Professional rugby players get through immense training loads, often attending multiple training sessions a day, including intense weight training in the gym to build muscle and strength.
Despite these super-human workloads, the players must fully recover by the weekend before games. Meeting these energy and recovery demands requires high volumes of quality nutrition from food and supplements.
And leading local supplement brand Biogen is helping to make that a reality. As the official supplement partner to the Sharks, Biogen supplies the team with quality nutritional products.
Fuelled to win
Registered dietitian and Sharks nutrition coach Danielle Oldfield explains that, while the team doesn’t prescribe a uniform dietary approach for all players, there are important nutritional basics that players can’t ignore.
“We treat every player individually, and some players follow diabetic or ketogenic diets for health reasons. However, as a predominantly power-based sport that requires players to sprint repeatedly, most guys need ample quality carbohydrates in their diets. This macronutrient delivers the immediate energy they require to perform.”
Before training or games, players typically eat a high-carb meal that contains a moderate amount of protein and is low in fibre and fat, like a chicken and salad wrap, a chicken and veg dish or an egg and fruit platter.
“We avoid spicy foods, and often have an energy top-up before a game in the form of banana bread or a beetroot smoothie,” continues Danielle.
During training and games, Sharks players often use Biogen Carbogen to fuel their efforts on the field. This low GI carbohydrate supplement is ideal for intra-exercise use, thanks to its formulation.
Biogen Carbogen contains Palatinose™, which releases energy gradually to fuel sustained physical activity while replenishing glycogen stores within muscle cells. It is also enhanced with electrolytes to maintain hydration levels, and amino acids to limit muscle damage.
Players who struggle to add and maintain muscle – the so-called hard-gainers – generally require more carbs throughout the day.
In contrast, larger or insulin-sensitive players may manipulate their carb intake. For instance, incorporating carb cycling into their nutrition plans provides energy and recovery benefits without necessarily adding extra weight.
Some players also prefer to train in a fasted state. In these instances, carb backloading – consuming a large portion of your daily carbohydrate intake after exercise – serves as an intelligent means to support a player’s energy and recovery demands.
“We suggest that these players sip on branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) to retain muscle when training in a depleted state,” explains Danielle.
In these instances, BCAAs fulfil a muscle-sparing function as the body breaks down circulating amino acids for energy in the absence of carb-derived glycogen, which stops the body from breaking down muscle tissue to meet its heightened energy demands.
Biogen Amino Power+ is an ideal product for this purpose. This scientifically-formulated supplement provides a combination of BCAAs, L-Glutamine, Beta-alanine and Citrulline Malate to support muscles and help players train for longer.
The protein factor
In addition, all players need sufficient protein to support muscle maintenance during the season. Players must maintain muscle mass to compete physically on the field, but they need to retain their athleticism and efficiency.
“The key to adding and maintaining muscle mass without losing athleticism requires training in a way that increases movement efficiency. For this reason, players include a lot of explosive plyometric training in their programmes and consume a steady supply of protein throughout the day,” explains Danielle.
The main focus in this regard is preventing players from falling into a catabolic state, which is when muscle tissue breakdown exceeds the rate of new muscle growth.
“Consuming the right amount of protein periodically throughout the day is vital. And eating excess carbs should never displace a player’s protein intake. We calculate each player’s required intake based on individual factors, but this usually between 1.8-2.4g/kg/day.”
Danielle typically recommends that younger and heavier players adhere to higher intakes to meet their growth and recovery demands.
“It is important to note that the body can’t absorb too much protein at a single sitting. Therefore, it is important to spread servings throughout the day and include some form of protein at every meal. The post-workout or post-game meals are the most important in this regard.”
Danielle recommends lean protein sources from game meat and fish, rather than too much red meat. “We like players to eat meat from the bone or stew meat on the bone to get additional nutritional benefits such as collagen.”
The Sharks also provide Biogen Iso Whey Protein on tap for the players.
“Whey is a convenient and accessible form of protein that players can use immediately after training or games to aid recovery.”
Biogen Iso Whey Protein contains whey protein isolate, which is rapidly absorbed by the body and provides a source of BCAAs, L-Glutamine and essential amino acids (EAA) for a highly effective, anti-catabolic nutritional solution.
“Players will typically drink a whey shake once or twice a day to help them hit their protein intake requirements,” continues Danielle.
Supplementing with purpose
The Sharks nutrition team also incorporates various other supplements into their plan, provided the product serves a purpose and has proven efficacy behind it.
“Creatine is a good example,” says Danielle. “It is a supplement backed by significant scientific research, with proven benefits for performance and recovery.
“Creatine is highly beneficial in the pre-season when training loads are high. We also individualise regimens based on player requirements – some may cycle it as required while others take it on a more consistent basis.”
The Sharks predominantly use Biogen Creatine Monohydrate to increase explosive power output and provided sustained short-duration energy production to fuel more forceful muscle contractions. The resultant increase in physical capacity provides the impetus to add more strength and muscle during training sessions when supported with the appropriate nutrition.
“The players drink creatine with fruit juice or accompany their daily serving with a banana to aid absorption into muscle cells,” explains Danielle.
Additional performance-enhancing supplements include caffeine, which players often use before and mid-way through training and games, and electrolytes during games to replenish the natural salts lost through sweating.
“We also have some guys on multivitamins. While they generally eat a lot, which is sufficient to achieve their recommended daily allowances from food, some players can experience deficiencies,” Danielle elaborates.
Common products include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, which is shown to improve performance, vitamin C when required, especially to boost the immune response, and possibly, probiotics.
“We’re confident in recommending Biogen products to our players to help meet all their nutritional demands because the brand tests the products they supply us and Biogen supplements are Informed-Sport certified,” concludes Danielle.