Eat Well, Play Well – What’s the Best Nutrition for Rugby Players?

October 23 2014

If you’re playing rugby – or any other sport for that matter – it should go without saying that your nutrition is everything. You can put in all the practice and rugby training you want, but if you’re not putting the right fuel into your body you won’t play as well as you could.

Let’s check out some essential nutrition tips and what every rugby player’s body needs:


The main source of fuel for the body is carbohydrates.  This energy can be found principally in bread, pasta, rice, cereals, oats and potatoes. All carbs are digested by the body, turned into sugar and then absorbed into the blood stream and stored in the muscles and liver to be used when needed.

Some carbohydrates (such as wholemeal rices, pastas and breads) are less sugary and more fibrous, providing a longer-term source of energy for sportspeople, so it’s essential to avoid white breads and pastas. Because they provide lots of energy, carbs are perfect before and after high-intensity training and matches as they both fuel your exercise and help the body to recover.

However, they should be eaten sparingly before sustained periods of rest as any excess energy will be stored as fat. It’s recommended that rugby players don’t eat many carbs in the hours before bed.


Sugars, found in chocolate, fruit and honey, are also a form of energy. However, they only provide a quick, short-term boost to the body and therefore not very effective over the length of a game or training session. However, if you’re ‘running low’ during a match or at half time, you’ll find that a quick boost from a banana or chocolate bar will do the trick – but like carbs they shouldn’t be eaten before periods of inactivity.


Protein, found in meats and eggs, has a dual purpose in the body. It’s used for the growth and repair of muscles as well as being burned for energy like carbohydrates. Therefore, it’s essential that your diet consists of plenty of protein like chicken, turkey and eggs – particularly after heavy exercise if you want to build your muscles.


Fats are an essential part of a rugby player’s diet as they can help to absorb shock and decrease the risk of injury but you need to be sure you’re eating the right ones. Man-made hydrogenated fats provide little nutritional benefit so you should aim to eat only natural fats from nuts, oily fish and red meats. Avoid fats from pork products and butters which provide very little nutritional benefit.

Fruit and vegetables

Eating the right fruit and veg is essential for a rugby player as they provide valuable vitamins and minerals not found anywhere else as well as rare, valuable carbohydrates. Some of the best fruits and vegetables include broccoli, spinach, carrots and eggplant, but you should aim to eat a wide range of natural foods to maintain the best possible diet.


It may sound obvious, but staying fully hydrated is a must for rugby players. Drink at least two litres of water and ensure your urine is running clear before a match or training otherwise your body won’t perform to its full capabilities.