Keeping Up with Rugby Players’ Diets
Within a previous article, we introduced ACS Tomitanii Constanța — Romanian professional rugby club. Through the contributions of our interviewees — Adrian Ion, Ngoni Chibuwe, and Ionuț Coman — along with additional academic and practical research, we aim to highlight the versatile nature of rugby players’ diets and the factors by which these are influenced, revealing some useful and even unexpected findings. So what have we learnt?
Body types impact individual characteristics and needs. A system through which body types are categorised is the somatotype, differentiating between three main elements: ‘ectomorphic’, ‘mesomorphic’, and ‘endomorphic’. Falling in between one of these three somatotypes is common, considering the world’s broad and highly diverse population.
Moving on, an example of how nutritional needs vary with body type denotes from our players’ answers. Ionuț — who falls close to the ectomorph side — observed that reducing meat consumption enhances his energy levels, especially when running. Ngoni on the other hand — who fits more within the mesomorph side — emphasises how essential proteins, including meats, are for maintaining energy, strength, and recovery time.
Although the foundation of a healthy diet is the same for all genders, on average, women tend to have smaller bodies than men, which results in different caloric needs. Women need fewer calories than men, but often require additional vitamin and mineral intake.
Furthermore, distinct gender-related attitudes towards nutrition are ubiquitous, and are impacted by psychological and socio-cultural factors. Such differences emerge in the early stages of life, commonly leading to women having higher knowledge and concern towards nutrition, usually due to beauty standards and social pressure. This pattern is just as present in the sports world.
As we age, we lose lean body mass (e.g., bones, muscles, blood, skin), while our activity levels also tend to decrease. These are main factors that cause our metabolism to slow down. Metabolism refers to the chemical processes in our bodies causing food to transition into energy and growth. In order to maintain a healthy metabolic rate, nutrition is among the aspects we should pay attention to.
Even as a highly active, professional rugby player, Adrian highlighted the importance of an adequate diet: “Of course, I have to be careful. Although there are times when I ‘forget about the diet’, when I’m on holidays, for the most part, I need to take care, since I am not as young anymore and my body reacts differently now. I don’t eat bread and fried foods anymore, except for rare occasions. I also cut off sweets and sugary drinks. You need to be balanced in order to maintain and exceed your level, and this implies making sacrifices.”
CULTURE & GEOGRAPHICAL AREA
Attitudes towards nutrition, food consumption, and associated trends vary across the globe, in each culture and sub-culture. These distinctions are brought by many factors, among which resources availability, climate, beliefs, technology, infrastructure, education, time constraints.
Constanța, the club’s base, is a seaside city. Here, our players revealed an enthusiastic atmosphere and a passion for food. A two course meal is common in the Romanian cuisine — usually starting off with a light soup, followed by a main dish, oftentimes meat-based or rich in proteins, accompanied by a side dish and a healthy salad.
PERSONAL PREFERENCES & VALUES
Whether to support a cause (e.g., animal protection; reducing environmental footprint), personal tastes, health reasons — athletes’ diets are, too, shaped around such matters.
Although rare within rugby, Ionuț is now vegetarian for almost a year and is feeling amazing. “Coaches are telling me ‘to eat more and gain weight’, but I think it depends on each person. I sense a positive difference.” He also follows a strict, consistent schedule before games. His initiatives are particularly based on his value of living a healthy life. Ngoni follows a different approach, preferred as it helps him achieve his best potential. This involves eating a lot of proteins, unprocessed or lightly processed veggies, and drinking plenty of water. Before a match, he prioritises carbs, cuts off sugars and importantly, getting eight hours of sleep.
As mentioned before, athletes face different seasons and circumstances to which they have to adapt (e.g., match seasons, travelling & tournaments, holidays). This implies adapting their diets to suit their specific needs at the time.
For example, during pre-season, training is highly intense, especially strength training. This is followed by a more relaxed approach throughout the game week, so that the players do not risk burning out. All these reveal the need for an adequate, nutritious diet that can sustain players’ efforts and recovery, so as to maintain their health and potential.
GOALS & EXPECTATIONS
The level of performance desired to be reached (e.g., amateur, semi-professional, professional), improvement of certain skills, ideal physique, etc. all influence players’ diets. Different types of physical activity imply different nutritional needs. These fall under four categories: aerobic, muscle-strengthening, bone-strengthening, and stretching. It is crucial, thus, that diets are adapted to sustain the achievement of such objectives.
Thank you for your time! Tell us, which factors influence your diet choices most, and how does your diet help you in achieving your goals?
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