Performance for Rugby - by Ben Coomber

Once again, it's over to Ben Coomber for the third in his series of blogs for us... 

Performance for rugby

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of recovery and gave some good tips for the practical implementation of good recovery techniques.

As I stated in that article if your recovery is inhibited in any way your performance will suffer.

Therefore, go back and check the previous articles to ensure that you have all the basics dialled in.

Eat for performance

Aim for around 2g of protein per kg of body weight. 2g should be enough for most people but if you like protein foods or are heavily muscled, you can go higher.

This way your muscles will repair themselves and prevent muscle wastage if you are in a deficit, like when you are getting lean pre-season. 


You don’t have to chug gallons of whey protein to achieve this, so try to get the majority of your protein from whole food sources like meat, eggs and pulses.

However, a protein shake can be convenient on training days. Just make sure that wherever you set your protein target that this remains constant each day, regardless of training stimulus.

Carbs become really important for rugby players.

Your muscles store carbohydrates as glycogen and when you deplete glycogen performance becomes almost impossible.

The ISSN recommend 3-5 g of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight for moderately active individuals but as much as 5-8 g/kg for highly active individuals like you.

My advice would be to get complex carbs in before a match, simple sugary carbs during and then a nice helping of starchy carbs with your post-match meal. Aim for potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, pulses, etc.

Unlike with protein, you can ‘cycle’ your carbs so that you consume higher carbs on heavier training and match days and fewer carbs on less active days and if done correctly this can, in fact, help to improve glycogen utilisation on those highly active days.

If you train twice in a day, then drinking a solution of 3:1 carbs to protein immediately after training to rapidly replenish your intra muscular glycogen reserves is advised.

But, if you have time you could consume a meal at that ratio.

For example; 40g of protein from grilled chicken with 120g of carbs from rice, potatoes or quinoa. Of course, some of those carbs could come from a drink like, say fruit juice or Awesome electrolytes + carbs, just don’t forget your veggies.  

Although there is little evidence that eating fats can help to improve physical performance you still need a minimum of around 25% of your Calories from fats to ensure optimal health.
However, some people do indeed feel better in themselves when they consume more fats and less carbs so always listen to your own body.
If you fall into this category however it’s still worth getting some extra carbs in on match days to ensure that you have enough energy to perform at higher intensities.

Are you bored yet?

At this point I feel it’s important to point out that whereas the official guidelines are all good and definitely worth paying attention to these are based on research that is performed on elite athletes.

Now, I’m not saying that you aren’t good and it’s quite possible that in your own head you are elite. I think I’m pretty frickin’ elite!

But, the fact of the matter is that we are recreational sportsmen with normal lives.

We have work and family commitments and a social life which may mean that some of these recommendations are inconvenient, or hard to stick to.

It’s absolutely fine to be just 70% perfect and, in fact, being 70% perfect 100% of the time is far better than being 100% perfect 30% of the time.

This is where a little flexibility comes in to play. So long as you get the basics right and strive to do some of the above when it matters this will reap more rewards than fading in and out of it intermittently.

I will just say this though. The best time to get anal about your approach to nutrition is on match day because that’s when the world (well, your girlfriend) will be watching.

Anything else?

Lastly, there are a few extra things that you can include that provide certain ergogenic assistance but keep in mind these provide a marginal edge and only, really, work if you have the basics set-up.

For instance, no amount of creatine will make you stronger or faster if you are eating junk foods, not training sensibly and not getting a good night’s rest. 


Let me just clarify that when I say ergogenic aids, I’m talking about evidence based sports supplements, not illegal and potentially dangerous substances, you know what I’m talking about.

I’ll go into more detail about supplements in my next blog so keep your eyes peeled for that.


Ben Coomber is a performance nutritionist (BSc, ISSN), educator, speaker and writer. Ben run’s Body Type Nutrition, an online nutrition coaching company that also runs a multi-level, online nutrition course, the BTN Academy. Ben has the UK’s #1 rated health and fitness podcast on iTunes ‘Ben Coomber Radio’ with regular Q&A’s and expert interviews. Ben also owns Awesome Supplements, a brand offering clarity in the confusing world of supplements. Connect with Ben over on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram.

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