For any athlete, maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of their daily routine. You can only get out of your body what you are prepared to put into it, so it is important that you take time to consider what you are eating.
Whilst it is important to maintain a generally healthy diet, there are certain foods that you should incorporate into your eating plan to prepare your body for what lies ahead.
Below is a brief introduction to some of the foods which you should consider consuming as part of your training diet. All of these foods should be consumed in moderation, as discussed in the following brief introduction to nutrition for rugby players*:
BASIC NUTRITION FOR A RUGBY PLAYER
Protein is one of the most important parts of a rugby player’s diet. Whey protein or protein shakes are a popular alternative for topping up protein levels if the recommended amount cannot be achieved safely through a standard diet. Most players need to consume between 1.5 and 2g of protein per kg of body weight, in order to sustain muscle strength, growth and health.
High amounts of saturated fat should be avoided as they can cause lethargy, although small amounts of unsaturated fat are required to protect the organs and provide a fuel source.
Carbohydrates are necessary for energy, although carbohydrate sources should be chosen carefully to avoid excessive sugars and salts. A player in training normally requires about 7g of carbohydrates per kg body weight.
Eggs are an excellent choice for breakfast, especially if they are cooked with a healthier method such as poaching. Eggs are a great source of high-quality protein, and are therefore ideal for those who are looking to sustain lean body mass and rebuild/strengthen muscle.
Oats are another great breakfast choice, if you do not fancy eggs. Make porridge with low-fat milk or water, and top with a handful of berries for extra flavour, and you will have a wholesome and healthy breakfast. Oats are high in fibre, and they release their energy slowly, meaning that you will be less likely to experience energy peaks and troughs throughout the day.
Brassicas, such as broccoli, are great for detoxifying the body, aiding liver function, increasing antioxidant protection and helping the body to recover quickly. Consuming these types of vegetables can help to stave off infections which you may be more susceptible to in the rugby environment, and they can help to encourage a speedy recovery following training/a match. Team them up with other types of vegetables.
As well as being a great way of making your meals go further, beans also count towards your 5 a day. Most are high in fibre and good protein, which helps to promote muscle strength and healthy digestion. Many beans are also rich in magnesium, which is essential for muscle relaxation and recovery.
Chicken or Turkey
Chicken breast or turkey is a very lean protein, and it can be very healthy when it is cooked in the correct way. Grilled chicken can be very tasty, and is a low fat, high protein food. Adding spices can give you variety.
Whole Wheat Pasta or Brown Rice
Unrefined carbohydrates such as whole wheat pasta and brown rice release their energy more slowly than simple carbohydrates, meaning that they are better for players in training. These carbs also reduce the likelihood that the player will end up storing unwanted, non-functional fats. It is best to consume carbs about 3 hours before play begins.
When you are training, it is important to consume enough water to keep your body properly hydrated. Becoming dehydrated can have a bad effect on many areas of the body, and the effects will be felt more during prolonged periods of exercise, as the body loses a lot of moisture through breathing and sweat. You may also want to choose to drink a sports drink, which includes a special combination of electrolytes that replenish vital components lost during exercise.
Daniel Davey, Leinster and Dublin GAA Nutritionist talk critical nutrition for rugby players.
The All-Blacks value nutrition so much, they have a nutritionist on staff.
*Please check with your medical professional before making any nutritional changes to your diet. This article is not meant to provide medical advice.