Game Day Nutrition: What’s In The Sports Bottles at the 6 Nations?

Rugby Nutrition Basics

As France and Wales vie for the title of 6 Nations 2012 Champions and Italy and Scotland look for their first victory, a lot of attention has been on the strategy of the coaches, motivation of the players and the team selection itself. But perhaps an overlooked aspect, yet a very important one, is what’s going into the water bottles of the players on match day. Here sports supplement company Myprotein.com take a look at the science behind match day nutrition during the Six Nations and the sports supplements that could be the difference between winning and losing.

Whilst the majority of a player’s preparation and key nutrition is done months before actually kicking off, there are still certain supplements that can help boost a team’s performance on match day. Here we take a look at the various supplements the coaching staff during the Six Nations are putting in the player’s bottles, the studies surrounding them and calculate the individual dosage for certain players as working examples.

Caffeine for Rugby Players

Firstly caffeine is one of the most common and widely researched ergogenic aids (i.e. performance enhancing supplements.) Used in most energy drinks many studies show caffeine has an ability to trigger the body’s flight or fight response, essentially increasing stroke volume of the heart, widening airways and increasing blood pressure all to allow more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles ready for them to spring into action and produce stronger, quicker contractions during a match. Plus researches at Yale University found that as little as 200 milligrams of caffeine before a match can increase strength endurance. Experts believe it stimulates the production of the neuro transmitter beta-endorphin, which studies show can reduce pain and perceived fatigue, which can then in turn increase your strength endurance. So put simply adding a very small teaspoon of this to the team’s water bottles before a game can ensure they continue to play at a high intensity right through to 80 minutes. (Caffeine, £3.49 for 100grams, myprotein.com) So much should you be taking? Well experts believe the best dose of caffeine is calculated on an individual basis using the following formula:

3-6milligrams x kg of bodyweight
So based on this calculation the following players would require the following dosage of caffeine pre-match.

Chris Ashton:
Team: England
Date of Birth: 29th Mar 1987
Position: Wing
Height: 1.83 m (6′ 0″)
Weight: 92 kg (14 st 6 lb)
Pre Match Caffeine Dosage: 276 – 552 milligrams of caffeine

James Hook:
Team: Wales
Date of Birth: 27th Jun 1985
Position: Fly Half
Height: 1.83 m (6′ 0″)
Weight: 94 kg (14 st 11 lb)
Pre Match Caffeine Dosage: 282 – 564 milligrams of caffeine

Beta Alanine

Next, perhaps less well known than caffeine, many nutritionists nowadays are keen to include the amino acid `Beta Alanine in the player’s sports bottles. Mainly because a study conducted at Florida Atlantic University found that the amino acid beta alanine can increase the concentration of Carnosine in the muscles which in turn can reduce the build-up of lactic acid and therefore reduce fatigue. Essentially this means that players are able to play without the excessive buildup of lactic acid which can impair performance. (Beta Alanine, £9.99 for 250 grams, myprotein.com.) Whilst studies seem to vary quite a lot regarding dosage of beta alanine, experts believe the best dose is calculated on an individual basis using the following formula:

12 milligrams x kg of bodyweight
So based on this calculation the following players would require the following dosage of beta alanine pre-match.

Gordon D’Arcy
Team: Ireland
Date of Birth: 10th Feb 1980
Position: Centre
Height: 1.80 m (5′ 11″)
Weight: 93 kg (14 st 9 lb)
Pre Match Beta Alanine Dosage: 1,116 milligrams of beta alanine

Matt Stevens:

Team: England
Date of Birth: 1st Oct 1982
Position: Prop
Height: 1.83 m (6′ 0″)
Weight: 123 kg (19 st 5 lb)
Pre Match Beta Alanine Dosage: 1,476 milligrams of beta alanine

Creatine for Rugby Players

Lastly, and equally as well-known as caffeine, the supplement Creatine Monohydrate has been proven to help improve power, strength, muscle growth and reduce recovery time between intense bouts of exercise and is used by elite rugby players the world over. More specifically, a study conducted at The University of Memphis discovered creatine supplementation before a match promoted significantly ‘sprint performance during resistance/agility training.’ (Creatine Monohydrate, £3.99 for 250 grams, myprotein.com) It works by favourably assisting the body’s phosphagen system (basically the body’s immediate energy system.) Put simply our muscle cells use something called ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate) to contract and work at a high intensity (like during sprints) but they only have enough to last about 3-4 seconds. To then replenish ATP stores your our body needs creatine and whilst your body has enough naturally, by supplementing it in your diet you can increase your body’s ability to replenish ATP stores and therefore work at a high intensity for longer. Dosage of creatine tends to vary quite a lot from study to study and will depend on the type of creatine the players are using, but generally it tends to be around 5-15 grams per day.

References:
Leeuwenburgh, C., and Li, L.L., “Glutathione and Glutathione Ester Supplementation of Mice Alter Glutathione Homeostasis During Exercise,” J Nutr 128.12 (1998) : 2420-6.

Lemon, P.W.R., et al., “Protein Requirements and Muscle Mass/Strength Changes During Intensive Training in Novice Bodybuilders,” J Appl Physiol 73 (1992) : 767-7.

Lemon, P.W.R., “Effects of Exercise on Protein Metabolism. In Nutrition in Sport (Maughan, R.J. [ed.], Blackwell Science Ltd., 1257-65) 2000.

Sen, CK., et al., “Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress: Glutathione Supplementation and Deficiency,” J Appl Physiol 77.5 (1994) : 2177-87.

Svensson, M.B., “Endogenous Antioxidants in Human Skeletal Muscle and Adaptation of Energy Metabolism: With Reference to Exercise—Training, Exercise Factors and Nutrition,” Ph.D. Thesis, Karolinska Institute, Sweden, 2003.

Tarnopolsky, M.A., et al., “Evaluation of Protein Requirements for Strength Trained Athletes,” J Appl Physiol 73 (1992) : 1986-95.

Ziemlanski, S., et al., “Balanced Intraintestinal Nutrition: Digestion, Absorption and Biological Value of Selected Preparations of Milk Proteins,” Acta Physiol Pol 29.6 (1978) : 543-56.

Yves Boirie, Martial Dangin, Pierre Gachon, Marie-Paule Vasson, Jean-Louis Maubois, and Bernard Beaufrère (1997) ‘Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion’

Dave Reddin, Adam Carey, Matt Lovell ‘Nutritional Guidelines for England Players and Coaches, Parents/Partners and Team Administrators’ Nutritional Guidelines © RFU

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