By sports nutritionist James Morehen
The world of sport will have its eyes firmly fixed on the Rugby World Cup in the upcoming months. Teams are taking it to the next level regarding sport science preparation in an attempt to get their hands on the illustrious Web Ellis Cup. England have battered their bodies in the ‘mile high city’ of Denver and it’s very clear; relevant sport science support has huge implications on the modern game of rugby to maximise performance outcomes including fundamental evidence based sport nutrition guidelines.
Can we not all eat the same?
Gone are the days of a blanket sport nutrition approach for the whole squad. Each player is dynamic in their game and it’s no surprise that the requirements and demands of a 90kg scrum half will see a different daily food nutritional strategy when compared to a 125kg flanker at the dining halls.
Taken forward, it is critical to remember that ‘smart’ nutrition will not only aid the manipulation of body composition throughout the season but also help to enhance adaptation from exhaustive exercise, competition and assisting with recovery tactics.
A common phrase in the sports nutrition arena is ‘eating smart’, whereby the prepared and planned ingestion of macronutrients help achieves required individual goals. Fortunately for the Test stars, nutrition is taken care of and they have will have a constant drip feed of the correct foods to match their physical demands.
Considering that carbohydrates provide our body with glycogen to perform high-intensity exercise, and that glycogen, when low is considered one of the causes to premature fatigue, I am confident to say that the consumption of carbohydrates in and around rugby performance is key. As competitive rugby players, the consumption of carbohydrates is vital to not only fuel training sessions (lifting heavy weights) and the crucial 80-minute game (high speed running, high impact collisions) but also to allow vital recovery and restoration (replacing carbohydrates) back to normal levels.
Okay, so lets eat carbs…
During the post-exercise period or after a lung-busting 80-minute game it would be beneficial to consume a mixture of medium to high GI carbohydrates due to the increased capacity of high GI carbohydrates augmenting plasma glucose concentrations. This results in greater rates of muscle glycogen re-synthesis saturating our muscles back to pre-exercise levels whilst promoting recovery from the exhaustive exercise. Consuming ‘smart’ medium to high carbohydrates is advised here for example, rice, pasta or potato would be far more beneficial than sweets or chocolate. Also consider how long the turnaround from the game to the next intense training session is as this will inform the rate to which how much carbohydrate you need to consume.
It is therefore difficult to provide the perfect day for carbohydrate consumption. More so, it is important to discuss the carbohydrate requirements of players in absolute terms rather than a percentage of energy intakes, to meet the actual energy demands associated with the training and competition schedule. Practically, this makes sense, as energy requirements will shift from low, medium or high throughout the week depending what the training or competition schedule looks like.
Table 1. Typical daily carbohydrate requirements for rugby players during an in- season competition week
James Morehen is the Sports Scientist at Nutrition X, Sports Performance Nutritionist at Widnes Vikings Rugby League team and lead strength and conditioning intern coach at Liverpool John Moores University.
James Morehen is part of the team who have developed Nutrition X’s range of Informed-Sport certified products, which have become the No.1 choice of sports nutrition for numerous elite athletes, amateur sports people and casual gym users alike.
Hear more from James and the expert team at Nutrition X through the Ultimate Rugby Guide campaign @Nutrition_X, www.nutrition x.co.uk