Match Day Nutrition - With George Morgan, Saracens RFC Performance Nutritionist
It’s match day. You’ve trained hard, your skills are on point, and your mind is focused. There’s one more element that’s essential to success on the pitch – nutrition. And specifically, match day nutrition. We spoke with George Morgan, Saracens RFC Performance Nutritionist, about the importance of putting food first.Now more than ever nutrition is key as Saracens prepare to take on Racing 92 in the final of the European Rugby Champions Cup on May 14th.
When it comes to rugby, carbs are king. On match day the first thing you need is a nice big bowl of porridge with some wholemeal toast. Use whole milk, and season with cinnamon, almonds, or even a punnet of blueberries. Normally I say stick to low sugar fruits like blueberries or blackberries.
If kick off is 3pm, you should have your main meal at noon. This allows time for digestion which should minimise discomfort and potential stitches and ensure glycogen stores are fully topped up (glycogen is stored carbohydrate in the muscle).
An ideal match day meal should consist of foods you are familiar with. Don’t introduce anything new to your routine, stick with what you know your body has reacted well to in the past. A selection of lean proteins teamed with easily digestible carbs and minimum fibre should work. At Saracens we normally opt for grilled chicken breast and gluten-free spaghetti or pasta, freshly-made tomato and basil sauce using tinned tomato and no onions as these could cause bloating and discomfort. We have pudding options such a low-gluten pancakes and yogurt with berries and syrup.
It’s so important that it is food you know you can tolerate well. This takes practice and trial and error. It’s a good idea to focus on getting this right pre-season or at junior level.
We advise our players to drink 500ml of water with electrolyte effervescent tablet at breakfast and then sip throughout the morning. It is important to plan some drinks into your routine as exclusively drinking to thirst may not result in you being fully hydrated. Flavour watered down fruit juices/ milk/ electrolyte containing drinks to stimulate fluid intake over just plain water. At our pre-match meal, we give our players 500ml with rehydration salts (salt, potassium) to enhance water absorption during the match.
Snacks are allowed! Plan a mid-morning snack. Opt for something more carb based. Good examples are dark berries and low-sugar Greek yogurt with muesli, or fresh fruit salad (no syrups), or toast with peanut butter. These should work to keep the energy levels topped up.
Refueling and rehydrating post game is important as the build-up to another game is only round the corner. Ensure access to leucine-rich protein containing foods and quickly digested carbohydrates. Carbohydrate is essential after a match as it contributes to the recovery of normal muscle function (contraction) after highly intensive and/or long-lasting physical exercise leading to muscle fatigue and the depletion of glycogen stores in skeletal muscle. Along with readily available foods and sports drinks we give the players an elite recovery shake which has the right blend of protein and carbohydrates to start this process. We blend these with milk as it contains protein for repair, and sodium to aid with the enhancement of water. This can help to support muscle recovery and growth and re-stock energy stores. It’s followed by a hot meal full of protein portions, such as chicken or fish and lots of carbohydrates such as sweet potato wedges, garlic bread, bagels and fruit. Players will portion these meals in relation to their match minutes and physical goals.