We caught up with St Helens RLFC nutritionist Matt Daniels for a quick chat about the role of sports nutrition in top-level rugby league.
What’s the hardest part of your job as the nutritionist for a professional sports team?
The most difficult aspect is individualising the requirements of each squad member. We work closely with Chester University who assist in the individualised prescription of supplements based on food diary feedback provided by the players. Each squad member has supplements prescribed dependent upon his individual requirements.
What areas of nutrition do you think need particular attention when it comes to rugby league?
The key to all our players’ nutrition is balance and education. It is important that the players are aware of the importance of nutrition and the benefits that go with it. We start the education process with our scholarship players and this is addressed each year with every age group at the club including the first team squad.
How does the off-season nutritional regime vary from in-season nutrition?
A key area that we have focused on is high protein diets, particularly during the off-season. We have done this to drop body fats and have set the players a fairly strict target to achieve over the 9 sites that we measure. Obviously once the increased workload of pre-season kicks in the percentage of carbohydrate taken increases accordingly dependent upon individual’s energy expenditure.
How does a player’s position affect their nutrition requirements? Are there noticeable differences between forwards and backs?
There are no significant differences between forwards and backs in terms of nutritional requirements. Each player is addressed as an individual and the targets they have will determine the nutritional programme they follow. This may be to increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, increase cardiovascular fitness, increase Power, increase speed, get heavier/lighter……These targets inform and dictate the range of products that the player will access.
How do you manage nutrition during the busy Easter and playoff periods?
The main focus of our nutrition over these busy periods is recovery. The workload building up to the Easter weekend reduces significantly; we use individual markers and wellbeing feedback to monitor the player’s physical state. We try to ensure that the players re-fuel immediately post game, we also weigh the players pre and post game to monitor fluid loss so this can be replaced efficiently post game.
Which Myprotein products do the team use and how do they benefit from them?
We use a vast array of Myprotein products with individuals having their own range, the main products we use are Whey Protein, Hurricane XS, Recovery XS, Fish Oils, Glucosamine and Chondroitin, Multi Vitamins, Beta Alanine, L Glutamine, Creatine, Bedtime Extreme, Caffeine.
How does a player’s nutrition requirements change if they happen to get injured and have a spell on the sidelines?
If the players are due to miss a prolonged period of training then they revert to the off-season high protein diet in an attempt to prevent excess body fat being gained.
Finally, if you could give one bit of advice to grassroots rugby league players who want to maximise their nutrition, what would it be?
The first I would say is that supplements will not turn a poor diet into a good diet. Sometimes supplements are viewed as a quick fix. Having said that players do have increased requirements for energy and nutrition – These cannot always be met by diet alone and as such supplementation is required and plays an important role in maximising training and game performance. It is important that individuals access supplements needed to reach or maintain optimal function and performance.