Part 1 of England nutritionist Matt Lovell's step-by-step guide to rugby players losing weight, and looking, feeling and performing great...

Portions and protein

“Cut down on the size of your portions,” says Lovell. “If you’re used to having four slices of toast for breakfast, eat three instead, and just half a baked potato instead of a whole one at lunch. You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. So cut down on cheese, swap red meat for fish, and trim the rind off.

“Eat some protein with every meal. People commonly think that carbohydrates are essential at breakfast time, but you should ditch the toast in favour of home-made burgers and a handful of nuts, an omelette or a chicken salad. Good choices of protein include chicken and turkey, game and lean meats, and fish.

Lose weight

Quarter pounder: home made burgers can be a good breakfast option

“Watch out for low-fat options, which can be higher in sugar. Low-fat mayonnaise and pesto are good choices, but if you see ‘99% fat free’ on the packet, it often contains a lot of sugar.”

Eat when the time is right…

“Eat three meals and two to three snacks per day, at no more than three-hourly intervals. Never skip breakfast, and leave two to three hours after dinner before going to bed. This can be hard, so one way round it is to eat more during the day than the evening.

“To maximise your fat loss, train when your blood sugar and insulin levels are low, so your body is encouraged to burn calories from fat. This is always early in the morning, when your body has gone all night without food. So set your alarm and brave the early mornings. It’ll be worth it.”

NYEARfitness.inddBe drink aware 

“Sports drinks may help your match-day performance but can add an unnecessary amount of carbohydrate to your diet. On training days, swap a sugary sports drink for an electrolyte one or, if you must take a sports drink to help your performance, don’t have it until you’ve done 45 minutes of your workout, to boost your energy. If you can, wait until you’ve finished the session before drinking it.” Click on the image (left) for more.

Animal, vegetable or mineral? 

“Watch out for deficiencies in the following areas. ”

Too much omega 6 in relation to omega 3 has many negative effects, including insulin resistance, and can cause illnesses such as asthma and hay fever in children, or Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes in adults.

“So don’t cook with vegetable oil – use olive oil instead – and eat plenty of oily fish, pumpkin, linseed and walnuts.″Tests show that 30% of rugby players are deficient in minerals, 90% don’t eat enough oily fish and 70% don’t have enough vitamins despite having good diets. These deficiencies will result in a lack of performance, and supplements can help.”For example, low levels of chromium, magnesium and zinc make it hard for the body to regulate sugar consumption. All refined foods are low in these minerals, but supplements can help make up the shortfall.

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“Remember that some fats are good for you, such as nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, oily fish and a moderate amount of butter. Bad fats include vegetable oil, pastry, biscuits, croissants, crisps, margarine and dry-roasted peanuts.”

Snack time 

Matt Lovell recommends having two to three snacks per day. Here are some on his hit list…

  • Pumpkin seeds and an apple
  • A pot of cottage cheese and Ryvita thins
  • Mackerel paté on oatcakes
  • Celery sticks and peanut butter
  • Hummus and carrot sticks
  • A latté, a bottle of water and some nuts
  • A protein shake or bar

Click here for Part 2, in which Matt Lovell discusses fruit and veg, super foods, how to avoid pitfalls and the foods you should never, ever eat!