When people hear the words “strength and conditioning” the first thing that puts up are huge tubs of powder. These huge tubs of powder have to be the answer, surely. They are hyped up everywhere and the bodybuilders and other athletes all endorse them. So aren’t they the answer to all of my questions? No, but they can be a part of it
For most players who train hard, a big part of their focus is on what they put into their bodies. If they make the right decisions they will get stronger, faster and leaner because of their training. If you put in rubbish, the picture doesn’t look so good.
The vast majority of us don’t have the luxury of having a team nutritionist or loads of cash to spend on supplements. The good news is that it is totally unnecessary. The truth about nutrition and supplements is getting exposed more and more… and it is very easy to get the best out of what you put into your body.
The basis of good nutrition and supplement use
If you are like most people you can’t spend a ton on supplements. Spending a ton on supplements is more often than not a waste of time. The amount of nutrition that you can get from good healthy food is enough to carry you for a long time.
When it comes to good nutrition the simplest rule you can follow is to eat what you cook at home, not what you can buy at a fast-food restaurant. Cooking food at home ensures that you know what goes into what you eat and allows you to monitor your intake.
But what about the supplements? We will get to that, but if you want to simply see what bodybuilders put in their bodies to get to where they are you can simply search on Youtube. Look for “nutrition to build muscle” or “diet for lean muscle” or something along those lines. Very rarely if you watch a video of a bodybuilder would you see them having a shake. They prep meals and eat normal food.
A look at nutrition
Nutrition should be something that you form a habit around. It should be followed all year round and the basics are very simple to follow.
If you want to lose weight (fat) you need to consume less calories than you need in a day. If you want to gain weight (you are skinny and need to pack on some muscle) you need to consume more calories than you need in a day.
To monitor your calorie intake you can simply download an app like My Fitness Pal (free) to enter the food you take in and get an idea of whether or not you are on track.
An easy rule to follow is to eat food that can spoil easily. That means that it is natural. That includes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables and fruit. The others you can add, which are good friends of these food items are nuts, rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes. If you stick with these food groups you will get in everything you need.
To ensure that you get enough nutrients you simply need to try and consume some of each every day or every second day. This will cover all your macros (protein, carbohydrates and fat) as well as vitamins, minerals and fibre needs. Throw in about 2-3 liters of water every day and you are well on your way.
For rugby players, the focus is however on building or maintaining lean muscle mass. You also need to stay healthy despite the vigorous training and game schedule. To top it off you need enough energy to last you through the practice sessions, games and just every day.
The non-negotiable option during any day is your intake of protein. You need to make sure that you consume at least enough to maintain your current muscle mass. It doesn’t mean you can neglect the rest of the food, but you can get away with slightly less of the others from time to time.
I am not going to go into the respective calculators to show you exactly what you should eat and when. You can go and search for it with searches like “what to eat to gain weight” or “what to eat to lose weight”. There is a ton of information out there. Read a couple of articles and build up your ideal diet based on healthy food choices.
A look at supplements
The supplement aisles at health shops and pharmacies are always packed with options. These options can be very overwhelming and can quickly become impossible to afford. Top athletes do use supplements, but not everything you see on the shelves.
They eat balanced meals consisting of normal food, but then supplement only what is needed.
If you have the money to buy some supplements there are really only two supplements that you need:
- Whey protein – it is the most complete source of amino acids and a protein source that is easy to absorb. If you are not getting enough protein from your food or need to gain a bit of extra muscle mass, whey protein is your friend. Fairly cost-effective alternatives are eggs and chicken. They are often the most affordable options available as well.
- Omega 3 – these essential fats are important for the maintenance and repair of tendons and your brain. The common options are usually fish oils or flaxseed oil capsules. Most regular food options are often fairly pricey, but you can shop around and compare. Fatty fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon are good options (and rich in protein), while flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts are also good sources
The simplest solution of all in terms of nutrition and supplements
If you want to make sure that you keep it really simple you can always just work around a very simple framework.
Here are a couple of quick tips on how you can ensure you get in all you need every day:
- Don’t eat the whole day – eat breakfast and stop eating before 8pm every night. This gives your gut time to recover and process all your food
- Eat eggs – if you can eat 3-4 eggs every day, you are well on your way to covering your daily protein needs
- One more protein – try and get in one more source of protein in at least every day. This can be a piece of meat (around 200g) either at lunch or dinner
- Get in our 5 a day – this one is a little difficult at first if you are not used to fruit and vegetables. Try to get in 5 different fruits or vegetables in total. It should however not be all fruit. Try and take in roughly 50% of each.
These quick rules cover the majority of what you will need to focus on for good nutrition. It also almost makes the need for extra supplements redundant. It is however very easy to get sidetracked, but keeping up a consistent routine will pay huge dividends.