Nutrition for rugby players: what you need and where to get it
The best rugby diet
On average, professional British and Irish Lions rugby players consume about 3,750 calories a day when on tour - about 50% more compared to the recommended daily amount for an average male. Put simply, rugby players need to eat. A lot. And often too!
The correct nutrition is half of the battle to improve performance in any sport but rugby presents its own opportunities, as proper nutrition in a rugby diet is important for injury prevention and recovery.
Unsurprisingly, protein is one of the most important elements in a rugby player's diet. When it comes to repairing your body from the strains, hits and general wear and tear brought on by rugby, nothing can compare to protein.
Protein is the foundation of bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. It is used to build and repair tissues, as well as make enzymes, hormones and other bodily chemicals. Therefore, protein should be the bedrock of each meal for any rugby dietary plan.
For protein, here are some key tips we recommend:
✔ Be sure to space out protein throughout the day, every 2-3 hours is ideal. This is because protein takes time to digest.
✔ Protein should be consumed at a rate of 1.8 - 2 grams of protein per 1 kg of bodyweight to maintain and increase muscle mass.
✔ Aim for lean protein that doesn’t contain hidden fats (ie. plant based protein powders such as BodyFuel are a great source of lean protein).
✔ Take protein supplements on rest days, as well as training, to help maintain muscle mass.
Unlike endurance sports, rugby requires a high degree of explosive power. Carbs are necessary for providing energy but some get broken down more quickly than others. This process is also impacted by your genes and affects the rate at which glucose is broken down into energy.
Focus on consuming complex carbs such as brown rice, wholegrains, oats, fruits and vegetables, ideally around 3 hours before training. This will allow a slow release of energy due to their fibre content and slows down the rate at which sugars are released into the bloodstream.
When it comes to carbs, we recommend:
✔ A rugby player in training normally requires around 7 grams of carbohydrates per kg body weight.
✔ Consume unrefined carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholegrains, oats, fruit and vegetables.
✔ Eat complex carbs around 3 hours before training.
✔ High fibre foods are good because they slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
✔ Eat 1-2 portions of fruit and 3-4 portions of veg per day.
✔ Avoid large carb-dominated meals as they can make you feel sluggish before training.
Fats have been widely misunderstood in the past, but are an essential part of any sportsman diet. The ‘good fats’ include polyunsaturated fats such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. ‘Bad fats’ are saturated fats and the ‘ugly fats’ may be said to be the chemically-altered hydrogenated, trans-fats.
✔ Avoid saturated and trans fats as much as possible.
✔ Use cold pressed olive oil as a main source of fat.
✔ Get essential fish oils in your diet by eating 2 servings of oily fish per week or a suitable plant-based option, such as flax seeds/chia seeds.
✔ Keep fat intake to 15-20% of total calories (unless you know your genetic sensitivity to fats and you can adjust as necessary)
It is easy to underestimate the importance of hydration. Dehydrating by just 3% can reduce strength by 10% and speed by 8% and increases risk of injury. Rugby players, professional or not, should focus on drinking a minimum of 3 litres of water a day.
In addition to water, rugby players could choose a sports drink, which includes a special combination of electrolytes designed to replenish the vital components that can be lost during exercise. When training, be sure to consume 250ml of fluid every 15 minutes.
A personalised Rugby diet plan
An individual's DNA can have a significant effect on how their body uses nutrients, and has a direct association with how nutrients are absorbed, transported, activated and eliminated from the body.
Nutrition shortfalls can have a marked impact on sports performance, whether that be rugby, swimming, cycling or anything else. BodyFuel is a convenient meal-replacement or sports supplement shake that adapts the levels of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) specifically to your DNA.
BodyFuel provides the optimal macronutrient and micronutrient profile to increase muscle performance and maximise fat loss, as well as increase sports performance.
The shakes help to achieve a lean, sculpted physique faster and more easily than with other supplements or shakes on the market. To find out more about our science and the future of nutrition, check us out here.