*Estimated Match Day Protein consumption per Match Squad to support repair and recovery after intense play!
Leinster Rugby and Saracens may be arch rivals on the European rugby stage, but the Champions Cup finalists share one key success factor.
We spoke to Daniel Davey to Leinster Rugby’s Performance Nutritionist as they chase a fifth European star.
What are the specific nutrition considerations for a Rugby player versus the average person?
With any athlete you need to consider their energy requirements. A rugby player will have different needs depending on the energy requirements on that day depending on if it’s a game day, training day or rest day. On an average day, a rugby player at Leinster will be looking to meet those energy levels over 6 meals in the day with the average player looking to consume around 3,500 calories a day with the larger players taking on up to 4,500 a day.
Energy intake and the spread of nutrients are important so our players are fuelled and recovering as best they can. But the most important thing for us is the timing of those meals so that the players are recovering quickly, as they might be doing two sessions in the day.
This is obviously vastly different to the average person who would be recommended the standard 3 meals over the course of the day taking on around 2,500 calories.
Do you have specific approach to nutrition at the club?
The energy intake, the macro-nutrient intake, nutrient timing and of course supplement intake will make up the core nutrition strategy in a high-performance environment.
What is really special about Leinster rugby is there is a hugely positive culture about food preparation and about how important food is for performance. Our players really buy into this approach and it’s part of what they see being a professional at Leinster is all about.
A focus on nutrition delivers performance results. We understand the power of good nutrition.
Do you think rugby players have an enhanced knowledge of nutrition?
Without a doubt. They can’t perform to the level they do without having an in depth understanding of nutrition needs and requirements.
The players are encouraged to make their own smoothies and breakfasts along with protein balls and snacks and they really enjoy that experience. It’s become a huge social aspect of what they do every day at the club.
They also value how they look so there is definitely a raised awareness in seeing day to day benefits.
What are the different requirements for fuelling a training day compared to the final?
The big difference is the need for carbohydrate intake. If they are doing a demanding, high intensity session then more carbohydrate will be required which they will get from things like fruit, porridge, potatoes etc.
We’ve seen a big change in culture and tradition around match day. Our players are eating less on game day, with smaller lighter pre-match meals. There is now more emphasis on the pre-game day fuel up period.
Does a player’s position on the field alter their nutrition plan at all?
The difference in player weight ranges from 80kg for a scrum half to some of your props which can be 125kg so the position definitely affects nutrition in terms of calories and macro-nutrient needs.
A scrum half for example will be covering high intensity, high volume, high distance so carbohydrate needs will be more significant and contribute greater to energy intake. Whereas larger players will have bigger contribution from healthy fats and as much as 250g of protein.
Are there any vegetarian or vegan players you look after? If so how do you ensure they get enough protein?
We have one pescatarian at Leinster but there are plenty of ways they can get enough protein. This will often be through education and trial & error with recipes along with having the catering facilities that means their needs are matched. They understand that they can get higher protein intake from plant-based foods such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds along with the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant protein supplement.
Leinster is clearly a Superpower of Rugby – But In your view is there such a thing as a ‘superfood’?
There are foods with very different nutrient values and foods with varying antioxidants and minerals but I would never categories any food as a superfood and put it above another. Variety is the most important thing.
Game-day diets: what will the players be eating on Champions Cup final day?
Come game day it will be important for the players to eat plenty of carbohydrate rich foods with meals and snacks to aid with match day performance. We want to keep protein regular but not too high and sources of fat low to reduce impacts on digestion.
We will also be mindful sources of fibre to reduce any risks of GI discomfort. Our goal is to ensure as much fuel gets into the players as efficiently as possible
We will also encourage the players to hydrate well and include some electrolytes to prepare for the salt lost in sweat during the game.
What do your players eat after a match … what will they eat after the final
Typically, they would have a recovery shake in the form of the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey along with some added carbohydrate and nuts. Then afterwards they would have a nutritious meal which would be something like a baked potato and salmon with some vegetables.
…After the final however, it will hopefully be a few celebratory beers and pizza.
Saracens Nutritionist George Morgan gave us an insight into a typical game day menu for the two time European champions
Breakfast: Large bowl of porridge with milk, Banana on a white bagel with honey. Diluted fruit juice or a banana based smoothie
Mid-morning snack: Sliced turkey wrap, Greek yogurt with red berries. Water with electrolyte tablet or a protein fruit smoothie
Pre match meal: Sliced Chicken breast, Spaghetti with tomato sauce, Sweet potato. Scotch pancakes with syrup and berries and water with electrolytes.
Changing rooms pre game: Optimum amino energy, Jelly babies, Banana, sliced fruit bread, water and sports drinks
Post-Game: Optimum Nutrition Whey shake with a fruit smoothie containing tarte cherry juice. Water and sports drink
Post-game meal: Beef chilli with potato wedges, rice, flat bread and green salad Water with electrolytes
Pre bed Snack of Optimum nutrition casein with milk and banana smoothie
Official Sport Nutrition Partner to both clubs, Optimum nutrition has been providing performance nutrition support to Leinster since 2010 and to Saracens from 2012.