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.
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.
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.
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.