The role of nutrition in enhancing rugby performance is being increasingly appreciated by players as it can complement natural talent and dedicated training to produce optimum performance.


NutritionThe daily demands of training are best met by a consistent approach to adequate fuel intake and not just on fuelling up only on the day before a match or in the pre-event meal.

You need a variety of foods and should aim to include:


Carbohydrate is the fuel of choice for training. You should try to base your meals and snacks on slowly digested carbohydrate rich foods.

This includes oats, wholegrain breads and wholegrain crackers, pasta, rice, noodles and starchy vegetables like new potatoes, kumara and corn.

Just before intense training sessions or matches, additional carbohydrate rich foods and drinks can be helpful to provide extra fuel. Afterwards sports drinks, lollies, baked bars, ripe yellow bananas and white bread with honey and jam sandwiches are digested quickly for fast recovery.

Bagels, wraps, cereal bars and creamed rice are some ideas.

Sports drinks may be helpful to top up carbohydrate during training, particularly in hot conditions when sweat and fluid losses are likely to be high.


The protein requirements of rugby players are greater than for those who live a more inactive lifestyle.

As rugby is a contact sport giving rise to a high level of muscle damage, and with resistance training being a regular component for rugby players, it is important to consume adequate amounts of protein rich foods each day to promote adaptations to training and recovery from games.

Foods high in protein include lean meat, chicken, fish, low fat milk and yoghurt and eggs. Aim to include a protein rich food at each meal and snack. Make sure you eat every 3 hours through the day to meet their energy and protein needs.

An Accredited Sports Nutritionist or Dietitian can provide further guidance.


A high energy (calorie/kJ) intake is important to maintain lean body mass and size, especially during periods of growth such as adolescence or intensive resistance training. Poor quality saturated fat will not help fuel the type of exercise undertaken by you and can slow you down with dead weight.

Therefore, you should limit your consumption of high fat dairy foods, fatty meats, high fat takeaways and snack foods, fried foods and creamy sauces. A moderate intake of good fats contained in foods such as nuts, seeds, peanut butter, olive and canola oils, fish, avocado and plant oil table spreads are important to help maintain good joint, muscle and heart health.

NutritionA Sample One Day Meal Plan for A Rugby Player


If travelling, pack a combination of fresh fruit, milk drinks or fruit juice carton with yoghurt, cereal bars, creamed rice or sandwiches.



Add a piece of fruit and/or yoghurt to each option








Nutritionist’s Note

This meal plan is an example only and not intended for individual purposes. This should be altered to suit individual energy requirements depending on age, gender and training load. For those who train at an elite level and/or twice or more a day additional pre training snacks and post training recovery food/drinks will be required. 

Contact a Sports Dietitian for guidance.

Competition Day Eating

Well-planned game day nutrition keeps you running further and faster in the second half of a match. It also helps you to maintain skills and judgment when you would otherwise become fatigued. Depletion of fuel stores can become an issue when playing for longer than 60 minutes, especially for players in mobile positions or with a running game style. Including additional carbohydrate in the 24 hours preceding and consuming extra carbohydrate during the game have been shown to enhance performance. Timing of the pre-game meal is important to allow time for food to be digested. This meal should be mostly slowly digested carbohydrate rich foods, with some lean protein.


Have a normal breakfast followed by a light pre-game snack/meal 2 hours before the match.


Have a normal breakfast followed by a pregame meal 3-4 hours before the match (10.30-11.30am), and top up with a light snack 1 hours prior.


Have a normal breakfast, morning tea and lunch followed by a pre-game meal 3-4 hours before the match (3.30-4.30pm). Top up with a light snack 1 hour prior (e.g. piece of fruit or baked bar).

Consume water with your meals and snacks, milk drinks/ smoothies if nervous or can’t tolerate much solid food on game day and try adding a sports drink at regular intervals for a hydration and fuel boost. Practise all food plans in training sessions to determine what your stomach can tolerate.

During a game it is important to top-up fluid levels and carbohydrate to minimise fatigue and help with concentration.

You should aim to drink small amounts regularly whenever breaks in play permit and to use half-time to catch up on fluid intake. Drinking sports drinks in addition to water at breaks and half time can assist with fluid intake and help to top-up carbohydrate levels.

Poor recovery after a game can lead to decreased energy throughout the following week of training and can slow down muscle damage repair. Rehydrating with a sports drink, or water bottle and a handful of ALLENS lollies as soon as possible in the changing sheds will increase muscle refuelling rates. Drink some flavoured milk before your shower for protein to start muscle damage repair and growth.


Alcohol is best avoided for 24-48 hours’ post-exercise if any soft tissue injuries or bruising have occurred.