Fuel Your Performance: Nutrition for rugby – the basics - by Ben Coomber

This week we are absolutely delighted to announce a huge guest blogger - Ben Coomber.  For those that don't know Ben then you are about to meet a guy who cuts through a lot of the noise made by the Health & Fitness industry - this guy just talks sense.  Ben also happens to ply his trade at scrum-half.  Young players take note, over to Ben....

There are two things in life that I am truly passionate about. One of those is using my knowledge and experience as a performance nutritionist to help change people’s lives. The other is rugby.

I play scrum half for my local team and apart from my silky skills on the pitch I also offer a good line in trash talk.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is that most recreational rugby players take their training seriously, most clubs have a gym and many of the players follow their own strength and conditioning program outside of the training offered by the club.

But, many players don’t have their diet dialled in and this is what this blog is all about.

Real food first

The basics of a sports performance based diet is not vastly different to that of anyone else’s basic needs.

Ensure that the majority of the food you eat is of a good quality.

Placing an emphasis on natural whole foods will ensure that you are getting plenty of essential nutrients to help you train, compete and recover.

I always say a minimum of 80% single ingredient foods with about 10% from minimally processed foods and then a final 10% from less healthy option.

I know players love a beer after pulling off their rugby boots so this is your 10%.

Of course, you can be more relaxed than that on the odd occasion but a little discipline for the most part will go a long way to making you a better player, or simply getting more enjoyment from your performances.

Eating plenty of veg, natural protein sources and fibre will all help to keep you strong and healthy.

Performance specifics

So, expanding on that previous point an athlete has a greater need for protein and the ISSN recommend a ratio of 1.5-2g per kg of body weight for highly active people.

I actually eat more than that myself and if you are a well-muscled person it may indeed be necessary to push that up to around 2.5g per kg in order to maintain your lean mass.

You can of course use protein shakes (I recommend Awesome Whey) to help with this but the main focus should be on just eating quality meats, fish and eggs and some plant based proteins like nuts and pulses.


The next most important macronutrient is carbohydrates and these provide the simple energy stored in your muscles (glycogen).

The more intense your activity the more glycogen you burn.

For this reason the ISSN recommend a ratio of 3-5g per kg of body weight for moderately active people and as much as 5-8g per kg for highly active people, like you.

I would always listen to your own body here.

So personally I get quite a lot of my energy from fats, so eat closer to the lower end of those scales but with extra carbs in and around training and matches.

Carbohydrates also help with muscle recovery and so it’s important to get some carbs in post-match, usually in a ratio of 3:1 carbs:protein (side note, if you want a few beers after the game as I always do, I save a lot of my carbs for beer, so have protein and a little carbs after the game, but then save room for a few pints).

For the most part your carbs will come from the more ‘complex’ sources like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa with the faster releasing carbs like sugary drinks and snacks being consumed during and after a match for fast absorption.

I’ve already mentioned vegetables but this is important because they provide us with vitamins, minerals and fibre which are essential for recovery, for immune function and energy partitioning.

However, I would exercise caution on match day where fibre is concerned.

So, whereas you need plenty of it through the week you might want to cut back the day before and on the day of the match to avoid accidents.

Your teammates probably have enough on you already without you handing them the opportunity to nickname you brown pants.

I’ll expand on some of these points in later blogs but if you want to know more then you can grab a free rugby performance book HERE. Otherwise you can find me all over the internet, of which my links are below in my bio…"


 Ben Coomber is a performance nutritionist (BSc, ISSN), educator, speaker and writer. 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 run’s Body Type Nutrition, an online nutrition coaching company that also runs a multi-level, online nutrition course, the BTN Academy. 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.

For everything else visit: http://www.bencoomber.com 

Thanks very much Ben for the straight talking blog.  While you're here, take a look at our second blog from Ben - Eat, train, recover – nutrition for recovery in rugby

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