NUTRITION

Eating properly will enhance your enjoyment of rugby, but it’s a complex science and you will need to take professional advice for your specific body type and exercise level.

If you’re looking to take it seriously, you’ll need to vary your diet to match your training schedule, and ramp it up to a big, carb-loading meal the night before a match, or on the day of the match. Be careful though – if you overdo the pre-match meal, your legs can feel heavy during the game, and many people can’t eat at all on the day of a match due to nerves. 

Your diet will naturally depend on the amount and intensity of your training and playing. A top class player training four times a week and playing a fast, physical match will need several thousand calories a day. Casual players training once or twice a week will need much less, so it’s important to consult a dietitian (your club’s physio may help) to ensure you’re getting the right combination of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and fast calories to help you train, play, recover and build muscle mass effectively. 

So the following should be taken purely as a general guide to nutrition for beginners:


TRAINING

Eating for peak game performance begins well ahead of match day, so you can store up maximum levels of glycogen in your muscles ready for the match. And bear in mind that what you eat and drink during your training schedule – as well as the timing of meals and snacks - can make a huge difference to how effective it is. A good approach to training diet would be:

Pre-Training

  • Choose foods that are high in carbohydrate (to keep your blood sugars up), moderate in protein, but low in fat and fibre (because you don’t want to be digesting them while you’re exercising)
  • Eat the kind of foods your body is used to, and judge the amount you eat so that you’re neither feeling hungry nor bloated
  • Eat smaller meals or snacks close to the training time (an hour or so). Some studies have shown that 100g-300g about three hours before can improve your performance
  • Keep hydrated. Try to drink half a litre (or if you want to be more precise, six to eight millilitres per kilo of your body weight) in the two hours before training



During Training

  • To stay hydrated, drink between a quarter of a litre and one litre of fluid per hour, depending on the environment and how much you sweat
  • Have some isotonic drinks or gels to hand in case you start to flag



Post Training

  • In the 3 hours after a training session, you need to eat foods that will refuel and repair your muscles and rehydrate you. The amount will depend on the intensity of your training 
  • You’ll be aiming to consume 60-150g of carbs after light training sessions and 100-300g after heavy sessions, along with 20-30g of protein
  • A useful guide to rehydration is to weigh yourself before and after training and drink 1.5 litres of water/isotonic drink for every kilo lost

MATCH PERFORMANCE NUTRITION

During the game

  • At key times – perhaps after warm up and certainly at half time, you may want to top up with 20-30g of carbs – for instance, half a litre of sports drink, a gel or a banana
  • To stay hydrated, drink between a quarter of a litre and one litre of fluid per hour, depending on the environment and how much you sweat

After the game

  • A rugby match will take a lot out of your body, so you’ll need to eat foods that will rehydrate, repair and refuel tired and damaged muscles and help with the general healing process
  • Aim to consume 60-90g of carbs and 20-30g of protein before you even leave the changing room in the form of smoothies, milkshakes, fruit or energy bars – and then follow it up with a balanced meal of 40g protein, 150-300g carbs, plus some fat and plenty of fresh veg.
  • Rehydrate! A useful guide is to weigh yourself before and after the match and drink 1.5 litres of water/isotonic drink for every kilo lost