Maintaining your Nutrition Levels      

Maintaining  good  nutrition  principles  through  the  Season

Living and training for rugby union in Australia  as with many  other  parts  of  the  world  the  game of rugby  is  often  played  and  trained  for  in   hot  and  often  very  humid  climatic  conditions.

Naturally,  energy  loss  will  be  more  prevalent  in  these  conditions  than  in  some  other  parts  of  the  world   where  the  game  is  predominantly  played  as  a  winter  sport,  even  though  in  colder  conditions  players  will  still  lose  plenty  of  sweat.

Irrespective  of  where  it  is  played  -­‐  The  game  of  Rugby  Union  is  a  mixture  of  high  intensity  periods  of  play   interspersed  with  lower  intensity  activities  throughout  the  eighty  minutes  of  play  and  good  nutrition  can   make  a  difference  to  performance  levels  of  players  throughout  the game and the  season.

From  jersey  number  one  through  to  twenty  two  the  modern  game  is   now  played  at  a  fast  pace  certainly  faster  than  it was ten  or  more   years  ago  and  is  now  such  a  dynamic  experience  that  players  rely  on   instant  muscle  fuel  sources  to   play  at  high  intensity  over  short   bursts  of  play  over  varying  running  distances  as  well  as  active   aerobic  energy  systems  being  optimized  over  more  sustained  continued  phases  of  play  and  also   during  the  all  important  recovery   phase  post  game.

rugby players and a macca's

Eating for Rugby Union

Some  lower  intensity  activities  such  as  standing,  walking  and  jogging  at  variable  paces  are  also  interspersed  with  more  vigorous  activities  such  as  tackling,  involvement  in  the  contact  zone,  scrummaging,   mauling,  lineout  jumping  and  lineout  lifting  as  well  as  the  normal  kick,  catch,  pass  and  run  activities.

Mental  alertness  is  also  required  so  that  players  are  able  to  make  correct  decisions  under  pressure,  read   and  anticipate  play  and  make  various  tactical  decisions  that  impact  on  a  team  performance.

Because  of  the  ever  increasing  velocity  being  exerted  in  the  contact  zones,  players  need  to  be  strong  and   physically  conditioned  well  enough  to  withstand  the  rigours  of  constant  tackling,  hitting  rucks  and  mauls   as  well  as  scrum,  lineout,  kick  off  and  general  attack  and  defensive  activities.      While  forwards  are  generally  of  higher  muscle  mass  in  tight  five  positions  with  sometimes  a  higher  body   fat  composition  than  the  loose  forwards,  backs  in  the  modern  game  are  also  now  very  strong  and  built  up   physically,  while  the  game  still  allows  for  the  lighter  framed  players  with  the  lower  body  fat  levels  relative   to  body  weight  to  compete  at  all  levels  of  competition.

When  considering  a  diet  that  will  withstand  the  extent  of  a  long  season,  the  dietary  considerations  can  be   broken  down  broadly  for  an  article  of  this  general  nature  into  the  areas  of  training  diet  and  competition   diet.

food for rugby players


1.Training  Diet:      The  demands  of  training  for  modern  rugby  are  such  that  a  consistent  approach  to  the  adequate  levels  of   fuel  intake  required  is  necessary.   Traditionally  players  have  only  focused  on  fuelling  up  on  a  day  before  a  game  or  only  on  game  day  itself   by  virtue  of  a  pre  game  meal.

However  the  stark  reality  in  the  developing  world  is  that  because  of  a  lack   of  understanding  as  to  what  one  should  be  eating  the  wrong  approach  to  sports  nutrition  is  often  being   applied  and  often  no  such  considerations  are  factored  in  at  all  on  training  and  match  days.      Variety  is  considered  the  spice  of  life  and  it  is  no  different  when  considering  a  good  balanced  approach  to   a  training  diet  for  rugby  union.

When  choosing  foods  to  eat,  priority  should  be  given   to  nutrient  rich  foods  that  best  look  after  the  special   needs  of  training  and  maintaining  health.  Mixing  and   matching  foods  together  and  being  aware  of  the  respective  nutritional  values  is  often  a  good  approach  to   take.      Plenty  of  the  following  are  recommended  to  Rugby   players:

Different  colourful  fruit  and  vegetables  on  a   daily  basis Breads  and  cereals  that  is  pasta,  rice,  oats,   grains,  bread,  breakfast  cereals,  potatoes,  sweet  potatoes,  corn  and  noodles , Low  fat  dairy  products  including  milk  varieties,   yoghurts  and  cheeses . Lean  meats,  skinned  poultry  meats,  fish,  eggs   and  other  protein  rich  foods  such  as  tofu  or  various   pulses  such  as  lentils,  beans  and  baked  beans  healthy  fats  such  as  quality  vegetable  oils,  nuts,   seeds  and  avocado. Fruit  and  low  fat  yoghurt  smoothies  with  added   low  fat  milk,  some  ice  cream  or  skim  milk  powder , Cereal  /muesli  type  energy  bars        All  of  the  above  listed  food  types  will  aid  in  complimenting  a  players  fuel  reserves.

An  understanding  of  what  constitutes  carbohydrate  type  foods  is  important  for  rugby  players  as  carbohydrates  are  really  the  fuel  of  choice  for  regular  training  in  season.  Players  should  attempt  to  base  their   meals  and  snacks  between  meals  around  healthy  carbohydrate  rich  food  sources.  These  will  include  oat   products,  grainy  breads  high  in  fibre,  various  types  of  rice  or  corn  crackers,  pasta,  brown  or  white    rice,   noodles  and  starchy  vegetables  like  potatoes,  yams  and  sweet  potatoes.

2. After  intense  practice  sessions  and  also  matches,  players  should  be  looking  to  add  additional  carbohydrate   rich  food  sources  and  fluid  sources  to  provide  extra  fuel  sources  and  to  generally  aid  in  the  overall  recovery  process  on  a  weekly  basis.

Items  such  as  Bagels,  flour  based  tortilla  wraps,  cereal  bars  and  even  creamed  rice  are  good  options  for   players  to  consider.   Isotonic  sports  drinks  on  top  of  regular  water  intake  may  also  be  useful  in  topping  up  carbohydrate  stocks   during  or  after  trainings,  especially  in  hot  conditions  where  sweat  is  occurring  freely  and  overall  fluid  losses  are  expected  to  be  high.

3. The  issue  of  dehydration  is  certainly  not  understood  well  enough  in  my  opinion  and  as  a  general  rule  players  should  be  educated  by  coaches  and  Managers  to  self  monitor  their  urine  colour  to  ensure  that   maintenance  of  proper  hydration  levels  occur.  Certainly  prior  to  training  ␣  pale  or  clear  urine  is  a  good   sign  while  bright  yellow  or  brownish  colour  urine  release  is  a  sure  sign  you  are  going  into  practice  or  com-­‐ petition  in  a  dehydrated  state  which  will  definitely  affect  performance.    

Good  sources  of  fluid  include  water,  trim  milk,  sports  drinks  and  moderate  amounts  of  fruit  juices.    Lesser   preferred  choices  may  include  carbonated  soft  drinks,  alcohol  and  a  variety  of  energy  based  drinks  so   widely  advertised  these  days  to  attract  people  from  all  walks  of  life.        Protein:         Because  Rugby  is  a  contact  sport,  protein  requirements  are  generally  higher  than  other  sports  not  involving  the  contact  phases.

Resistance  training  and  contact  related  activities  are required  to  be  trained  ON AT LEAST a  weekly  basis  as  that   is  what  the  game  represents  now  so  adequate  levels  of  protein  rich  food  needs  to  be  consumed  to  cater   for  training  adaptations  and  certainly  the  important  recovery  from  games  and  practices.   Foods  that  are  high  in  protein  include  the  lean  meats,  chicken  and  other  white  meats,  fish  varieties,  low   fat  dairy  products  and  eggs.

As  a  general  rule,  Rugby  players  should  try  and   consume  between  1.4  to  1.8  grams of  combined  carbohydrate  and  protein  food  sources   per  kilogram  of  body  weight  per day.  Players  to  tailor  this  amount  to  know  when  they   feel  the  best  but  generally speaking  it  would   not  be  over  2  grams  per  kilogram  of  body   weight  of  a  player  per day.

Whey  protein  supplements  are  now  widely   used  by  Rugby  players  as  an  added  protein   source  and  are  particularly  good  straight  after  a   practice  or  game  and  definitely  make  a  difference  to  muscle  mass  over  time  when  used   regularly.

Fat:   For  Rugby  Union,  a  high  energy  (  calorie/KJ)  intake  is  considered  necessary  to  maintain  body  mass  which  is   relative  to  a  players  size especially  during  growth  and  development  issues  occurring  with  younger  players  or  where  coupled  with  an  intensive  period  of  resistance  training.  While  fat  is  considered  an  energy   cleanse  type  nutrient,  it  will  not  assist  as  a  fuel  which  is  required  for  the  robust  type  of  physical  activity   undertaken  during  the  eighty  minutes  of  a  rugby  game.     In  this  regard,  it  is  wise  for  rugby  players  to  generally  avoid  consuming  high  fat  dairy

found  around  the  world,  fried  foods,  cakes  and  creamy  sauces.   The  type  of  fats  that  may  be  useful  for  rugby  players  to  consider  can  be  found  in  items  such  as  nuts,  good   quality  vegetable  oils/sprays,  various  different  types  of  seeds,  fish,  avocado  and  low  fat  margarine.  Moderation  is  the  key  to  intake  levels  of  fat  not  excess  in  this  area.

Eating  on  Competition  Days:

Competition  day  calls  for  special  preparation  to  see  you  are  ready  and  confident  to  put  the  body  on  the   line  for  the  team.  Eating  to  compete  and  ultimately  win  is  a  strategy  that  well  organized  team  management  structures  create  as  a  priority  for  their  players  to  be  knowledgeable  on.      It  will  generally  be  in  the  second  half  of  games  and  often  in  the  last  quarter  when  depletion  of  fuel  stores   becomes  most  evident  in  players  meaning  that   the maintenance  of  skill  level  can  become  impaired.

Generally  in  the  twenty  four  hours  before  competition,  players  will  have  tapered  their   training  to  rest  cycle  and  look  to  eat  good concentrations  of  high  carbohydrate  type  foods.      The  time  of  competition  during  a  day  determines  the  type  of  eating  pattern  on  match   day.      If  you  have  an  early  afternoon  game,  having  a   normal  breakfast  and  then  a  light  pre  game  snack  /  meal  2 – 3  hours  before  the  game  is  all  that  can  often   be  achieved  especially  if  players  also  have  to  work  in  the  first  half  of  the  day  and  often  travel  varying   distances  to  a  match  venue.     

If  the  start  time  for  your  game  is  mid  afternoon,  then  a  normal  breakfast  followed  by  a  pregame  meal  4   hours  before  kickoff  is  most  suited.      If  the  match  is  in  the  evening,  then  a  normal  breakfast  and  lunch  is  generally  followed  by  a  pre  game  meal   3 – 4  hours  before  match  start  time.     

Examples  of  high  carbohydrate,  low  fat  preevent  meals  may  include Breakfast  cereal,  low  fat  milk  with  fresh  or  canned  fruit  topped  with  a  low  fat  yoghurt  Muffins  or  Crumpets  with  jam  or  honey  Pancakes  with  a  syrup  topping   Toast  plus  baked  beans  or  spaghetti  (  high  fibre  option)  ,Creamed  rice  (  low  fat  milk  option)  , Rolls  or  sandwiches  with  banana  filling , Fruit  salad  and  low  fat  yoghurt   Pasta  with  tomato  or  low  fat  sauce , Baked  potatoes  with  a  low  fat  filling  (  maybe  vegetable  leftovers  or  similar)  , Mashed  potatoes  and  baked  beans  ,Sports  bars  or  cereal  bars  with  a  sports  drink  ,Fruit  smoothie  with  low  fat  milk  and  yoghurt  with  some  ice  cream  , Liquid  meal  supplements

While  these  are  just  some  of  many  such  options,  the  emphasis  is  on  the  athlete  to  be  aware  and  in  tune   with  game  day  requirements  and  understanding  of  why  such  foods  and  fuel  sources  should  be  taken  at  a   certain  time  to  assist  with  game  performance  levels.      Some  small  snacks  can  also  be  taken  if  felt  necessary  one  to  two  hours  before  a  warm  up  routine  begins   but  no  closer  to  game  time  is  generally  advisable  as  food  will  not  digest  properly.

Re Hydration

Ensure  that  hydration  needs  are  not  forgotten  with  plenty  of  water  as   pre  hydration.  Milk  drinks  and  sports  drink  options  can  also  be consumed  at  regular  intervals  with  consideration  to  urine  colour  and  general  feeling  to  be  taken  into  consideration.  Everyone  will  have  a  different  stomach  tolerance  and  again  understanding  and  being  in  tune  elate  better  to  liquid  meal  supplements  than  others  if  a  small  snack  is   felt  necessary,  particularly  if  a  player  is  nervous  or  anxious  prior  to  game   start.

Obviously  during  a  game  and  at  half  time  there  are  opportunities  to rehydrate  with  water  and  isotronic  drinks  with  some  teams  also  using   It is essential that we maintain our carbohydrate  levels  during  the  game.      Each  player  will  have  their  own  routines  in  general  and  based  on  their  individual  needs  and  likes,  which  is  often  fine  tuned  through  experience.  Players  are  encouraged  to  experiment  in  training  periods  to  find  a   plan  that  works  for  them  it  is  an  individual  thing  really no  golden  rules  to  suit  all.

Post  Game  Recovery:

This  is  a  time  that  the  body  is  most  receptive  to  fluid,  carbohydrate  and  other  nutrients  used  in  the  recov-­‐ ery  process.        Some  teams  have  sugar  lollies  on  hand some  players  try  chewing  gum  or  some  low  fat  fruit  muffins,  bananas,  fruit  salad,  chicken  sandwiches  or  similar  are  also  good  in  changing  rooms  post  game.   If  as  a  player  you  are  in  a  team  that  does  not  provide  food  post  game  or  does  not  prioritise  recovery  then   there  is  no  reason  why  some  planning  cannot  accommodate  food/  snack  items  being  brought  to  games  in   gear  bags  to  be  used  post  game  or  post  trainings.

This  sort  of  discipline  often  is  the  difference  between  a   good player and a great player reactive  manner.     One  thing  is  for  sure  though  rehydratying  and  eating  carbohydrate  rich  foods  as  soon  as  is  possible  along with an added  protein  source  at  this  time  is becoming more widely  used  with  rugby  players.      A  sensible  approach  to  alcohol  use  post  game  is  also  advised.   Individuals  serious  about  their  sport  should  ensure  that  if  injured  in  a  game  (  maybe  soft  tissue  or  bruising   type  injuries)   then  no  alcohol  should  be  consumed  for  24 – 48  hours  until  rest  and  ice  have  been  applied   regularly  with  accompanied  compression,  elevation  of  injured  area  and  proper  diagnosis  if  no  improvement  in  injury  status  is  noticed  after  two  days.    This  is  commonly  referred  to  as  the  RICER  formula.

Poor  recovery  after  games  and  trainings  can  often  contribute  to  decreased  energy  levels  on  the  following   days  and  if  injuries  are  present  ␣  slower  repair  of  such  injuries  may  result  as  a  conclusion.

In  summary,  the  following  six  points  can  be  noted:

1.  Enjoy  a  variety  of  nutritious  foods  on  a  daily  basis

2.  Decrease  your  intake  of  foods  high  in  fats  and  oils

3.  Look  after  your  fluid  needs  especially  before,  during  and  after  workouts,

trainings  and  games

4.  Focus  on  high-­‐carbohydrate  foods  and  drinks

5.  Be  responsible  with  alcohol- do not drink if possible

6.  Balance  food  intake  with  your  individual  energy  needs  ␣  spread  your  food  intake  over  the  day  by   increasing  the  number  of  times  that  you  eat  rather  than  the  size  of  your  meals.  Plan  to  eat  5  -­‐6  small   meals  and  snacks  per  day.

By  actually  thinking  about  the  issues  of  good  nutrition,  irrespective  of  where  you  are  playing  your  Rugby  in   the  world,  sensible  options  will  exist  within  local  cuisines  that  can  make  a  difference  for  you  in  your  sporting  involvement.      After  all,  if  the  whole  team  buys  into  the  concept  of  more  healthy  and  specific  eating  patterns,  you  could   just  start  winning  some  games  you  have  maybe  lost  in  the  past  as  a  result.


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