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Rugby nutrition

Rugby nutrition – you are what you eat!

In the days of modern rugby science, there are plenty of supplements, pills and shakes that advertise themselves to give the recipient a leading edge over everyone else – but before you (or we!) start pouring through the best rugby focused ‘magic bullets’ to consume, make sure you focus on the most important supplement of all.

That’s right – food.
food.jpg
You can train like Mr Olympia, take in kilos of protein and have all the creatine, arginine, glutamine or testosterone boosters in the world, but if your diet isn’t correctly managed, you won’t gain the edge that you seek.

For the record, coaching toolbox will cover the more advanced supplements as listed above in the near future.

So there are three core food groups, formally referred to as the 3 primary macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat.

CARBOHYDRATES

There are two types of carbs, refined and unrefined.

Carbohydrates, is the human bodies primary source of fuel, and the most efficient energy source available.

To make it easier to remember, think of refined carbohydrates as a rude person that pushes in and gets straight to the point – that is sugar and sweets and all those naughty treats.  Conventionally such carbohydrates are something to be avoided, as if the immediate energy isn’t required, these often get stored as fat.  The rapid rate in which this food is absorbed into the bloodstream will spike your blood sugar levels, in turn releasing insulin (this regulates the metabolism of carbs and fat in your body, allowing cells to absorb glucose to provide energy).

This ‘storage hormone’ will replace diminished energy and glycogen stores, which is great if you’ve just been training.

SO – REFINED (OR SIMPLE) CARBS

GOOD for after training
BAD for pretty much everything else

Unrefined carbohydrates are like the patient people that calmly wait their turn without any fuss or urgency – the good food such as pasta, rice, bread (all three brown or wholemeal) some fruits and vegetables.  The whole grains found in the majority of these groups are made up of three key parts of a grain, two you will know well, the bran and the germ (the outer layer containing the fibre and the internal area full of nutrients, while the third is the endosperm.  Refined carbohydrates (the rude) will never have all three, but refined foods will ensuring that they keep their natural goodness but more important contain compounds called phytochemicals.

These combine with all the goodness (such as vitamins and minerals) which allows for the full spectrum of nutritional benefit while allowing slow and proper digestion.  This means as a energy source the availability is prolonged, meaning that the food is highly unlikely to be stored as fat.

SO – UNREFINED (OR COMPLEX) CARBS

GOOD at almost all times
BAD late at night

THE RUGBY PLAYERS TIPS FOR CARBOHYDRATES:

•    Always dilute where possible, water down juice, put more in the middle of your sandwich and cut down the bread
•    Stay away from white foods where possible – such as white pasta, rice, bread and potatoes.   If you love the latter, don’t fry it.
•    A heap of small carb meals are better than one or two big ones
•    You’re a rugby player – don’t skip the carbs.
•    Up your fibre – brown foods, bananas and bran based cereals.  Fibre allows you gut to remain healthy, rids you of old food (via the throne) and lesson sugar absorbtion.
•    Get exotic.  Quinoa, lentils and other such food are considered miracle foods by certain cultures, slow carbs with a hint of protein to boot.

PROTEIN

Carbs are for energy, but protein is the big one for muscle growth, but more importantly repair, a crucial element for all rugby players.  Unlike their energy providing cousin, pretty much all proteins are good, but some are far better than others, especially in a modern environment.

Due to its importance in rugby, coaching toolbox will devote a full section to protein at a later point, where will run through the myriad of types available to the modern rugby player, but for now, the key is to ensure you have a wide spectrum of protein available to you.

Most important lesson here is that protein doesn’t just come from meat and eggs.  Powders are crucial due to the ease and bio-availability of them, while soy, peas (yes peas!), fish and milk are priceless protein additions to your diet.

THE RUGBY PLAYERS TIPS FOR PROTEIN

•    Have 2 grams of proteins daily per kilogram of bodyweight.  Experts opinion on this varies, but as a guide anywhere between 150-300 grams is good, although stay away from the upper end of the spectrum if you aren’t putting in a heap of activity in the gym and training field.
•    Protein should be the first thing you think about for your meals, then carbs, then fat.
•    Don’t think you don’t need protein if you are not training or playing, resting is the time when protein is needed as that is when repair and growth occurs.
•    Try to get a protein source into your body as soon as you wake up, you’ve been sleeping and your muscles will be hungry!
•    Spread your protein out, and try to avoid massive intakes at one time.  If you can’t avoid that (i.e. a big steak) avoid any other form of protein during that time.

FAT

There are three types of fats – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (the good), saturated (the bad) and trans or hydro (the ugly).

Poly and mono fall under the categories of fats that can provide benefits such as additional membrane fluidity (which protects against heart disease), can make insulin sensitivity more efficient, can lower bad cholesterol and improve good cholesterol – but one of the less known benefits of mono fats is that they are proven to improve mood and reduce anger levels.

Add to this overall cell health, brain and eye function and immune system efficiency, and it is little wonder that some nutritionists may recommend up to 15% of your daily diet to consist of these fats – following the long studied principles of the Mediterranean diet.

Saturated fats usually come from meat, milk, eggs (and of course oil and butter) and while these fats are unavoidable, very careful attention needs to be given to them as they can increase heart disease, and it is more likely to spike the chance of fat storage and cardiovascular disease.

The hydro and trans are the fats that are altered, either chemically or by frying.  The chemical changes are the real evils, as they allow food to have greater texture, digestibility and shelf life.  Most fast food outlets will not only willingly use this in their deep fryers, but also in their burger buns and other stuff.

Want to teach your rugby players a lesson, buy one of these and ask them to leave it out.  Those same fats are ignored by the hungriest organisms in the world, bacteria.  If they wouldn’t touch it, why do we queue up at the drive through?

THE RUGBY PLAYERS TIPS FOR FAT

•    We know it is hard, but try to stay away from fast food.  The longer you do, the easier it is.  Avoid it for months and then eat it, and you will know what we mean.
•    You need some fat – you’re in a collision impact based sport, so your ratios (especially if you are a forward) will be slightly higher than if you are a back.
•    Never let fat exceed 20% of your daily intake.
•    If you must have oil, try extra-virgin olive oil – heaps of mono fat and no trans fat.
•    Go and buy fish oil.  Not only do you get the benefit of good fat, but the EPA and GLA (Omega’s 3 and 6) present in this are crucial for the prevention of joint issues and potentially arthritis, an issue unfortunately not foreign for rugby players.
•    If you must fry, stir fry, the angle of a wok and the method or continue movement of the food helps prevent fat absorption.

James Mortimer