Norway.

The players were offered either cake or ice cream as dessert after Wednesday’s win over Spain. half-substitute.

Before a game, players will prioritize consuming carbohydrates to fuel performance, which may mean avoiding hard-to-digest foods, and dairy products are also closely monitored as part of recovery meal intake – this which means there is no extra cheese on the pizza.

“Some pizzas contain a lot of cheese and although some fats are also important as mixed recovery meals, we always try to ensure the highest quality pizza with minimum or low fat cheese, and no stuffed crust, for the recovery,” Lovell said.

“Usually when loading carbs leading up to games or after a game, it’s a good idea to cut back on fat a bit to allow for the extra calories from carbs, which is a concept called carb cycling – you eat less of carbohydrates when you do less activity and more when you do more.

Takeaway pizzas are carried to Oakwood Stadium during a Women’s Championship match between Charlton and London City Lionesses in 2021 (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

“If you cut fat by one gram, you can eat two more grams of carbs for the same (overall) calories. This is important for many sports where an athlete’s power-to-weight ratio provides a competitive advantage. another thing we consider is that the pizza is very salty which might make it a poor choice for general consumption by non-active people but if you sweat especially as an elite athlete you need salt.

“Replacing and maintaining normal sodium levels during exercise is really important to avoid water toxicity or hyponatremia, which can cause headaches as well as more serious issues.”

Low sodium levels can lead to fatigue and keep nerves from working efficiently. Pizza is therefore a good way to quickly restore salt and carbohydrates to players after a game. Toppings are closely watched and, with extra cheese, processed meats are also unlikely to be favored over chicken – although pepperoni was offered on the food cart bound for the English dressing room on Wednesday night.

There is also something to be said for the convenience of ordering pizza when teams are on the road – during domestic league matches the away team may not have access to a kitchen or kitchen. So far at the Euros, England have played twice in the same stadium, so ordering is convenient for support staff.

And of course, eating post-game pizza can be a treat for the players. Spain goalkeeper Lola Gallardo told how much she and her teammates enjoy this type of recovery food, even though it “often leaves room for some”. dessert” at their hotel.

As England prepare to face either Sweden or Belgium in the semi-finals at Bramall Lane on Tuesday, victory would mean progressing to their first major final after a hat-trick of major tournament semi-final defeats.

Whatever the outcome of this match in Sheffield, as long as pizza remains a popular and nutritionally beneficial post-match option for players, it is unlikely to be replaced in a hurry.

(Top photos: Getty Images; Design: Sam Richardson)