In his third year as Head Strength and Conditioning coach with Castleford Tigers, Ben Cooper is a very well-respected contributor to the Myprotein ‘The Backroom’ series.
Ben himself has extensive experience of performing at the top level of the game, having played professional rugby league between 1996 and 2005, for Sheffield Eagles, Huddersfield Giants and Leigh Centurions.
Protein for Rugby players
The benefits of protein for rugby players can’t be underestimated. It is essential for rugby players to have high levels of muscle mass. This enhances each player’s robustness and ability to withstand high impacts within the game when collisions occur – either through attacking or defending.
High levels of muscle mass can’t be achieved through training alone; diet plays a key role, with protein proving a vital cog in this process. We ask the players to consume between 2-3g of protein per kg of body weight per day. Although this sounds a lot, it has proven a very successful strategy for us to maintain lean muscle mass throughout the competitive season.
It’s important to remember that professional rugby league players train and play with very high frequency, so they need to increase protein intake. This is based on an increase of total calories consumed and in conjunction with increased carbohydrate with the majority of players.
— Supplementing with Protein —
It would be very hard to achieve consume the amount of protein required through whole foods alone, so supplementation becomes an important process – especially around training. We have already spoken about this in the previous articles so we won’t go into detail here about it.
We use different blends of protein, depending on players’ goals, time of day and frequency of training.
The building blocks for protein are amino acids. Amino acids can be broken down into two categories; essential and non-essential aminos. Essential amino acids must be consumed through the diet, as the body can’t synthesize these.
Three important essential amino acids that aid in our quest for lean muscle mass are the aminos leucine, isoleucine and valine – better known as BCAA’s. These are important as they help stop the amount of muscle fibre damage and aid in the recovery process after the session has been completed.
The players are instructed to take Myprotein BCAA’s pre-training (10 minutes before session) or in some circumstances during. The amount varies depending on training goals but generally a player takes between 5 -15 tablets for our weight sessions.
We also use non-essential amino acids around training but this is solely on an individual needs-only basis. These are alanine, arginine and glutamine.
The choice for immediately post training is always Whey Protein. In particular, we use Myprotein’s Impact Whey Protein.
The amount of protein we give after training is 0.5g per kg of bodyweight, so this is basically either 2 or 3 scoops per person.
Obviously different proteins have different biochemical structures, which mean they will get broken down in the body differently. This becomes important away from training as one protein could prove to be more beneficial than others at a given time of the day.
One of these is Casein protein, which we get from Myprotein Micellar Casein. It differs from whey protein in the speed at which it gets broken down in the body.
The process takes a lot longer than whey, so casein is not ideal for after training when you want the amino acids getting to the muscles as quick as possible. It is perfect, though, for bedtime or an afternoon snack.
Because it gets broken down slower, it will give you a steady release of amino’s ensuring your muscles are being drip-fed amino acids throughout the night which is vital for recovery and growth, ensuring you can consistently train to your maximum each time you step into the gym.
Take home message
Take care of your nutrition to exceed your performance potential in Rugby training and matches –