A Professional Rugby Player’s Pre-Match Nutrition
I got an email this morning via the ASK HASK section on our website from a nice chap called Reece Cooper.
“What's up Hask, just watched you and Wasps destroy Toulon. Great performance. I play in the back row for a Hampshire club in the south and one thing I struggle with is match day prep. I normally feel worn out 15 minutes in. I train Monday through to Thursday rest Friday play Saturday. Any tips?
In light of the publication of my new RugbyFit EBook, which I suggested to Reece he should read, as it specifically addresses his question in some considerable detail; aligned with our recent mini-campaign about the importance of nutrition. I thought it would be an opportune moment to talk a bit about my pre-match nutrition to help Reece and other players out there who may have wanted to ask the same thing. As well as covering off my daily eating plan along with some thoughts about what’s needed nutrition wise, for a rugby player.
It’s not rocket science but it does need consideration and planning. Most people complain they don't get results from their training, but most of the time it’s simply because they don't get their diet right.
65% of any successful exercise plan is about diet. The sooner this message fully resonates, the quicker more people will start to enjoy and reap the benefits of all their efforts and focus.
As an aside, you can read all about this information in the book. However please do take a good look before committing. You can read some extracts here.
Pre match nutrition is of vital importance as a professional rugby player and is something that has changed a lot for me personally over the years. Like anything in regards to training and nutrition, this is a very individual thing and you have to understand what works for me might not work for you.
However, I want to give you an outline of the kind of protocol I am following at the moment, which has been put together by my nutritionists Glenn Matten and Aiden Goggins.
Read all about their new diet plan here.
As my knowledge has markedly increased regarding nutrition and training, so naturally has my approach to doing things. For example when I was at school playing for Wellington College age 17, the first team had a tradition of meeting the evening before a game and having a big pasta cook up with carbs, fats and loads of protein. We would then go to sleep on a full stomach then wake-up and follow the usual school day, which would be just breakfast and lunch, with no supplements or extra food. There was no routine other than the cook up.
This is still the norm for lots of people. If that's what works for them and you are getting good results then there is no need to change it. The idea of this big graze is all about a form of carb loading, as well as just something that has always been done. If it ain’t broke don't fix it.
However it’s not for me any longer. Since I turned professional at 18, I try to eat consistently throughout the week and only change minor things for actual game day.
This I have detailed below. However before anyone starts’ shouting this is all about a personal plug. I would respectively remind everyone the very reason why I have what I have, is that when I returned to the UK in 2012 having played Super 15 rugby, I could not find what I wanted supplement-wise. So I created my own range of products in conjunction with a leading nutritional expert, with some pretty impressive results. So aside from documenting my personal routine I use what I have, as in my view it’s the best out there and gives me everything I need and more.
However because my business is all about education and explanation, in every case I have linked to the product’s Learn More page so you can read up for yourself and make an informed choice
The night before a game I tend not to do anything overly special for my nutrition. A lot of the time I just follow my usual diet plan, which is to eat four to five times a day.
For breakfast I start with a steak and nuts or a variant of that sort, as long as it is a protein based start to the day. Eggs are my staple and will have them in some form or another every day. I will then also have porridge and a greens shake (I will cover off what’s in this shake in another blog). I tried for a while starting the day on just protein, but because of the performance aspect of my training, I now always have carbs.
Then the remaining meals I eat throughout the day contain 250g x protein, 300g x carbs and unlimited vegetables. This is the core of everything I do, as I need to fuel my training and performance goals. Remember I am eating to play, not eating to look good. I try to get certain foods into my diet during the week, based on blood tests that I have. Olives, oyster mushrooms, hearts, berries etc I won’t list them all off now. Variety is the spice of life you need to try different things and get as much colour into your diet as possible.
I have always found food preparation hard and time consuming. There is basically no easy way round it. Although since working with Omar Meziane, the ex-Wasps Chef and now Executive Chef to the Great Britain Rowing team meeting, I have found it not only a much easier task but with considerably better and far more tasty results. Have a look at footage of some of the amazing recipes Omar conjured up, as well as picking up some of the recipes ideas for yourself here.
So remember, if you want to eat well then you to take the time to buy and prepare the right food.
I always have an ISO cool bag with me as I have found these to be the absolute best, with food in it that I prepared either in the morning or at the weekend. However, I recently started working with a company called Fresh Fitness Foods who have revolutionized my approach to diet. They have linked up with my nutritionists and now I have a bespoke diet plan in the form of ready made meals that arrive at my door every morning. This means that every day I have food in a cool bag prepped to my needs. You guys should check them out if you want to take things to the next level.
As I have mentioned already I would eat normally the day before a game, which is usually a Friday. Pre the days working with a nutritionist, I would lay in on a game day, perhaps have some porridge for breakfast when I got up, then eat a large pre-match meal, three to four hours before the game. That would be it.
Now though, I wake up at my usual time, which is relatively early. This is the same even if I have an evening kick off. I then commence with my first meal of protein and carbs. This would be something like eggs and porridge. Three to four hours after that I’m straight into a meal of protein and carbs again, consisting perhaps of grilled salmon, brown rice / butternut squash and of course unlimited green veg. I may also have some buckwheat pancakes post this.
If it’s an evening kick off I have breakfast, lunch, a pre-match meal and then a shake two hours before I play.
If it's a normal afternoon kick off, as I have mentioned I would have breakfast, a pre-match meal (listed above) and finally a shake. The shake would contain amongst other things some “Beat It” shots.
Throughout the morning on game day, or any day in fact, I would be massively hydrating; this is an area I really tend to focus on pre-match as I often wake up dehydrated. If I don't get this sorted then I feel terrible. One of the methods I use to help me hydrate properly is a supplement called H2Pro, which is an effervescent electrolyte tablet to replace all the minerals and salts I have sweated out. Water alone sadly doesn’t replace all this, so I take one of their tablets with water as my first port of call upon waking. I use these tablets every day to get myself ready then throughout the morning of the game I will continue to drink water right up till kick-off. Check them out here.
In terms of supplementation, mine is pretty limited on the day of a game. After waking in the morning I have the H2Pro tablet with water as I told you. Mixed with this as well is a spoon full of Glutamine. I often have a green tea, with a spoonful of my pure virgin single origin coconut oil Tagaloa mixed in for that energy boost.
Thirty or so minutes pre-match I take my pre-trainer Hades from my own supplement range to give me a boost. Hades, which is informed sport certified, is designed with performance in mind, with caffeine and B-vits to provide the energy. It's the best pre trainer going as being completely natural gives you none of the side effects that most others do. It is far better to take than red bull or caffeine tablets.
Post match the focus is all about recovery and hydration. I will always have a couple of cherry active drinks, mixed with 500ml of water, so that's a liter of fluid back in straight away. I will then take on board a recovery shake from Maximuscle’s range.
The important thing to understand is there are loads of different methods. You have to find the one that makes you feel good. The key with anything to do with nutrition or training is that if you feel good when you are performing, then you are doing the right thing. Obviously you can look at the 1% to try and improve yourself, which is what you should always strive to do.
You can play about with different things; it is of course about trial and error really. If you eat just two meals before a game then make a note of how you feel, if you feel great then that’s the plan for you, if you don’t and you need more energy, then try eating three meals or utilizing some supplements I have talked about. Focus on diet first though.
As said above, I am always wary about putting down what I eat, as I wouldn’t recommend anyone to follow what I do exactly as this is specific to me. People’s ability to deal with carbohydrates for example differs greatly from person to person. If you are overweight then you may have some underlying issues or your ability to deal with carbs or fats isn’t great.
When you are looking to lose weight the whole idea is to get your body to deal with carbs and or fats more efficiently to digest and utilize them properly. My diet is very carb heavy because I can tolerate it, probably due to the fact that I have a lot of muscle mass, which is fuelled by glycogen and I need carbs to fuel myself.
Some people aren’t able to do that; they may have food intolerances, so always be wary. Try things out first when there is no risk. Try nut butters but remember it is a point of experimentation, don’t just rush out and do it before a game as you may feel bloated and not able to play properly. Try things in training.
If you want to know more about what I do then check out my new eBook “An Introduction to becoming and remaining RugbyFit”. We cover off nutrition and supplements in far greater detail, along with all the exercises, as well as all the training methods that go with them.
Check it out here.
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