Nutrition is a key part of any sport, and rugby is no exception. Known for its raw physicality and high-impact tackles, rugby places huge demands on its athletes. It goes without saying, training is paramount to building your performance, but its your nutrition that facilitates, supports and develops your training.
As with training, nutrition should be specifically based on the position you play, but more than that, your nutritional strategy should be individualised to you, your current physique, your performance status and your goal.
Your nutrition regime should be easy to create and follow. Although with so much advice available, it can be hard to pick the right information. Lots of conflicting advice, varying dietary trends and supplements. Let Maximuscle Nutritionist, Gareth Nicholas guide you through some of the fundamentals:
Hydration is a vital aspect of sports nutrition that is easy to underestimate.
Here's some key facts to follow:
- Water was found to be the most important part of a player’s diet. Dehydrating by just 3% (3 kg for a 100 kg player) can reduce strength by 10% and speed by 8%, while also increasing injury.
- Players should aim to drink a minimum of 3 litres of water per day, which can be monitored with a water bottle. Fruit and herbal teas count towards this water intake.
- Water should ideally be filtered or bottled.
- During training, consume 250ml of fluid every 15 minutes.
- Avoid carbonated and fizzy drinks as they contain lots of sugar and also cause bloating.
Unlike endurance and distance based sports, rugby requires a high degree of explosive power. Carbohydrates are good for providing energy: some carbohydrates can be broken down rapidly, thus causing the sugars they contain to be absorbed quickly. Be careful, if your glycogen stores are already full this may promote unwanted fat gain.
Unrefined carbohydrates (food in its natural state: brown rice, vegetables, fruits, wholemeal and wholegrain foods) take longer to be digested due to the fibre they contain and therefore, slowing down the rate sugars are released into the blood.
If you eat refined carbohydrates e.g. white bread, white pasta etc, sugar is quickly released into the blood which sends your body into insulin producing mode, a hormone which is designed to store glucose. If you haven’t been training, you’ll have no glycogen to store and it may instead cause fat to be stored instead.
When it comes to carbs, we would recommended that:
- Consume unrefined carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholegrains, oats, fruit and vegetables.
- Eat complex carbs around 3 hours before training.
- High fibre foods are good because they slow the absorption of sugar into the blood.
- Eat 1 or 2 portions of fruit and 3-4 veg per day.
- Avoid large carb-dominated meals as they can make you sluggish due to excess calories.
Protein is the building blocks of the human body and is a key macronutrient for muscle repair, development and growth.
Other key points you should note:
- Protein should be consumed at a rate of 1.8 - 2 grams of protein per 1 kg of bodyweight. An 80 kg person needs 144 - 160g of protein a day.
- Protein requires time to digest, so space your servings out in a day, every 2-3 hours would be perfect.
- Wide variety of protein sources is preferable: eggs, lean meat, nuts and fish.
- Aim for lean protein that doesn’t contain hidden fats.
- Protein can be had in snacks, such as low fat houmous, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs etc.
- Topping up your protein intake or for convenience, can be achieved or supported thanks to nutritional supplements.
- Take protein supplements on rest days, as well as training, to help maintain muscle mass.
A word that many misunderstand, fats are actually very good for the body and an essential part of nutrition.
There are ‘good fats’ with are polyunsaturated fats such as, Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. ‘Bad’ fats are saturated fats, while ‘ugly’ fats are chemically altered hydrogenated, trans-fats.
It’s also good to follow these tips:
- Avoid saturated and trans fats at all times (those deep fried fats).
- Use cold pressed olive oil as a main source of fat.
- Get essential fish oils in your diet by eating 2 meals of cold water fish per week or a suitable vegetarian option, such as flaxseeds.
- Keep fat intake to 15-20% of total calories.
For more on diet and macronutrients of professional players click here.
Build good nutritional habits
The key to achieving any goal is building healthy, sustainable habits.
Here are a few top tips to get you started:
- Daily protein targets - 1.8 - 2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight.
- Replacing snacks with healthy options - such as protein pancakes or peanut butter on a sliced apple. Always thinking about the protein intake.
- Build mass by eating 4 - 6 meals per day - there should be no big meals
- Manipulate carb intake – this ties in with the above points on carbs. Players must vary their carbs pre and post training.
- High carb intake pre-match– this also includes drinking plenty of water the day before a game.
Yes there are lots of things to consider, but start off by making a few changes and build from there. Nutrition, like training, needs to be worked at. The more effort you put in, the greater the results. The kitchen is the new gym.
To get you started and build the right plan for you, check out our meal planner for muscle building.