Adopted principally from the excellent HKRFU guide with additional source material from Harvard School of Public Health, World Health Organisation, Texas State Univ, American College of Sports Medicine, National Institute of Public Health Czech Republic, Anita Bean, various health magazines such as Shape.
With due acknowledgement and thanks to those sources.

Nutrition is an important component of rugby training. What you eat and drink everyday has a big impact on your training, and obviously your training has a big impact on your performance.

Game day is not the time to start paying attention to what you eat. If you compare the time you spend training to the time you spend playing you will soon see why it is so important to get your training diet right. Eating the right type of foods in the right amounts will give you more energy to train harder and perform better. Sweets, Coke, 7Up, etc form no part of your diet. Three types of food provide energy: carbohydrates, protein and fat.


Carbohydrates are the major source of fuel, especially for athletes. Sports nutritionists recommend that carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, fruit, vegetables and beans make up more than half of our total energy intake.

Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Glycogen is the main source of energy for the muscles to perform during exercise. The body can only store a limited amount of glycogen, so it’s essential to eat carbohydrates every day.

The amount of carbohydrates your body needs depends on your body weight and your level of training. It is recommended that athletes that participate in moderate to high intensity exercise for 60-120 minutes need to consume approximately 6-8 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight each day.

What are good sources of carbohydrate?

  • Breads (brown, pita)
  • Breakfast cereals (porridge, muesli, wheat biscuits)
  • Pasta, rice, noodles
  • All fruit (whole, juiced, tinned)
  • Starchy Vegetables (potatoes, pumpkin, corn)
  • Pancakes, crumpets, scones, muffins
  • Cordial, juices and sports drinks

What does 20g of carbohydrate look like?

  • 2 slices of thin bread
  • 1 tablespoon jam/honey
  • 25g of Coco Pops cereal (one small helping)
  • 25g of Shreddies cereal
  • 30g of Nutrigrain cereal
  • 2 cereal wheat biscuits
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 large apple/orange
  • 200ml fruit yoghurt
  • ½ cup of rice/pasta
  • 1 medium potato
  • 300ml sports drink
  • 180ml Tropicana Orange juice

Protein is essential for the growth and repair of all body tissues including muscle and bone. Protein also has a role in providing energy if glycogen stores are low, but when protein is used in this way it cannot then contribute to the important areas of muscle growth, repair and recovery.

Athlete’s protein requirements of athletes are greater; however increased requirements can usually be met through increased food intake as a result of a greater appetite. Adolescent athletes require approximately 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day; that means you are probably targeting 20-60 grams of protein a day.

While both animal and vegetable proteins probably have the same impact on health, not all proteins are the same. A 6 ounce steak might give you 38g of protein but it also delivers 44g of fat with a scary 16g of saturated fat. Yet the same amount of salmon gives you slightly less protein at 34g while delivering 18g of fat with only 4g saturated. Lentils deliver around 18g of protein for only 1g of fat which is why legumes, although delivering some carbs, are in this section.

You may expect that post exercise/match, you need a big carb upload to recover the energy but you need protein too so that the combo speeds glycogen recovery faster than eating carbohydrate alone. They found that adding a little protein to post-workout carbs boosted glycogen storage by almost 40%. It also promoted faster muscle repair and growth in weight trainers. The combination of protein and carbs (1g to every 3g carbs) stimulates insulin release, which prompts the muscle cells to take up glucose (carbohydrate) and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) faster from the bloodstream.

The benefits of soy as a method of reducing cholesterol may have been overstated previously but soy remains a good choice as it often replaces less healthy red meat choices.

What are good sources of protein?

  • Meat, poultry, seafood
  • Dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese)
  • Legumes (baked beans, kidney beans, lentils).
  • Wholemeal Pasta, rice, noodles
  • Eggs
  • Nuts & Seeds

What does 15g of protein look like?

  • 1 cup muesli with fruit and nuts
  • 400ml milk
  • 300ml yoghurt
  • 70g of Nutrigrain cereal (one large serving)
  • 150g of Shreddies cereal
  • 300g of Coco Pops cereal (almost a complete box)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup baked beans
  • 50g lean cooked beef or lamb
  • 75g lean cooked mince
  • 60g skinless chicken
  • 50g canned tuna
  • ⅔ scoop soy/whey protein powder


Fibre in food slows the digestion of the food so giving you a sense of feeling full long; this is beneficial in the morning for breakfast when you have a long morning of school ahead but would be a disadvantage before a match when you don’t want the sense of a heavy stomach.

To increase you fibre intake, switch from white pasta/rice to wholemeal/brown versions. Eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juices. Choose whole grain cereals rather than Coco-Pops for breakfast. Add more legumes to your meals (and get more protein too).

What are good sources of fibre?

  • Whole fruit
  • Wholemeal pasta, rice
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Raw vegetables
  • Legumes

What does 5g of fibre look like?

  • 45g plain almonds
  • 18g of All-Bran cereal
  • 100g of Shreddies cereal
  • 185g of Nutrigrain cereal – that’s a lot
  • 250g of Coco Pops – that’s even more
  • 165g of carrots
  • 16g of lentils
  • 50g of dried sunflower seed kernels


Dietary fat has important roles in the body including insulation from the cold and aiding in the absorption and transportation of fat-soluble vitamins.

Fat has over twice the energy value of carbohydrates or protein. It is a concentrated form of energy so it is easy to eat more than you need. This leads to increase levels of body fat, heart disease and other health problems.

You can reduce your intake of saturated fat by choosing low fat dairy products, lean red meat, skinless chicken, fish and plant oils. Low fat is the key. In general we need 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight (up to 90 grams) per day.

How much fat is there in fast food?

  • Burger King (Double Whopper with cheese) 47g of Fat
  • Pizza Hut (6 inch Meat Lovers) 49g of Fat
  • Subway (6 inch Double Meat Classic) 55g of Fat
  • McDonalds (Medium Fries) 20g of Fat
  • Meat Pie 20-35g of Fat
  • Hungry Jacks (4 chicken nuggets) 12g of Fat
  • Starbucks Chocolate muffin 31g of Fat

healthy eating pyramid


The is a sample eating plan with enough carbohydrate and protein portions suitable for a 60kg rugby player training at least an hour per day.


2 slices toast with 2 Tbsp jam
1cup cereal with ½ cup milk

1 glass fruit juice

1 glass water

SNACK – 10.30am

1 muffin (low-fat)

1 apple

1 glass water

LUNCH – 12noon

2 salad sandwiches with cold meat

1 apple

200 ml flavoured reduced-fat milk

1 glass water

SNACK – 3pm (pre-training)

1 sandwich with honey

1 glass water

SNACK – 6pm (after training)

1 banana

1 cereal bar

300ml sports drink

DINNER – 7.30pm

100g lean red meat

1cup steamed rice

Stir-fried vegetables, eg broccoli, capsicum, beans, carrots

1 glass water


200 ml milk-based smoothie

Note: ensure you incorporate variety into your diet to ensure you are receiving a wide range of vitamins and minerals.


Maintaining an adequate fluid intake is essential in any healthy diet and is particularly important for athletes. Water prevents dehydration, which can impair performance and helps keep the body cool while exercising.

The view that sodium (salt) loss was critical during intense exercise has been replaced by the understanding that exercise in hot and humid conditions causes an increase in plasma sodium concentration, implying that water replacement may be more important than sodium replacement during exertional heat stress.

Various urban myths circulate regarding the dangers of drinking demineralised water have been overstated. Recent research suggests that long term drinking of demineralised water may be harmful since the water lacks critical minerals such as calcium, magnesium and other trace elements. There are currently no indicated short term concerns, so drinking a bottle of green Watson’s water is better than not drinking but drinking a bottle of mineral water would be better.

Thirst is not a good indicator that you need fluid – by the time you get thirsty you have already started to become dehydrated. A fluid loss of 2% body weight can impair performance by up to 20%. Therefore it is important to drink before you feel thirsty.

  • Consume beverages that are cool (15-20C), palatable and provide carbohydrate. The use sports drinks prior to exercise can assist in meeting both fluid and carbohydrate needs. Sports drinks also contain electrolytes which assist with fluid retention prior to and during exercise.
  • Start drinking early in your workout as it takes about 30 minutes for the water and sugars to reach your bloodstream.
  • Hydration prior to training and competition should be carefully planned. Begin well hydrated by consuming extra fluids in the days and hours prior to your training session or game. Drink enough to pass clear coloured urine.
  • Drink 300-600ml of fluid with your pre training/game meal, followed by 150-300ml every 15-20min.
  • During training or competition, allow for frequent opportunities to drink. Remember if you get thirsty you are already a little dehydrated.
  • Sports drinks, diluted juice and high-juice squash are often a better choice than plain water when you are working out continually for longer than 60 minutes. The sugars they contain not only provide fuel for your exercising muscles but they also speed up the absorption of water into your bloodstream.
  • Aim to consume 30–60g of carbs per hour - that’s equivalent to 500ml – 1 litre of an isotonic sports drink (containing 6 g sugar per 100 ml) or fruit juice diluted 50/50 with water.
  • Replenish fluids by drinking sports drinks that contain both carbohydrates and electrolytes. Continue to drink 150-300ml every 20 minutes until you begin to pass clear coloured urine. As a rule of thumb, you need to drink 750 ml of water for every ½ kg (1 lb) of body weight lost during your workout.
  • Drinking slowly rather than guzzling the lot in one go will hydrate you better.


The two most critical factors in competition nutrition are fuel and fluids. Carbohydrates are the critical source of fuel to the working muscles and central nervous system. Therefore carbohydrate store must be maximized prior to a game, topped up throughout and replenished post match for optimal performance. Fluids are also vital as they prevent dehydration and help keep the body cool during exercise.

The following is an example of what and when you should eat on game day. It is highly recommended that you trial your ‘new’ diet plan during training before you implement it on game day. Don’t experiment on the day of your ‘big game’.




Morning of the game: (Large, high Carbohydrate (low fat) meal)

  • Breakfast cereal, low fat milk and fresh fruit
  • Eggs and baked beans on toast
  • English muffins or crumpets and jam or honey
  • Pancakes and Syrup
  • Fruit juice and water

Pre-match Meal

4 hours out from game: (Medium, high Carbohydrate (low fat) meal)


  • Toast and baked beans
  • Rolls/Sandwiches
  • Fresh fruit and low fat yoghurt
  • Pasta or rice dishes with tomato or low fat sauce
  • Baked potatoes with low fat filling
  • Sports bars or cereal bars
  • Sports drink, Water

Pre-match Snack

1-2 hours out from game: (Light, high carbohydrate, low fat snack).


  • Smaller serves of the above foods are all appropriate
  • White bread sandwiches + honey or jam

Half-time Snack


  • Sports drink and water
  • Dried fruits, such as mango, apricots, sultanas, bananas, Carbo/Energy gel stick.

Post-Match Recovery


Within 30min after game: (High carbohydrate snacks)

  • Sports drink and water
  • Dried fruits, such as mango, apricots, sultanas, bananas, Carbo/Energy gel stick.
  • Homemade muffins
  • Milk-based smoothie

Within 2 hours after game:(High carbohydrate/protein meal)

  • Chicken & Stir-fried vegetables with rice
  • Fresh fruit & yoghurt
  • Water

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