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13th Dec 2018

Munster’s Nutritionist provides a detailed look into elite rugby players’ diets

Jack O'Toole

Andrew Conway

Brought to you by Optimum Nutrition

Munster nutritionist Emma Tester has said that the Munster team’s nutritional plan is centred around what the club’s coaches are planning to do on a week-to-week basis and that nutrition in modern rugby is very much individualised.

Tester is the Head of Performance Nutrition at Munster after previously working with Leicester City Football Club and the England RFU Academy Programme.

She is tasked with ensuring that players are eating right and recovering properly and she said that a lot of the Munster’s weekly requirements will be centred around preparation and recovery.

‘Rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes’ is a phrase that is commonly associated with the sport but Tester insists that nutrition is individualised among players. While certain players would fit certain athletic profiles, nutrition cannot be assigned into positional groups and Tester added that there can be varying effects among players of the same position.

“We did a partnership talk with Optimum Nutrition recently and I outlined two of our wingers on paper, just as fast as each other, they’re the same height, same age, the difference between them in five kilograms,” added Tester.

“If one winger ate what the other one does he’d lose weight really quickly. If they switched diets you’d have one that would balloon up and the other would sort of shrivel away. Even when you have a profile of two players that are relatively the same it comes down to more metabolic factors. I don’t tend to do anything positionally because you can get individuals that will respond very differently to certain intakes and it just wouldn’t work.

“People might think props have to eat 5000 calories and wingers have 3500 calories, it doesn’t really work like that. You’re trying to figure out what works for each player and you can’t just repeat that with the next winger that comes in. You have to do the same process; what’s going to work for this individual.”

The calorie intake is considerable in rugby and significantly greater than what the average human consumes.

The players have to eat to replenish their energy stores but it’s not always feasible to consume calories through food so Tester employs a range of supplements and recovery shakes to try and ensure that players are meeting their counts.

“The lads have to consume calories, they have to get energy on board. It’s just not feasible or possible for them to eat all the time.

“The overall volume of food is a real challenge so we use supplements strategically. We use them with players that might need to get energy on board quicker but a lot of the time the lads would use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey protein around gym sessions and what we’re aiming to do is get a protein source in and a supply in and get it in quickly.

“If we get that on board the player’s ability to develop muscle is going to be improved. We use it strategically and it comes down to an individual that might need to use a mass gainer to help sustain the calorie intake you need but you can always manipulate the supplement that you’re working with.

“Some of our players will use Gold Standard Whey with water, some of them will use it with milk so there’s some added calories in there and a lot of the recovery shakes that I would make up would be in a smoothie format – so fruit, milk, some amount of whey in there just to bulk up and get those calories on board – but they’ll still be eating a large amount of food, much larger than a normal individual.

“It’s how we can support them and make it possible for them to get the energy on board that they need but it’s strategic. We don’t promote and buy into supplements for the sake of them.

“From my point of view we have a real core number of products that we’d use from Optimum and they really are just to support what the players are doing nutritionally, they’re not a replacement. It’s in addition to and the lads would be good at recognising that factor.”

CJ Stander talks about how Munster’s approach to nutrition has improved his game.

Brought to you by Optimum Nutrition

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