Rugby players are renowned for being some of the fittest, strongest and most powerful athletes in all of sport. But they don't all start out that way. In fact, some players come to me needing to gain 10 or 15 kilograms (22-33 pounds) of bulk… in a hurry. Read on, and I'll reveal exactly how they do it, and how you can do it too…
At the highest level, rugby demands a great deal of speed and power. Players need to be heavy enough to take the knocks, but light enough to be quick and agile. It won't come as a surprise to learn that weight training is a fundamental part of every professional player's training routine. Why? Firstly, it helps to shield and protect the player's body from the battering it takes on the pitch. Secondly, it helps to develop speed and strength, both of translates to better a performance on match day.
Most players do some form of weight training 2-3 per week during the season and 3-4 times per week in the off-season. The goal is to gain muscle in the off-season, then simply maintain it during the season.
What does it take in terms of nutrition to bulk up a rugby player?
For a rugby player to gain weight, he needs energy. In other words, he needs to consume more calories than he burns each day. And if he's doing a lot of heavy training, which usually involves moves like power cleans and jump squats, he'll need a lot of calories simply to replace the ones he's burned off. And that doesn't take into account the fact that the calories required to build new muscle tissue won’t come from nowhere, and need to be provided by the diet.
A player that weighs 90 kilograms (198 pounds) will typically get through 4,000-5,000 calories per day. That's a lot of food, especially if you don't have a big appetite. In fact, many players find it simply impossible to get this many calories from solid food alone.
So, what the players do instead is take a high-quality weight-gainer like Progain 2-3 times a day in addition to their regular diet. Progain is rich in calories and contains whey protein along with plenty of easily-digested carbohydrate. It's a quick and easy way for players to get the extra calories they need to grow, and is also great as a post-exercise drink to help with muscle repair and recovery.
Next on the list is carbohydrate. Rugby players need plenty of carbs, especially before, during and after training. We give the players Viper during a training session. It gives them the carbs they need to keep their energy levels high, as well as the staying power to keep giving 100 percent right until the end of the session. Viper also helps to keep them hydrated, as well as replacing the vital salts and minerals lost in sweat.
Once your calorie and carbohydrate needs are taken care of, step three is to ensure adequate protein intake. Most people, rugby players included, just don't get enough of it. We've seen explosive gains in both strength and size when the player's focus on eating enough protein on a regular basis, and not just when they remember. If you want to gain weight and build muscle as fast as possible, we see the best results with around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, a player who weighs 90 kilograms (198 pounds) will need at least 198 grams of protein per day. Good protein sources include whey protein, chicken, fish, lean red meat, and cottage cheese.
We also give the players products like Promax, Promax Extreme and Cyclone, which all contain a unique blend of high-quality whey protein, along with some powerful natural muscle-building support nutrients. Most players also use the Promax and Cyclone bars to boost their protein intake when they're on the go.
Last but not least comes fat. Fat is one of the most important nutrients in your diet, especially if you want to gain weight. Studies show a strong link between dietary fat and testosterone levels, a hormone that plays an important role in muscle growth. Eating enough fat is one of the best ways to keep your testosterone levels at the high end of normal. Go on a low-fat diet, and your testosterone levels are going to drop through the floor.
Healthy sources of fat include extra-virgin olive oil, peanuts, avocado, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, flaxseed or macadamia nuts. The essential long-chain omega-3s, which help with fat burning, are found primarily in high-fat, cold-water fish such as salmon or mackerel.
To ensure the players aren't missing out on any essential fats, they all supplement their diet with Maxi-EFA. This provides long-chain omega-3s, which are far superior to the short-chain omega-3s found in flaxseed oil and various 'choice' oil blends. You also get some omega-6s, which can help to reduce joint pain.
So there you have it; the principles that underpin every successful muscle-building nutrition plan. It works for some of Britain's top Rugby players. Chances are it'll work for you too.
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