rugby player body

Rugby Players Diet Plan- Nutrition and Workout Guide

By Danny Webber
Danny Webber is a SENr registered practitioner, an ISAK certified Anthropometrist and a UK Anti-Doping accredited adviser.
| Updated on June 27, 2022

Rugby is a physically demanding sport that requires players to have high levels of muscle mass and low fat levels in body.

Rugby players come in a variety of different shapes and sizes specific to their position, therefore training and nutritional requirements must be tailored to each player.

Playing position, total body weight and body composition (muscle and fat mass), special dietary requirements, sleep quality, and appetite must all be considered.

Here we look at the rugby player’s diet plan and the training you need to build muscle, strength and body like big rugby players.

Rugby Workout Plan

Resistance training is the most important stimulus for developing muscle size and strength.

Well-structured strength & conditioning programmes contain exercises that resemble the movement patterns in rugby, to make you stronger and more powerful on the pitch.

Organise your training programmes to focus on strength and power in separate sessions, allowing for sufficient recovery of 48-72 hours between them. It is also important to mix up training cycles with exercise variations and intensity/volume loads.

Key rugby player workout for power and strength include:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift & Romanian deadlift
  • Bench press
  • Sled sprinting
  • Single leg movements (squats, lunges, step ups)
  • Cleans

Power = strength + speed

  • Loads of 75-95% of 1RM will result in increased maximum strength
  • Loads of 50-60% of 1RM, performed ballistically (e.g. jump squats), will result in increased maximum power.

Hydration Needs

Rugby is a high-intensity sport, so during training sessions and match play, players will sweat a lot so they need a lot of fluid to stay hydrated.

Dehydration adversely affects performance by reducing speed, agility, endurance, and cognitive function.

So, it is very important for players to begin their match and training sessions well hydrated, and continue to drink regularly throughout.

As well as drinking little and often throughout the day, players should drink approximately 200-400ml of water in the 1-2 hours before the start of their match or training session.

Rugby players will also need approx. 0.5-1L of fluids per hour during training sessions and matches, especially in the summer when it’s hot.

Typical Training Diet For a Rugby Player

Rugby players require a lot of energy to fuel their training each day. Thus, they need to eat a high protein, moderate fat, and moderate to high carbohydrate diet, depending on their training volume and performance goals, i.e., increase muscle mass.

BreakFast

Breakfast options will include slow-release carbohydrate foods such as a large bowl of porridge with fruit and yogurt, plus some eggs.

Lunch

Lunch is a key meal of the day to aid recovery from morning training and fuel afternoon/evening training sessions, especially for elite rugby players who will often train twice a day. Foods like chicken or fish with rice, quinoa, potatoes, and a mix of vegetables, plus something like Greek yogurt and fruit, are better to include in rugby players’ diet plans.

Dinner

Dinner will be a good recovery meal to replenish and repair muscles after a day of training. Rugby players’ diet should include meals like fajitas, spaghetti bolognese, fish pie, casseroles with plentiful amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and veg.

Rugby players will also snack regularly through the day to support their high energy needs and to better fuel training and recovery between meals. Before bed, a high protein option like Greek yogurt with fruit, milk, or cottage cheese and a slowly released casein protein supplement such as Nutrition X’s nighttime protein is better.

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Rugby Players Diet Plan

Professional rugby players may train multiple times per day, so their bodies need fuelling with the right foods to maximise performance and recovery. Certain things need to be considered when addressing your diet plan as a rugby player diet to help build muscle mass and strength:

Calorie Requirements for a Rugby Player

A positive energy balance is essential for muscle hypertrophy. An energy surplus of approx. 300-500kcal per day is an ideal target and can be achieved by including an extra meal, or by adding a bit more to the rest of your meals.

Increase Protein Intake to Get the Rugby Player Build

Protein is essential for the accumulation of new muscle. More protein intake will result in a positive net balance, where protein synthesis outweighs protein breakdown. Rugby players will eat 2-2.5g per kg body weight of protein each day.

For example, if you’re an 80kg scrum half:

2 x 80kg = 160g protein

If you’re a 115kg prop:

2 x 115 = 230g protein

Consuming protein across 5-6 meals (every 3-4 hours) is better than 3 meals per day (every 5-6 hours) for maximising protein synthesis. Try to have a good portion of protein sourced from high-quality foods with each meal, especially breakfast as this is often neglected! Eggs are a great option.

Support your training by having a source of protein in the hours before, and soon after your gym or field session. 25-40g or 0.25-0.3g per kg body weight of protein is sufficient after exercise.

Whey protein (fast absorbing) is also superior to casein (slow release) or soy proteins for maximising protein synthesis. Whey protein supplements are very popular after training as they are very convenient and appetising. Nutrition X’s Big Whey is an excellent option as it contains the optimal amount of protein with additional essential amino acids.

Milk is 80% casein, 20% whey, making it a great option before bed. You can also get a casein protein supplement like Nutrition X’s Nighttime Protein.

Post Training Recovery Is Vital for Getting Rugby Player Physique

Your body needs the extra calories so this is an excellent time to get your calories in.

Have some carbohydrate based foods(Carb Loading) with your protein to replenish energy stores, such as a banana, dried mixed fruit, milk or yoghurt.

Alternatively, if you cannot stomach food, Nutrition X’s all-in-one supplement, Ultimate, is designed for athletes looking to increase muscle mass.

Food First, Supplement Later

Your diet should obey a food first approach. Supplements should only be used to resolve nutrient deficiencies if calorie/nutrient requirements cannot be met through food alone or in the case of convenience or appetite e.g. post-training, anxiety.

Protein should be sourced by eating a variety of meat, fish, dairy, pulses, nuts and seeds. Vegetarians/vegans may not meet protein requirements solely through legume and grain sources like beans and quinoa, therefore they may need to use protein supplements.

Supplements that are recommended to promote hypertrophy and prevent common nutrient deficiencies include:

  • Protein
  • Creatine (+18 only)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin D3

Nutrients Essential For a Rugby Players Diet Plan

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the major source of energy for rugby. Carbohydrates are stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen. A rugby player diet plan must include sufficient carbohydrates each day to fuel their high training demands, with emphasis after training to restore glycogen after intensive workouts.

Protein

Protein is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of damaged tissues. Rugby players need more protein than the average athlete. So large amounts of high protein foods such as lean meat, fish, dairy, eggs and protein supplements. will be a appropriate diet for rugby players.

Fats

Fats are widely stored in our bodies and are a good source of energy, however the body requires more oxygen to utilise one gram of fat compared to that needed for carbohydrates, making it a less efficient energy source during high intensity exercise, like rugby.

Daily fat intake should be approximately 25-30% of the total calorie intake, which prioritise unsaturated fats such as omega 3 rich fish like salmon and mackerel, avocado, eggs and nuts and seeds.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are very important nutrients that are essential for good health and physical performance as they support the immune system and energy production.

The appropriate diet for a rugby player should include a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables each day to provide sufficient vitamins and minerals, but they may also take a multivitamin supplement because of the significant energy demands and stress placed on a rugby player’s body.

Also Learn About Best Recovery Foods.

What To Eat and Drink Before Games:

The pre-match meal is ~3-4 hours before KO, with a low glycemic index, low fibre carbohydrates, moderate protein, and low fat. Hydrate well with water, electrolyte drinks. Easy to digest protein, i.e., chicken or tuna, eggs, and avoiding red meat and processed and fried foods.

This is another, if not more relevant pre-training journal https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14971431/

What To Drink During Games:

A combination of water and carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions such as Nutrition X’s Hydrafuel will better hydrate rugby players than water alone, plus providing the right combination of glucose & fructose carbohydrates.

Rugby players can lose a lot of water and sodium through sweat during a match and training, so tracking sweat losses can accurately measure how much to drink to maintain hydration.

What to Eat and Drink After Games:

Recovery starts in the changing rooms. Having high carbohydrate and protein foods and drinks such as a milkshake, protein shake or fruit smoothie, energy bars, sushi will all help kick start recovery.

The post-match meal will continue to be a high carbohydrate and protein meal with additional vegetables/salad to get quality antioxidants to repair muscle and reduce inflammation.

Rehydration is also key, and drinking water, milk, electrolyte drinks, fruit juices in the hours after a game will help replenish fluids properly. Avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol is also important to prevent poor recovery.

Top Tips to Get a Rugby Player Body

  • Regular resistance training that aims to enhance muscle strength and power
  • Focus on exercises that replicate in-game movements
  • Introduce variation into your training every 4-6 weeks to promote muscular development
  • Support your training with required energy demands
  • Calories in must exceed calories out
  • There is no “one-size fits all” approach
  • Eat a variety of high-quality foods to avoid nutrient deficiencies
  • Consume high quality protein with each meal including breakfast
  • Whey protein is best pre and post training
  • Casein protein e.g. milk before bed
  • Food first approach

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FAQs:

Which components of fitness does the rugby player use?

Rugby is a high-intensity intermittent collision-based sport that requires high levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, muscle mass, and strength.

What are the main muscles used in rugby?

All muscles will be recruited during a rugby match to support each element of the game, particularly for the forwards when they compete for the ball in a scrum.

What do rugby players eat for snacks?

Rugby players require a lot of energy to support their training and will include high protein and carbohydrate snacks between meals and around training to fuel training and maximize their recovery.

How long do rugby players train for?

Rugby players will train 1-3 times a day combining gym strength, team and individual pitch fitness, and mobility/recovery sessions throughout the week.

How much fat should a rugby player eat?

Forwards will have higher body fat levels than backs, averaging 12-15% and 8-12%, respectively.

Are average rugby players considered fat?

Elite rugby players are well-conditioned specific to the sport and their playing position, which requires high levels of muscle mass. Some recreational and semi-pro rugby players may have higher levels of body fat than elite players.

How do rugby players get big legs?

Rugby players do a lot of strength training and will eat a high protein diet to support muscle growth and recovery.

What supplements do rugby players take?

The most recommended supplements for rugby players are:
1) Protein 2) Creatine 3) Beta-alanine 4) Vitamin D3 5) Omega-3.

How important are carbohydrates for rugby players?

Carbohydrates are the primary energy source to fuel high-intensity exercise. As rugby training requires repeated maximal efforts of strength, sprinting, and other explosive movements, this places a large reliance on muscle glycogen which is the body’s internal stores of carbohydrates.

What is the average weight for a rugby player?

Backs will typically range from 85-105kg, whereas forwards can weigh anywhere from 90-130kg

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