Dr James Morehen, nutritionist with Bristol Bears, gives us the lowdown

Ever wonder which supplements the pros take? We have a rundown of the best supplements for rugby players, if you take your game seriously.

But we also have some things to be aware of, should you take supplements – it is best to be informed.

Beta Alanine

  • Increases muscle carnosine which is the main intracellular buffer of hydrogen ions, thus improving high-intensity exercise.
  • Some athletes may experience skin tingling (termed paraesthesia) which may cause distress. This can be reduced taking alongside food or splitting the daily dose
  • 3-6 g per day Must be taken daily for about 4 weeks before benefits are noticed.

Elite All Blacks Beta Alanine

This is just beta alanine, ready to add to your pre-workout shake. Nothing else added. No mucking about. And it’s got the All Blacks stamp of approval and is Informed Sport tested, too.

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Cannabidiol – CBD for rugby

  • Anecdotally and within the literature claims of anti-oxidative, antiinflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective properties
  • The safety data set of CBD is incomplete and known toxicities exist at pharmaceutical levels. A significant risk of inadvertent doping via the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other cannabinoids in CBD supplements.
  • Rugby players should not take CBD

Caffeine for rugby

  • Prolong endurance performance, increase lipid oxidation, increase mental alertness.
  • Some players naïve to caffeine may get side effects including nausea, headache and tremors at high dose.
  • 2-4 mg/kg body mass Take 45-60 mins pre-exercise.

Elite kick-start caffeine gumFor the elite-minded, adult athlete. This is 100mg of caffeine in a fast-release chewing gum. Batch tested so that it meets the standards expected of safe supplements. But do not exceed recommended intake.

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  • Eating gelatin and vitamin C may promote greater collagen production, especially following a tendon/ligament rupture
  • Most of the evidence is from in vitro research. Anecdotal claims of improvements in recovery from injury
  • 20g hydrolysed collagen protein with minimum 50mg Vitamin C consumed 45 mins pre-exercise

Elite Collagen RepairContains sachets to mix with water for a drink. Each serving contains 20g collagen and 80mg vitamin C. Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the connective tissues, playing a vital role in your tendons and ligaments.

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Gold Standard Daily Support Joint & Muscle

Sport and exercise can equal wear and tear. These capsules contain nutrients that can help you here. Each also contains Vitamin C, which contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of cartilage.

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Concentrated Cherry

  • Taken in the days leading to exercise, this has been shown to reduce some markers of “oxidative stress”, attenuate muscle soreness and improve sleep.
  • Most of the evidence involves following a polyphenol depleted diet. Most markers of “oxidative stress” are inappropriate measures (e.g. Total Antioxidant Capacity or TBARS) making conclusions difficult to establish.
  • Varies depending upon the polyphenol for example, 2 x 30ml servings of cherry juice giving approximately 40mg of anthocyanins

Elite Performance CherryEach 30ml sachet contains 100% concentrated tart sour cherry juice, harnessing the goodness of anthocyanins, flavonoids and melatonin found in cherries.

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Creatine for rugby

  • Improve speed, strength and power
  • Can result in increased mass which may be undesirable for some players.
  • 5 g 4 times per day for 4-5 days followed by 3 g per day or 3g per day for 30 days

Elite series creatine powder
Each serving supplies a full 3.4 g of Creatine Monohydrate and has been made to mix well with juices or shakes, without being gritty or clumping. An easy-mix accompaniment.

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  • Most researched form is beetroot juice, which is high in nitrate. Nitrate is converted to nitrite and ultimately nitric oxide. Increasing nitric oxide has been shown to lower the oxygen cost of submaximal exercise, which can improve aerobic exercise performance.
  • Most of the evidence is in less trained athletes and after following a nitrate depleted diet. Some athletes do not tolerate the taste especially well, which is important, given that benefits are seen through days of supplementation. Can be gained through the diet (e.g. rhubarb, beetroot)
  • 8.4 mmol nitrate (approximately 2 “shots” of commercially available beetroot juice) taken 1-7 days pre-exercise

Omega 3

  • Increasing omega 3 intake, particularly EPA and DHA suggested to reduce inflammation and even promote muscle protein synthesis.
  • Large doses needed. Can repeat on some people giving fishy taste in mouth. Can be expensive and evidence is still not conclusive in terms of its benefits
  • 1-3 g per day of EPA/DHA

Elite Omega 3 Pure EPA 1g
Capsules that help deliver the daily essentials for those not consuming oily fish in the daily diet – but designed not to repeat on you, and with a lemon-flavoured coating.

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  • Shown to reduce the likelihood of URTIs. Suggested to improve general gastrointestinal function as well as reduce exercise-induced gut damage.
  • Evidence is still lacking as to the best strains and doses of probiotics which are most efficacious for different health outcomes in different populations.
  • >20 billion CFUs taken daily. Multispecies strains including those from lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species are the most widely studied.
  • Can be found in supplements like Healthspan Elite All Blacks 3-in-1


  • Emerging research suggesting turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties potentially reducing post exercise muscle soreness, as well as supplementation having the potential to facilitate tendon healing.
  • Has poor bioavailability and most of the research is in animal models or in vitro rather than in vivo although suggestions this can be improved through addition of piperine.
  • 2.5-5g turmeric root twice per day or as per manufacturers guidance
  • You can also find in Healthspan Elite Opti-Turmeric capsules

Vitamin C

  • Claimed to reduce exercise-induced free radical production thus reducing muscle soreness and attenuating the loss of muscle function. Vitamin C also been linked with reducing the severity and duration of a cold through non-antioxidant mechanisms
  • Suggestions that some adaptations to exercise are redox sensitive and therefore antioxidant supplements could impair improvements with training, although this suggestion seems difficult to explain from a mechanistic point of view.
  • 500-1000mg daily

Opti-men multivitaminsTablets with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbal extracts – including Vitamins C and D, plus Magnesium, Zinc, and Calcium. A secret weapon when you’re training hard and want to combat fatigue

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Vitamin D

  • Correction of a deficiency is claimed to improve bone health and muscle function. Aid with immune and other cellular functions.
  • High dose supplementation could result in problems such as hypercalcaemia and kidney stones
  • Requires individual consultation with a clinician.

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