The physical demands of professional sport require immense energy expenditure. It's part and parcel of the career. And in a game like rugby, there's a fine line between athletic conditioning and maintaining defense busting size. With that in mind, it’s no secret that rugby players need to consume a vast amount of food to maintain their size and strength throughout the season. It takes an army to plan, prepare and maintain the levels of food they need to be consuming to support their goals and performance.
A high caloric intake is essential to meet the energy demands of training and match play, however the quality of the food is equally important to guarantee the players are getting in essential nutrients for performance, and oft-overlooked, recovery. The right nutrition plan can be the difference between continued season long success and constant injuries and a rotating roster.
After a blockbuster start to the Super Rugby season, the NSW Waratahs are looking to claw their way back from a few narrow losses, and one man who is up to the task of powering the team is their Sports Dietitian for the , Ryan Pinto, has given us an insight into a typical day of meals for a rugby player.
Starting the day with a source of low GI carbohydrates, adequate protein and fat ensures the players are fueled adequately for their day of training. We know that protein is important post-workout to aid muscle recovery, however spreading protein intake out throughout the day is the best way to maximise muscle protein synthesis, so we make sure they are including good quality sources of protein with their carbohydrates for breakfast. For most of the players, this looks like 3-4 eggs on wholemeal sourdough bread, or a breakfast smoothie made with milk, Barley+ oats, protein powder, Mayver’s peanut butter and fruit. For those that prefer muesli, a bowl of Barley+ oats made with milk and a scoop of protein powder added in, ensures they are having some protein with their cereal, or a high protein yoghurt with granola, nuts and dried fruit make a suitable option.
Work starts early in the morning for a rugby player, so by the time physio screening and team meetings have finished up it’s time for a snack. There are a variety of snack options available for the players to choose from in their team room, so they can pick and choose their preference. A Barley+ wrap filled with Mayver’s peanut butter and a banana has become a popular option amongst the players, or simply a Barley+ Muesli bar. At this time, we organise coffee van to arrive as a pre-training caffeine hit, so you’ll find all the players having a coffee outside before getting stuck into our field session.
POST FIELD SESSION RECOVERY 11am
After a couple of hours on the field training, it’s important that the player’s recover adequately so they are prepared for the next session of the day and additionally to reduce their risk of injuries. Protein shakes are a convenient option to prepare and hand out to the players at the end of the session. Body Science products are used to suit each player’s individualised body composition goals and training demands for that day.
After recovery strategies have been adhered to, players will join coaches and other staff for lunch. This is sourced from local cafes and planned by the dietitian to ensure the meals provide low GI carbohydrates, protein, and plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables or salads, in varying amounts depending on the training demands of the day. On lighter or less intense training days, lunch meals will have smaller amounts of carbohydrates than on heavy training days. Depending how much time players have left before their afternoon gym session, some players will opt for an extra snack after lunch to carry their energy levels through until the afternoon. Evia yoghurt with Barley+ muesli is a popular option.
POST GYM SESSION RECOVERY 3pm
After gym, individualised protein shakes are prepared for the players again before they finish training for the day.
After a shower, players will choose from the options in the team room to make another snack to enjoy on the way home. This will prevent players from getting too hungry and choosing less healthy options on their drive. Recipes for fruit smoothies are available in the team room so they can make a smoothie themselves. Fruit, milk, Barley+ oats and peanut butter with a scoop of protein is a great filling smoothie option. Others opt for some Evia yoghurt topped with barley+ muesli and fruit.
Players are required to choose a good quality source of protein for dinner, such as salmon, steak or chicken, to ensure they are getting the benefit of other micronutrients in protein sources such as iron, zinc and B vitamins. Pairing their protein option with lower GI carbohydrates such as brown rice or sweet potato helps replenish muscle glycogen stores after a day of training. Vegetables are a core component of the dinner meal to ensure they are replenishing micronutrients that are depleted during exercise, and to support their general health. Some players are too busy, or simply don’t enjoy cooking, so the dietitian has sources of good quality ready-made meal options for players to choose from that will fit their macronutrient requirements.