Anyone who started off as the skinny kid in sport will appreciate Jonny Holland's advice
"I had this fear of turning into a little guy."
Jonny Holland was never the biggest of rugby players but what he lacked in size and physique he made up for in skill, vision and sheer determination. The Cork native was really starting to hum at Munster when, last season, a severe hamstring injury cut his professional career short. He was just 25.
Holland has now set up his own nutrition consultation business and is keeping in with rugby by coaching with Cork Con and getting along to Munster games, as a fan, whenever he can. The former Munster outhalf joined The Hard Yards podcast [from 27:00 below] this week and offered some great nutrition tips that everyone can benefit from.
Asked what he needed from his own diet, when he was a player, Holland remarked, "A lot of food!
"You'd be surprised by how smaller lads might burn a lot more calories than bigger guys. It's just down to your metabolism and your genetic make-up, I suppose. Some people can burn a lot of calories when they don't think they are doing much.
"I remember [at Munster], we wore sensory armbands when Warren Bradley was doing his phD with us. Some of the calorie output, you wouldn't really expect it. It's a free-for-all. You have to cheat, a bit, during the week because you have to get the calories in, otherwise you're not going to perform or, after a couple of weeks, you know your weight is going down.
"And that's not a good thing but it is hard to keep it up in-season because you can't do as much weights as you'd want to, because you're recovering and you are taking hits during the weekend. That's just the way it is so nutrition has to become a big part of it."
James Downey, Holland's former Munster teammate, recalled that some in the squad battled with keeping weight on, or bulking up, and had to force themselves through certain meals.
"It's a different sort of training," said Holland, "trying to eat that much. You can't just start one day and say, 'I'm going to eat twice as much as I did yesterday'. You can't do it, like. You have to step it up gradually. At the start it was a pain but I got used to it and it became second nature to me."
At 5-foot-10, Holland's weighs around 12-stone now but he was up at just over 13-stone when he was lining out for his province.
"There were times you were sitting in front of a plate and you were basically force-feeding yourself or times when you had to have another snack and you just don't want to. There's no freedom with that either - you've to eat constantly.
"You'd be out with someone or you'd have to eat food or you'd call over to someone... I remember, I'd be calling over to friends and I'd be bringing a bowl of porridge or a shake. It was sad, like, but it was just stuff that I had to do."
Holland is retired a little over a year now but jokes that he has a "disgraceful appetite" from his time in rugby but it helps as he is wont to 'waste away' after doing some gym work. "The fear of turning into a little boy again, after being a rugby player, still gets me!"
Holland offered some great advice on nutrition that everyone - sports star, enthusiastic amateur and folks in between - can take on-board.
"It's very individual, but when you are playing rugby, you are doing your weights, trying to get your muscle mass up, so protein is [important]. Eating protein, drinking shakes. It's about fuelling your sessions; that's a big thing.
"Fellas can be quite afraid of carbs but it's needed for rugby. You're doing a lot of high intensity training, whether it is in the gym or on the pitch, and if you don't fuel your carbs properly then you're not going to feel great. Some get a bit afraid of carbs when they put on weight easily but I think understanding that is the main thing I try to get across to people. Eating before and after sessions, and stuff like that."
Sound advice from the former Munster man.