The Best Supplements for Rugby
Rugby is unique in that it requires speed and endurance, strength and size, power and resilience through contact. Not only does it demand the entire spectrum of athleticism, but each individual position come with its unique challenges.
That’s one of the best parts of rugby – anyone can play. But once you start taking it seriously at the top levels, nutrition and supplementation make the difference between victory at the final whistle and calling for a sub 20 minutes in.
For you, my friend, we offer the best supplements for rugby to provide that physical and mental edge you need.
The best supplements for rugby tackle five main areas:
- Every Day Supplements
- Building Strength, Size, and Power
- Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity
- Recovery from Training and Competition
- Injury Prevention and Return to Play
Every Day Supplements
Like a good shower and brushing your teeth, certain supplements should be a staple in your routine as a rugby player. You train harder than the average bear, so treat your body like the sports car it is with daily maintenance.
Ultimately, your go-to every day supplements are fish oil, multivitamins, and electrolytes.
Theoretically, you could just eat a lot of fish. But, I mean, a LOT. So much so that you’d probably be too stuffed to play. Instead, get the benefits of the good fats in fish from fish oils. These little capsules extract out the good stuff so it can go straight to nourishing your cells.
Omega-3 fats help build the lipid bilayers of your cells, especially your brain cells which are high in fat. These beauties also counteract exercise-induced inflammation in order to recover faster. For daily supplementation, take 2-3 grams of fish oil, possibly more depending on body weight or injury status.
While we all say we eat enough fruits and vegetables to get our vitamins and minerals, how often is that actually true? Even the healthiest rugby player needs a little extra boost at times, whether it’s iron for oxygen transfer in our bloodstream, vitamin D when it’s been cloudy for months, or vitamin C and zinc when we’re a little under the weather.
To become the best rugby player, the secret is practice, practice, practice. Yet the more training stress you submit your body to, the more nutrients it requires to function optimally. Multivitamins are the perfect daily solution to capture the benefits of fruits and vegetables without having to eat yourself into a coma.
Sports drinks have long been renowned for their performance-enhancing abilities. In competition and training, the combination of quick-digesting carbs and salts keeps your body fueled like no other.
Yet outside of training, in our day-to-day, we don’t need those sugars. They can actually be inflammatory, cause extra weight gain, and lead to a lethargic crash. Isolated electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, provide the hydration benefits of sports drinks without the extra sugar.
Our cells need salts to retain water, and our nervous system craves electrolytes for signaling. Pick a daily electrolyte supplement and stay ready.
One easy way to do this is to choose a pre-workout supplement containing electrolytes. Performance Lab’s Sport Pre-Workout includes Himalayan Pink Salt, while the same company’s Post-Workout contains Organic Coconut Water Crystals to keep you performing at your best.
Building Strength, Size, and Power
If you want to build size, you have to eat for it. Strength and power are built in the gym, and lean body mass follows with proper nutrition and supplementation. Did you know that what you eat in and around your training sessions can have a massive impact on the efficacy of your workouts?
What you eat around your workout will make or break your success. Protein, carbs, salts, and creatine lay the groundwork for elite performance.
Protein and carbs
You’ve heard of the importance of post-workout protein to build muscle. In reality, it’s even more important for recovery. Your post workout shake can be altered for mass gain by doubling the calories and carbs.
After high-intensity sessions especially, you need carbs to refill those glycogen stores and amino acids to stimulate anabolic processes such as muscle protein synthesis.. Remember, recovery is when you really build. A 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio works best for high intensity lifts or mass gain, while a clean whey is great for lifts with long rest periods.
While carbs provide energy for aerobic and Anaerobic metabolism, Creatine fuels power. Anything lasting less than 6 seconds, like a 40 meter sprint or a power clean, requires ample creatine to produce the highest output. And higher output in the gym each session equates to larger gains over time.
Great pre-workouts for strength or power sessions contain Creatine and a mix of essential amino acids to get the job done.
BCAA’s replenish energy by restoring glucose levels and managing blood sugar. The three BCAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, comprise around 40% of your amino acid requirement. During exercise, they enhance your strength capacity, and afterwards they promote muscular recovery.
Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity
See above for the significance of carbs and hydration here. Aerobic and anaerobic training, such as conditioning, scrum work, or a regular practice and game require glucose metabolism. AKA carbs. Research has shown that mild dehydration decreases anaerobic endurance up to 10%. So get those taken care of first.
Find a post-workout supplement that counteracts dehydration and adds to protein synthesis and glucose metabolism.
Glucose metabolism (you know, the very thing that provides the energy to play) produces byproducts in the form of hydrogen ions. When these molecules collect in your muscle and bloodstream, your body slows down in an effort to clear them. Beta alanine, however, acts as a buffer to shuttle these little hydrogen ions away, allowing you to continue to operate on all cylinders.
Unfortunately, beta alanine isn’t something you can just pop before a game and feel the effects. It requires a pretty long loading period, and only works if you’re pushing your body to the point that excess hydrogen builds up. But if used right and combined with intense training, your body adapts to a higher level of performance.
Amino acid blends
Amino acids don’t only stimulate protein synthesis. L-Glutamine, L-Citrulline, and L-Carnosine clear build up of the ammonia byproduct of anaerobic metabolism as well. They also improve power output and increase blood levels of bicarbonate on their own. That way, you can hack into your body’s existing bicarbonate source to balance out the negative acidic effects of training. A good pre-workout amino acid blend extends time until failure, letting you train harder for longer.
Recovery From Training
It’s not only about how hard you train, but how fast you recover. Playing rugby and training break your body down. It’s necessary, as you build practice, strength, and resilience through new challenges and demands, In order for your body to adapt to those demands, however, you have to recover. Otherwise you’re just on a constant downhill slope.
Antioxidants, post-workout glycogen stores, protein before bed and supplements that facilitate high quality sleep are key. Your top three supplements for recovery are:
- Tart Cherry Juice
- Casein Protein
Tart cherry juice offers the best of so many worlds. As a fruit juice, it naturally contains good carbs that can refill those depleted glycogen stores to help you perform better the next day. Tart cherries are full of antioxidants, compounds that negate inflammatory effects of acute exercise. And they also naturally contain melatonin, which triggers sleep onset.
Melatonin itself can be purchased as a stand-alone supplement. In the body melatonin helps play a role in establishing and maintaining healthy circadian rhythms and sleep cycles. Usually in servings of 1-5g, supplemental melatonin adds to your natural levels to promote a solid night’s sleep. Crucial recovery processes such as memory consolidation, immune function, and anabolic building occur during slow wave and REM sleep. Sleep is magical. So if you have a hard time getting a good night’s rest, try melatonin and see how it changes your day.
Finally, casein protein is an extended release form of the traditional protein shake. The structure of casein allows it to be slowly metabolized overnight, fueling your body while you sleep. Rather that spend 7-9 hours in a fast, you can continue to promote growth, muscle building, and recovery through nutrition. Taking casein protein at night truly allows you to gain muscle while you sleep.
Injury Prevention and Return to Play
No one wants to get injured – that’s obvious. Unfortunately, though, it’s a risk involved in the sport of rugby. You can’t totally eliminate injury, but you can take steps to prevent it.
First of all – do all of the above. Getting yourself in the best shape, strength, and size will let you be the hammer, not the nail. One of the more underrated facets of injury prevention involves mental acuity. When fatigue and the stress of the game sets in, we start making bad decisions. And a bad decision can lead to injury.
Keep your mind in the best shape possible with Performance Lab Mind, a supplement designed specifically to enhance the way you think, your reaction time, and neuron health.
When coming back from injury, make sure you’re eating enough to fuel rehabilitation and restructuring of tissue. A couple key additions to your supplement routine during injury, however, can get you back on the field faster. Try these supplements for returning to play.
- Bromelain – typically found in pineapples, bromelain has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties
- Boswellia – a plant extract that inhibits inflammatory signalling
- Flavonoids- act as antioxidants to help relieve inflammation and keep it from turning chronic
- Collagen – what your connective tissue is made of. Supplementing it can help rebuild the broken bits.
Start with a balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods, complete proteins, lots of fiber, good fats, whole grains and unprocessed carbs, and most of all – tons of water. Hit those key pillars and you’re well on your way to success.
But what about those of us who want to compete at the top level, where the difference between winning and losing is marginal? Start with daily supplements and pick your focus areas to tackle over the next few months. Get serious with topping up your nutrition in certain areas, and you’ll see the results start to flood in.