When thinking about rugby and nutrition, the first thing that springs to mind is protein and lots of it!
In fact protein seems to be top dog at the moment with everyone from office workers to gym bunnies reaching for protein shakes. But when are they needed and when are you literally flushing your money down the toilet?
There’s nothing magical in a protein shake believe it or not but I agree gnawing on a chicken breast or a hard- boiled egg on the tube doesn’t look quite as cool. The truth is protein requirements vary greatly according to body size and activity levels as well as the type of exercise you’re doing.
Larger individuals with high activity levels, for example England’s front row, may struggle to meet protein requirements through food alone – having said that downing a shake won’t patch up a poor diet and they should be as the name suggests a ‘supplement’ to a good quality food intake.
What’s far more important with protein, is evenly spacing it out across the day – typically the British diet can be low in protein at breakfast and high by the time dinner comes around. The body will maximise the use of protein and in particular essential amino acids like leucine if it’s there little and often. Around 20g per meal works well for most people but for more specific advice talk to a dietitian.
Good breakfast protein sources to throw in with some carbohydrate are higher protein yoghurts (around 10g protein per 100g) such as greek style yoghurts, oat based cereals with a nut/ seed sprinkle, nut butters with no added nonsense or eggs if you have time.
So where does that leave carbohydrate?
Well one thing’s for sure in rugby, it’s the carbs getting them over that try line, not the eggs. Well timed protein around exercise will promote building of lean muscle mass but if there’s no fuel in that nicely built muscle it’s not going anywhere!! Bursts of acceleration are highly carbohydrate (glucose) dependent and carbs are essential to optimal sports performance.
Even if you’re not bounding round a pitch, your carb needs are still present – your brain alone needs 120g per day to function. You’ll need more if you’re planning to exercise and less if you’re sitting on the sofa all day but don’t neglect it at the expense of ‘sexier’ nutrients. Include with each meal and keep it wholegrain when possible.
One thing is for sure, Wales had their Weetabix! (Sob sob)