Nutrition Tips for Rugby Union

Nutrition for the rugby player

Being an athlete makes great demands on your body. In order to get maximum performance and mileage out of it you must put the best quality fuels and nutrients into it first. Being at school as well adds more stress –

Your sport requires a combination of fitness, strength and power as well as other skills – these aspects of your fitness and training are greatly affected by your diet.  Every athlete who is serious about fine -tuning their performance to reach their full potential should be concerned about what they eat and drink right from the start of the season and throughout the year.


–  You require 5  – 6  small meals per day.

–  High in complex carbohydrates, protein and fibre.

–   Protein spread over the day and into the night if you are in training

–  Low in fat, refined sugars and salt.

–  Adequate fluid intake  (water is the best choice).

-A food choices should be nutritious so as to ensure that all required vitamins and minerals are provided.




1.Protein  –  Muscle building,  maintenance and repair of injuries.

2.Fat  –  Energy.

3.Carbohydrate  –  Primary energy source.

4.Vitamins and Minerals  –  to ensure your body functions to maximum efficiency in exercise.

5.Water – To replace fluid losses and help regulate your body temperature.


Athletes should aim for the following distribution of their total kilojoules:

    *  55%                Carbohydrate.

    *  30% to 35%    Fat.

     *  12 to 15%       Protein.


A balanced athlete’s diet is based on  (5)  food groups.

  • 1.  Breads and Cereals.
  • 2.  Fruits and Vegetables.
  • 3.   Meat and Substitutes.
  • 4.   Mild and Milk products.
  • 5.   Fats and Oils.


An athletes energy intake  ( ie. caloric intake ) should be sufficient to :

  • 1.  Reach and maintain your ideal body fat level.
  • 2.  Provide for training and competing.


An athlete should aim to be ingesting between  7 – 10 gms of carbohydrate per kg body weight per day.  How many grams of carbohydrate should you be eating?.

70kg body weight x 10gms = 700gms of Carbohydrates



  • Bread and Cereals
  • Bread4 slices
  • Crumpet2 av.
  • Pocket bread2 small
  • Pasta -cooked1 1/4 cup
  • Brown rice1  1/4 cup
  • Untoasted muesli6 tabsp.
  • Weetbix/Vitabrits4 biscuits
  • All Bran60g  ( 2 bowls )
  • Puffed Wheat 60g
  • Cornflakes 60g
  • Oats -cooked2  1/4 cup
  • Oats -raw  3/4 cup
  • Lentils1  1/2 cup
  • Muffin 1  1/2 av.
  • Plain sweet biscuit  8  – 10
  • Wholemeal biscuit  7
  • Buckwheat pancake  5
  • Wholemeal pikelets   6 med sized
  • Plain scone    3 av
  • Sultana scone    2 av.


Dairy Products

  • Yoghurt – fruit (skim)  2  tubs
  • Yoghurt-plain (skim)   600 gm

Starchy Vegetables

  • Corn1 1/3 cups
  • Potato    2  med
  • Baked beans   2  cups
  • Fruit   2 to 3 a  day
  • Banana   2  med.
  • Fruit Roll-up   4
  • Museli Bar    2  1/2
  • Dried apricots    9
  • Prunes   15 av
  • Sultanas   6  tbsp.
  • Fruit  finger   3  1/2
  • Apple/Orange/Pear      3   av.
  • Apricots  12
  • Grapes    45  med.
  • Peach      6    med
  • Strawberries3   1/4 cup
  • Watermelon3   1/4 cup
  • Mango1   1/2 med

50 GM Carbohydrate Serves Of Beverages And Liquid Supplements.

  • Orange juice    600 ml
  • Soft drink         500 ml
  • Low fat milk      1 litre
  • Glucose powder/Glucodin     2  1/2  tbsp
  • Polycose /Maximum    2  1/2  tbsp.
  • Exceed fluid & electrolyte replacement.  750 ml
  • Exceed high carbohydrate source           200 ml
  • Exceed Sports Nutrition Supplement      1 can  (237 ml )
  • Ensure         1 1/2  cans
  • Ensure Plus       1 can ( 264 ml)
  • Sustagen Sport    4  tbsp


50gm  Carbohydrate Serves -Higher Fat Options.

  • Ice cream  4  scoops
  • Fruit yoghurt3  00 g
  • Chocolate   11 squares
  • Flavoured milk  625 ml
  • Shortbread biscuit   6  av.
  • Chocolate biscuit   4  av.
  • Jatz/Plaza saltine   15  biscuits   9g.
  • Potato crisps    75 g.
  • Meat pie    1 av
  • Plain burger    1  medium sized

The following table lists high carbohydrate foods according to their energy levels.  If an athlete is trying to gain weight or has trouble maintaining their weight, they should choose foods from the higher kilojoule list.  If they are trying to lose weight or tend to gain weight easily, they should make more choices from the lower kilojoule list.

Higher Kilojoule                       Lower Kilojoule.

Juices                                       Fresh fruit

dried fruit                                 wholegrain bread

mueslibars                               wholemeal crispbreads

nuts                                          brown  rice

yoghurt                                     wholemeal pasta

milk drinks                                wholegrain cereal

cakes and buns                        raisin bread

mueslis                                     plain popcorn

pancakes and scones.

Most of your intake of carbohydrates should come from complex sources. Simple sugare e.g. sugar, honey , soft drinks, etc, can be used for additional energy but should be acoided before in the two hours before exercise as it may lead to fatigue, dehydration or stomach cramps.  If you need to eat something, try some fruit or a sandwich.


Protein is required for muscle building but extra (i.e. large serves of meat, dairy products or protein supplements)  is not necessary for athletes.  Lean muscle tissue is increeased by training and perhaps weights along with a balanced low fat, moderate protein diet.  Protein is in bread, cereals, fruit, vegetables and vegetarian products aldo.


2 small serves of meat or the equivalent daily and some dairy products.  Slightly more protein if doing a weights program to gain weight.

Your diet should provide you with :

grams of protein/day (spread over the day)

Protein Serves.

Lean beef      120 gm  ( 1 sml  steak)    31 gms

Skinless chicken     1 av. fillet34 gms

Fish1 sm fillet          19 gms

Eggs2 medium         12 gms

Baked beans1 cup    12 gms

Lentils1 cup               14 gms

Low-fat yoghurt1 tub   10 gms

Milk1 cup                     7 gms

Cheese1 slice              5 gms

Bread1 slice                2 gms

Cereal1 cup                 4 gms

Rice1 cup                     4 gms

Pasta1 cup                   6 gms

Potato1 med                  2 gms

Fruit1 piece/serve          1 gm

N.B  For iron intake:   especially females  – lean red meat  2-3 times per week and include a source of vitamin C at that meal.

Less Desirable Protein Sources:

Fatty meats.e.g.  Sausage, Salami, Frankfurt, Sausage roll, Pie.

Kentucky Fried or BBQ chicken with skin. Crumbed or battered fish.

Full fat dairy products and ice cream.

 Any fried foods.

FOODS HIGH IN FAT.    ( should be limited ).

Butter, margarine, oil , supafry,  dripping,  cream, mayonnaise, peanut butter, cream cheese and avocado.

Fatty meats and poultry, Take-away foods eg.  Pizza , burgers, and cheese.

Pastries, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, ice cream and other full cream dairy products.

Potato crisps and corn chips, savoury snack foods, roasted nuts and olives.

Rich sauces and gravies.


These are required in small amounts for health and atl=hletic performances.  They are provided in the best form by foods from the five (5) food groups.  Large amounts of supplements are not needed and will not improve performance.  If,  however,  you try to survive on Take-away and “empty calorie”  refined foods, you may be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals and it will effect how you train and play e.g. tiredness, illness, more injuries, muscle weakness, cramps.  The answere to this is improve your diet not just take expensive and sometimes harmful supplements – except on medical advice.

A balanced diet with foods from the  5  food groups should provide the athlete with an adequate nutrient intake.  For those with special needs (e.g. a vegan ) a balanced multivitamin/mineral would be the best choice for an athlete.

Best vitamin and mineral sources

Vit C. citrus and tropical fruits and a variety of fruit andvegetables. wholegrain bread and cereals, brown rice and pastas,vegemite lean

meats, dairy products, green leafy vegetables.

Vit A. yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, eggs, dairy products,  margarine an oils.

Vit E.- wholegrain bread and cereals, wheatgerm, polyunsaturated fats.

Iron – organ meatw, e.g .  liver, beef and other meats, turkey, chicken, fish

To a lesser extent  –  eggs, green leafy vegetables, breads and cereals, dried fruit, legumes.

Calcium dairy produces,-  Lesser sources  –  fish, dark green vegetables, nut and seeds, wholegrains etc  .

Note that for For Calcium Intake:

Adults. –  500ml (or 400ml .Shape). +200g . yoghurt or 1 slice cheese.

For  Adolescents: 1 litre milk  –   OR    750 ml. Milk and 200g Yoghurt.


It is essential to replace fluid losses, from sweating, in practice and competition , or you will become dehydrated. Dehydration leads to fatigue, loss of concentration, nausea and cramps.  In practical terms, you should drink  1-  2 cups of water about 30 minutes before exercise, amall amounts every 20 minutes or so during exercise, and plenty afterwards.  You should record your weight before and after exercise, for every kilogram of weight lost, you should replace it with one litre of water of fluid replacement drink.

The average person requires approximately  6  – 8 glasses of water per day.  All persons involved in regular exercise would require larger amounts of fluid daily due to the greater fluid loss.  It is recommended that people who exercise regularly should drink at least 10 glasses of water daily depending on the type of exercise, duration and environmental conditions.  Always ensure that you are well hydrated before you compete.  Your urine should be almost clear.


Best-   Water

Also- Dilute juices/cordials/electrolyte drinks and glucose polymers

( Exceed/Polycose/ Maximum)

Other times try

Low fat milk drinks, juices, plain soda and mineral waters.

Limit: Flavoured milks,  flavoured mineral water, soft drink and alcohol


These aren’t all bad if you make the right choices when you are forced to eat out ie.

Plain Hamburger with salad on it

Barbecued Chicken  eat without the skin if possible and salad/vegetables

Pasta   –  preferably with vegeterian type / seafood sauce and salad.

Chinese food  – chicken / seafood/meat dishes with vegetables. e.g. Chicken chow mein and boiled rice  ( not deep fried dishes or those in rich sauces. )

Mexican food – Taco/ Burrito/  Enchilada – preferably bean or chicken with salador Chili Con Carne with rice and salad.

Curry    –  Chicken /seafood/vegetable with rice.


Don’t eat a meal closer that  2- 3 hours before a match, as exercise stops digestion.  The meal should be light, easily digested and low in fat and protein  (as they slow digestion and may dehydrate you).  All you really need is carbohydrate and fluid e.g. cereal and low fat milk.

Alternatively a liquid meal e.g. Sustagen, or a low fat fruit smoothie could be used.  Closer to the match only water, fruit or unsweetened juice should be taken.  During the day snacks of fresh or dried fruit, sandwiches, rolls , etc. are recommended.

The meal immediately before competition is a personal choice.  This meal should be satisfying both physically and psychologically therefore the final decision is yours.  Nonetheless, you should try to have a low-fat meal ( fat slows digestion and may lead to discomfort immediately prior to competitio) and it should be based on easily digestable carbohydrates.



*Organize regular shopping trips  –  if there’s no food in the house you’re unlikely to prepare healthy meals.

*Stock your pantry and freezer with foods that have a long shely life.

*Plan to shop for perishable items weekly eg. fruit and vegetables.

*Shop from a llist so that you spend time and money efficiently – keep a checklist of items you run out of on the fridge or pantry door.

*Read the labels – especially look for a low fat content  eg. grams of fat per 100 grams –   choose items that are   –    <  10%  ( the lower the better ).

* Don’t shop when you are hungry   – you’re more likely to be tempted by unnecessary items. !


 Long Life Storage in Cupboard or Pantry.

Milk powder  (skim )

Breakfast cereals, rolled oats

All varieties of pasta and noodles

Rice  – try different types.

Low fat crisp breads, crackers and rice cakes.

Dried beans/lentils e.g. soup mix

Canned beans -e.g. baked/kidney beans, 3 bean mix

Canned fish  e.g. seafood (in water or brine)

Pasta sauces in jars

Canned soups e.g. main meal and vegetable type

Canned vegetables – e.g. corn, tomatoes, mushrooms.

Canned fruit – in water or its own juice is best.

Tomato paste/puree

Spreads – e.g. honey/peanut paste/jam/vegemite

Dried fruit

Raw nuts

Muesli/fruit bars


Herbs, spices and condiments(mustard, chutney etc)

Bottle of good oil e.g. Olive, canola or “Pure and Simple ” spray

Sports drinks e.g. Exceed, Sustagen Sport.


Bread , rolls, pita breads, muffins , crumpets.

Pizza bases, large flat breads.

Frozen vegetables – single types or mixed

Reduced fat milk.

Ice-cream or frozen yoghurt(try “Lite” or low fat types)

Meat, poultry and fish.

Short Storage Perishables:

Breads of all types.

Reduced fat milk and yoghurt

Fresh fruit and fruit juices

Fresh vegetables

Meat, poultry and fish Eggs

Reduced fat cheese/cottage cheese/ricotta/Light Philadelphia cheese

Fresh pasta and sauces.


Grills and barbecues with vegies or salads.

Choose lean trimmed meats, poultry , fish or seafood – and use minimal or no oil to cook.

Marinate to improve flavour with spices , garlic, honey, wine etc.

Try ready-made kebabs for a change from a ” poultry shop” or butcher – under the grill or barbecued.

Keep to a smaller serve of the protein and increase carbohydrate intake with a large serve of potato (e.g. oven or microwave baked in their jackets), corn, rice or noodles.

Frozen vegetables are fine  – as long as you don’t over cook them  – look for the mixed vegetable “combos” for variety.

Make sure you include enough carbohydrate when serving salad, by including some of the above either hot or cold e.g. canned corn, pasta or rice salad with low fat dressings- otherwise you need to add bread to the meal.

Include lots of colourful vegetables to provide good sources of vitamins and minerals – dark greens, orange and red types.

Pastas and Casseroles

Make a sauce using a commercial pasta sauce, tinned or pureed tomatoes (add your own herbs and spices) or sometimes a can of soup is a useful start.

Add some protein in the form of chopped meat or chicken (e.g. low fat mince, sliced turkey or trimmed bacon, chicken pieces), canned fish, fresh or canned seafood, or beans ( such as “mexi” or kidney type ) – you may need to cook the meat or chicken first.

Add some sliced or chopped vegies – fresh, fozen or canned.

Serve over cooked pasta or as a filling for big jacket potatoes – remember to look for the variety of filled fresh pastas such as tortellini and ravioli for variety .  Or serve as a chunky casserole with cooked rice or noodles.

Stir – Fry’s

Brown some chunks of meat, poultry or seafood in a wok or frying pan using little or no oil.  Add vegetables cut into bite size pieces  or frozen stir – fry combinations.

Add a commercial flavour sachet or sauce mix. or your own combinations of herbs and spices e.g. garlic/ginger etc.

Add rice or noodles that have been cooked and drained.


Home made Pizza.

Use a thick bread or scone dough pizza base or even lebanese/ pita breads.

Spread with tomato paste/puree or a pasta sauce commercial brand.

Use low fat toppings , such as lean meat, chicken, turkey , seafood or beans and vegetables  –  perhaps pineapple also.

Sprinkle lightly  with a grated low fat cheese –  over the top and bake or grill.

Further Tips.

Look for low fat recipe books  –  especially those catering specifically to athletes.

Plan a “Cook – a- thon ” every now and then  –  on a day off or a weekend e.g. pasta sauces, healthy lasagnes, curries, casseroles.

Cook a double batch , especially if you live alone, and freeze the rest ( perhaps in single serve portions ) for a later date.

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