The design of nutritional strategies in rugby must follow the characterization of a situational team sport where players are expected to be physically competent in a range of areas including aerobic fitness, strength, speed and Energy. In addition to the fundamental indications that identify the physical characteristics that players in this sport must have (important physical structures such as to be able to withstand the "violent" impacts of tackles, speed and Energy capabilities necessary to develop large accelerations, decelerations and changes of direction, pushes and pulls in scrums, mixed aerobic and anaerobic endurance capacity,
Per a better understanding of nutritional strategies it is good to have clear what the energy needs are and how these must be distributed between macronutrients (carbohydrates, Protein and fats) and micronutrients.
Several studies have expressed different data regarding the amount of energy that a rugby athlete must consume on a daily basis:
From this study, one of the most accurate and very recent, it results that a rugby player will have to consume an average of 4300 kcal per day (the range goes from about 3400 for athletes weighing around 80 kg to 4700 for those over 120 kg), to maintain your weight and condition.
Very often there is a tendency to decrease the energy intake to obtain a better lean mass/fat mass ratio, but this strategy if adopted during the season and therefore close to the matches as well as being counterproductive for performance purposes (obviously a reduced energy intake compromises performance both in training and in matches), in the long term it could also compromise fundamental health conditions. To this end, we report the recommendation of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) which warns athletes to avoid reduced energy availability for the following reasons:
Obviously a correct lean mass/fat mass ratio allows an advantage in terms of performance, but the best individual strategy must be adopted in total harmony with the entire staff, so technicians, athletic trainers and nutritionists together with the athlete will have to identify the suitable combined strategy and the most suitable period in relation to the team's needs, and avoid taking isolated and unshared initiatives.
Below is an infographic which highlights the primary need to have a positive energy context but without excesses in order to obtain the resynthesis of muscle Protein.
Therefore it is essential to consider that the search for an increase in muscle mass must follow a now well-codified strategy in relation to nutritional aspects which provides for an energy surplus ranging from 360-480 Kcal (1500-2000 KJ) daily for an increase of 1.5 kg of muscle for a subject with the characteristics shown in the figure:
In short, it is evident that each strategy must be individualized and decided collectively, but it must be absolutely avoided, especially in rallies and close to matches, to take on a reduced quantity of energy such as to compromise performance.
In modern rugby the position/role takes on a specific characterization both from a technical-tactical point of view - a condition now shared with most team sports - even more highlighted by athletic aspects with marked aspects linked to body mass. The Anglo-Saxons, undisputed main players in this sporting discipline, foresee a distinction in 2 fundamental roles: Forwards and Backs. In reality, the distinction between roles is even more marked and with even more evidently different characteristics, as is clear from the diagram that I have prepared taking into account the data present in the literature and which refer to anthropometric aspects present in the national elite teams and therefore it is of top-level athletes:
The marked difference in body structure also does justice to the distinct diet to be provided in terms of energy and macronutrients.
Below is a table listing the nutritional averages taken in a typical week which includes on average 6/8 weekly training sessions plus the match:
The distribution of both energy and macronutrients in the typical week of a competitive season is very interesting, to highlight the variations of both in relation to the distance from the match (GD), obviously considered as the main event (objective).
Basically it goes from a decreasing energy content as you get closer to the match (parallel to the unloading of training) up to a load, mainly of carbohydrates, the night before and on the day of the match. Poor in my opinion the energy load of the day following the game (GD+1).
As far as the SUPPLEMENT program is concerned, in addition to clearly the quantity of Protein necessary to reach the daily total of about 2.5 g/Kg of pc, the choice falls on a relatively limited panorama of substances in order to avoid a large quantity of products that could trigger a sort of feeling of medicalisation of the athlete. This is the proposal based on literature references:
Rationale of choice:
- Omega 3 : used both for their mild anti-inflammatory and protective properties of the muscle but also for their ability to reduce the effects of impacts on the brain.
- Beta-Alanine : useful as a precursor of carnosine and therefore effective in managing strength/speed endurance training.
- Acetyl-carnitine : its usefulness is linked to the fundamental management of the flow of nutrients, as an osmolyte and the ability to maintain muscle pH within limits.
- Gainer : in the post-workout it allows a fast muscle recovery, essential if we consider that a double workout is frequently required
- Alkalizing + caseins + cherry extract : mixture widely used as a pre-sleep integration able to improve the muscle recovery necessary given the intense work of the day and manage the nocturnal catabolism given by the long fasting.
Dr. Carmine Orlandi
FIR nutrition sector manager
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