Rugby training, whether sprinting, plyometrics, interval or weights, requires high levels of energy to perform; as do rugby matches themselves. Learn how eating correctly can improve your game!
As you all know nutrition plays a vast role at improving sporting performance. Having a correct nutritional plan for rugby aids your performance a great deal. Eating the correct foods that will enable you to perform at 100% is not hard but the routine does take discipline just like any other diet.
Rugby training, whether sprinting, plyometrics, interval or weights, requires high levels of energy to perform; as do rugby matches themselves. These energy requirements should be obtained from carbohydrates. A professional players intake of carbs is normally governed by the glycaemic index of the food. High GI snacks are ingested shortly before exercise e.g. fruit, confectionary, glucose drinks; whereas low GI foods are ingested as part of a meal e.g. brown rice, pasta and wholemeal breads, which provide a sustained energy release. Roughly 2-3 days prior to matches the ingestion of carbs is about 7-10g per kg of bodyweight as this maximises the energy stores from carbs necessary for the game.
Rugby players require a healthy amount of fat in their diet. Carrying too much body fat is unnecessary and will only hinder your performance. Carrying too little body fat will cause prolonged muscle soreness and increases injury. Body fat is a natural shock absorber that cushions the body from hard hits and tackles. Fats from nuts, fish, diary products and meats are all good but must be taken in moderation and balanced out with your energy expenditure.
Protein intake needs to be fairly high in order to maintain mass and to aid recovery. Typical protein sources such as chicken, turkey and tuna are all excellent at providing a source of protein.
Fruit and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre and complex carbs. Rugby players require a vast amount of vitamins and minerals in order to aid recovery and to maintain the body’s natural functions. Foods such as broccoli, carrots, apples, banana and eggplant are amongst the favourite foods for professional rugby players.
Consume a large breakfast; omelettes, cereals, fruit, and high quality meats provide good levels of carbs, protein and fat. Try to avoid salty foods at least 24h before a game as this causes dehydration. Try also to avoid dense foods such as heavy meats that will lie in your stomach and take hours to digest.
For those players who suffer from nerves and as a result cannot eat, try to eat something. A lack of food will only make you feel worse during the game. A high fibre breakfast can help with an upset stomach caused by nerves.
Drink plenty of water; Hydration levels need to be at their peak. Your urine should be clear. Try to avoid diuretics and especially alcohol at least 24h before a match. Eat a small lunch; About 3 hours before kick off a low GI meal should be consumed e.g. pasta, cereal. This will provided sustained energy levels for the match. 30 Minutes before game; ingest a small amount of high GI food e.g. chocolate bar/ glucose drink to provide quick release energy.
After Match Meal
This meal should be both high in protein and high in carbs in order to replenish the energy stores and to commence recovery. A small amount of salt also helps prevent cramping of the muscles. Water should still be consumed as dehydration can set in very quickly.
Supplements For Rugby
The most common sports supplement used in rugby is creatine. Creatine benefits rugby players by proving a few extra kgs in weight, provides added endurance during games/ training and provides greater explosive power. Players under 18 should obtain advice from their coach before using creatine. The normal creatine cycle for a rugby player is to begin pre season and to cycle off a couple of weeks into the season. Then after a months off begin the cycle again.
Glucosamine is another common supplement taken by rugby players to aid with joint repair and maintenance. Many older players complain of joint ache due to their playing days and glucosamine is a great supplement to combat these troublesome joints. Normally taken with meals, glucosamine can be taken all year round.
Protein Shakes are awesome for aiding recovery after matches and heavy training sessions.
Multivitamins are a must for any active sports person with a busy lifestyle. Rugby can be very demanding on your body and supplementing any nutrients required to build and replenish your body is a must.
The list of other beneficial supplements could be endless and therefore I will leave it to you to see what aids you best. However, at present the IRB have had many rugby players banned from using common sports supplements; some even advertised in rugby magazines. Prohormones and ephedrine are common substances that are simple to buy from shops but illegal in rugby. A dosage of caffeine that is too high can also get a player banned. Regarding supplements, my advice for those of you who could be called to for drugs testing is this. Rugby is a sport of honour and dignity and therefore should be kept clean. Check with the IRB whether a supplement is illegal or not.