Romelu Lukaku: Undiagnosed digestive problem pushed me towards plant-based diet
Football is full of sliding doors moments
Everything changed for Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2019. After two slightly underwhelming seasons with Manchester United, the feeling was he hadn't been utilised properly, and that he wasn't at the top of his game physically. The first point is subjective. The second was objectively true, but not for a lack of care from Lukaku himself.
Having left United to join Inter Milan, a new medical team diagnosed him with a digestive problem that everyone else had missed. A shift towards a more plant-based diet saw him reach peak physical condition and - shock horror - scored 64 goals across two seasons for the San Siro side.
"From my time in Italy, my diet became a big part of my daily life," Lukaku says, as part of the launch of his new partnership with Beyond Meat.
"I understood that food can completely change my training performance and mindset, it’s important to me now. I found out that I had a digestive problem that I didn’t know about before, since changing my eating habits I’ve noticed such a difference.
"Making sure you’ve got the right diet, with all the elements and the right timing is important."
The Belgian is not evangelical about veganism, though. He doesn't even describe him as a fully fledged vegan. It's all a matter of finding the best diet to improve performance, and like many other footballers, he is finding joy in adopting a plant-based diet.
"I didn’t make a transition; I’m doing what I can to incorporate more plant-based meals into my routine," he explains.
"I think a lot of players are incorporating more plant-based meals as they help us achieve a more balanced lifestyle."
"I think this is an opportunity to help people see an alternative to meat and maybe change their diet. You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to go beyond meat."
The 2021/22 season has not been the most straightforward for Lukaku, with a new series of adaptations to make as he settles into yet another playing system at Chelsea.
But with his diet better geared towards maximising his performances on the pitch, you wouldn't bet against him finishing the season on a high.