Frequently overlooked by rugby enthusiasts, nutrition plays a crucial role in any training programme. Very often, diet is used merely as a means of adding or reducing weight. Many players are unaware that correct nutrition and a properly regulated diet will not only help them achieve their weight goals but will also benefit their muscle development, energy levels and post-match recovery.
Here at Canterbury, we have a reputation for excellence in manufacturing rugby apparel and rugby accessories, but we love the game and want to see all rugby players be the best they can be. Although we would advise that you get professional advice before embarking on a diet plan, here are a few ideas that will help you. However, remember that you are an individual and you have your own specific needs, so you’ll almost certainly have to tailor our suggestions to your own requirements.
Like everyone else, you should try to achieve a balanced diet that includes the major food groups. The only difference for you is that, as a rugby player, you need more energy than someone who is less active and will need to take in greater quantities of food. If you eat properly, there should be no need for you to worry about supplements; all the vitamins, minerals and other essentials will be in the food you eat.
There are four essential elements in your nutrition:
Proteins – the building blocks of muscles, your muscle repair kit and the vehicles that carry nutrients around your body. They are found in lean meats, fish, dairy products, as well as fruit and vegetables.
Carbohydrates – your body’s fuel supply that gives you energy and prevents the deterioration of muscle. You’ll find carbohydrates in pasta, rice, potatoes, bread (wholemeal) and cereals.
Fat – another fuel for the body and an essential component in the protection of your body’s vital organs. Fats are found in most foods – at all costs, however, avoid unnatural fats such as margarine.
Water – without water, your bodily functions deteriorate. Have regular drinks throughout the day rather than a few large intakes.
As a rule of thumb, ‘little and often’ is the order of the day; four or five small meals are better than two or three large ones. What you eat and when you eat are important and largely depend on the stage of the season, the training load on the day, and if it is a match day or not. Every meal or snack has a different function.
Breakfast – As the first meal of the day, breakfast is your first opportunity to take in carbohydrates to raise your energy level. You should have some cereal along with some eggs and fruit juice or green tea.
Mid-morning – By mid-morning, like many people, you’ll find you need an energy boost. Fruit, whole meal toast and oatcakes are easily digestible and will see you through to lunch.
Lunch – Depending on your timetable, you should have lunch around 2.00pm and load up with carbohydrates and proteins. Your meal should include pasta, potatoes or rice with some chicken, fish or beef along with fresh vegetables and fruit.
Dinner – Take dinner in the early evening but don’t eat too much. A modest helping of carbohydrates and a small portion of lean meat with the usual vegetables and fruit will suffice.
Supper – A small protein snack, say a few nuts and some fruit, about half an hour before bedtime will help your muscles recover as you sleep