Close this search box.

Rugby Player Diet & Nutrition Guide 2023

Table of Contents

J P Myburgh

J P Myburgh

A rugby enthusiast, I bring you news and insights from the exciting world of rugby.

Rugby nutrition cover

Rugby nutrition overview

When it comes to sports nutrition, rugby players have a unique advantage over many other athletes. Unlike sports where weight classes and having a lean body mass is a factor, rugby players can eat to fuel their performance without having to worry about cutting weight.


This means that while nutrition is just as important for rugby players as other athletes, they don’t have to restrict themselves to tiny portions or low-calorie diets. However, this doesn’t mean rugby players can eat anything they want and still perform at their best.


To be optimally healthy and strong, rugby players must pay close attention to what they eat and ensure they are fueling their bodies with the right nutrients. In this blog, we will explore the unique nutritional needs of rugby players and provide tips on optimising your diet for optimal performance on the field.

Fuel Your Body With a Balanced Diet

Balanced diet for rugby player

Fueling your body with a balanced diet is essential for rugby players to perform at their best on the field and to support a healthy lifestyle. To ensure you’re getting enough calories and key nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats, it’s essential to eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups.


Rugby players require more protein than the average person due to the physical demands of the sport. Protein is necessary for building and repairing muscles and can help increase strength and endurance. Good protein sources include lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fish and plant-based sources such as beans, lentils, and tofu. It’s recommended that rugby players aim for approximately 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.


Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for rugby players. They are required to fuel intense workouts and replenish glycogen stores post-training. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and beans. Rugby players should aim to consume approximately 5 to 7 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight each day.


Fats are a crucial macronutrient that provides the body with energy and supports cell growth and brain function. Good sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon. Rugby players should aim to consume approximately 25 to 35 percent of their daily calorie intake from healthy fats.

Vitamins and minerals

It’s also important for rugby players to consume various vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and vitamin D, which play a role in bone health, energy production, and recovery. Good sources of calcium include dairy products and leafy green vegetables like kale. Iron-rich foods include red meat, poultry, and beans, and vitamin D can be found in fatty fish and fortified dairy products.


Regarding quantities, rugby players should aim to consume enough calories to support their activity levels and meet their goals. A general rule of thumb is to consume enough calories to support your body weight and activity levels, typically around 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day for men and 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day for women. However, this can vary based on individual needs and goals.

Overall, a balanced and varied diet that includes plenty of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a variety of vitamins and minerals is essential for rugby players to support their performance on the field and maintain overall health and well-being.

Pre-Game Meal Tips

Pre rugby game meal

When it comes to pre-game meals, timing is key. Eating a balanced meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats at least 3 to 4 hours before the rugby match is important to allow enough time for digestion. Avoid eating too much fiber or fat, which can slow digestion and leave you feeling heavy or sluggish on the field.


Here are some examples of meals that rugby players can eat before a match:


  1. Grilled chicken breast with sweet potato and steamed vegetables

  2. Whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs

  3. Brown rice and vegetable stir-fry with tofu or shrimp

  4. Quinoa with roasted vegetables and grilled salmon

  5. Turkey or chicken sandwich on whole grain bread with a side of fruit or raw veggies.

It’s also a good idea to have a small snack 30-60 minutes before the match, such as a banana or energy bar, to provide an additional energy boost.


In addition to these meal ideas, rugby players must stay hydrated before a game. Drinking plenty of water, electrolyte-rich sports drinks, or coconut water can help to maintain adequate hydration levels and improve performance on the field. Avoid sugary drinks or alcohol before a match, as these can dehydrate the body and negatively impact performance.


Fueled with a balanced meal and hydration, rugby players can perform at their best on the field.

Hydration & Electrolytes

Rugby hydration

Hydration and electrolytes are crucial to maintaining the body’s fluid balance and ensuring peak performance during rugby practices and games. Here are some tips and strategies for rugby players to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes on game day:


  1. Start hydrating early: Don’t wait until the last minute to start hydrating. Aim to start hydrating at least 24 hours before a rugby match. Start by drinking water, electrolyte-rich sports drinks, or coconut water, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate the body.

  2. Drink fluids regularly during the game: Aim to drink fluids regularly during a rugby match to maintain hydration levels. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes can be particularly helpful, as they can replace the minerals lost through sweat. Be sure to drink before you feel thirsty, as thirst is a sign that your body is already dehydrated.

  3. Monitor your urine: A handy way to monitor your hydration levels is by checking the colour of your urine. Clear or pale urine indicates good hydration, while dark yellow or amber urine indicates dehydration.

  4. Consume electrolyte-containing foods: Besides sports drinks, electrolytes can be obtained through bananas, avocados, oranges, and nuts. Including these foods in your meals can help boost electrolyte intake and maintain hydration levels.

  5. Consider additional supplementation: Some rugby players may benefit, particularly during intense training or competition. Electrolyte tablets or powders can be added to your water to help replace lost minerals. At the same time, caffeine-free energy drinks like B vitamins can provide a quick boost of energy without dehydrating the body.

In summary, staying hydrated and maintaining electrolyte balance is essential for rugby players to perform at their best during practices and games. Rugby players can take steps towards optimal hydration and performance on match day by starting early, regularly drinking fluids, monitoring urine, consuming electrolyte-containing foods, and considering additional supplementation.

Post-Game Recovery Nutrition

Rugby players need post-game recovery nutrition to help the body recover and rebuild after an intense training session or rugby match. Here are some tips on what to consume immediately after a game for optimal recovery:


  1. Rehydrate: After a game, it’s important to rehydrate the body as soon as possible. Aim to drink fluids like water, coconut water, or electrolyte-rich sports drinks to replace the fluids lost during the game. The amount of fluids needed will vary depending on the individual, but aim for at least 16-20 ounces.

  2. Consuming carbohydrates within 30 minutes after the game can help replenish the body’s glycogen and aid in muscle recovery. Some examples of post-game carbohydrates include bananas, grapes, energy bars, or sports drinks.

  3. Add in protein: Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Aim to consume a protein source within 30 minutes to an hour after the game. Good sources include grilled chicken or fish, cottage cheese, protein shakes, or Greek yoghurt.

  4. Replenish electrolytes: During a game, the body loses essential minerals through sweat. To help replenish these minerals, consider consuming a beverage or food with added electrolytes like sports drinks, coconut water, or foods like avocado or sweet potatoes.

  5. Consider anti-inflammatory foods: Rugby games can be intense and cause inflammation. To help reduce inflammation and promote recovery, consider adding anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, nuts, or leafy greens to your post-game meal.

Overall, a good post-game recovery meal should be a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes. Aim to consume this meal within 30 minutes to an hour after the game for optimal benefits. Some examples of post-game meals include grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and quinoa or baked salmon with sweet potatoes and steamed greens.


Rugby supplements

Supplementation can be an excellent way for rugby players to support their training and performance goals. However, it’s important to note that supplements should not be relied on as a substitute for a balanced and nutrient-dense diet. Supplements should be viewed as an addition or complement to a healthy diet and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional or a sports nutritionist.


Here are a few supplements that may be appropriate for rugby players:

Protein supplements

Rugby players have increased protein needs due to the physical demands of the sport. Adding protein supplements, such as powders or bars, can be a convenient way to ensure protein intake is met. Examples of protein supplements include whey protein, casein protein, or pea protein.


Creatine is a natural compound in muscles that help produce energy during high-intensity exercise. Supplementing with creatine can help increase power, strength, and increase muscle mass, over time. Rugby players may benefit from creatine supplementation during their training, but it should be used with caution and under the supervision of a coach or a healthcare professional.


Beta-alanine is an amino acid that can help increase muscle endurance and delay muscular fatigue during high-intensity exercise. Supplementing with beta-alanine may be beneficial for rugby players to build muscle mass and improve performance during a match.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs are essential amino acids that can help support muscle growth and recovery. Rugby players may benefit from BCAA supplementation, especially post-workout or post-game.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone health, immune system function, and recovery. Rugby players who spend a lot of time indoors or in areas with low sun exposure may benefit from vitamin D supplementation.

It’s important to note that not everyone may need to take supplements. Adequate protein intake and nutrient-dense meals may be enough for some individuals. Consult with a healthcare professional or sports nutritionist to determine if supplementation is appropriate for your individual needs and goals.

Healthy Snack Ideas

Rugby snack

Healthy snacking is essential for rugby players who must maintain their energy levels throughout the day, especially during intense training sessions. These snacks should be easy to carry and consume between meals and focus on providing healthy energy sources without adding unnecessary sugars or carbs.


Here are a few healthy snack ideas for rugby players:

Almonds or other nuts

Nuts are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and fiber, and they are easy to carry with you on the go. A small handful of almonds or other nuts is a great snack to help keep energy levels up and provide satiety.

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and beneficial probiotics. It can be enjoyed plain or mixed with fresh fruit and topped with nuts or seeds for extra nutrients.

Hummus and veggies

Hummus is a delicious, nutritious dip made from chickpeas and olive oil and can be enjoyed with sliced vegetables like carrots, celery, and cucumber.

Beef jerky

Dried beef jerky is an excellent protein source and easy to carry with you on the go. Look for low-sodium options, and choose brands that don’t contain added sugars or preservatives.

Hard-boiled eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats and can be enjoyed as a quick snack on the go or added to salads for extra nutrients.

Apple slices with nut butter

Apples are a good source of fiber, while nut butter provides healthy fats and protein. Sliced apples dipped in almond or peanut butter are a tasty and nutrient-dense snack.

Overall, healthy snacking is an essential part of a rugby player’s nutrition plan. By focusing on nutrient-dense foods, rugby players can maintain their energy levels, improve recovery, and support their athletic performance.


In conclusion, a balanced and varied diet is essential for rugby players to support their performance on the field and maintain overall health and well-being. Rugby players require more protein and carbohydrates than the average person due to the physical demands of the sport, and healthy fats are important for energy and cell growth. Adequate hydration and electrolytes are also crucial to maintaining the body’s fluid balance and ensuring peak performance. By following the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, rugby players can fuel their bodies with the right nutrients and optimize their diet for optimal performance on the field.


What a rugby player eats in a day?

A rugby player’s daily diet typically includes a balance of lean proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. They might start with a breakfast of eggs, whole grain toast, and fruit, followed by a mid-morning snack of yoghurt and nuts. Lunch could be a chicken salad sandwich, with a protein shake and a banana post-training. Dinner might include grilled fish, sweet potato, and vegetables, with a final cottage cheese snack before bed.

How many calories do rugby players eat?

Rugby players can eat more calories in a day than most. This may seem quite shocking on its own, but the numbers are eye-opening. A typical rugby player will eat 3900 calories in one week or more.

Why would a rugby player need a high protein diet?

Protein plays a crucial role in muscle repair and growth, making it an essential component of a rugby player’s diet. As rugby involves intense physical activity and muscular exertion, a high-protein diet helps athletes maintain, repair, and build their muscle mass, thus supporting their performance and recovery.

What should you eat before a rugby game?

Prior to a rugby match, aim to eat a balanced meal 4-5 hours ahead. Opt for foods rich in both protein and carbohydrates, such as a chicken sandwich, a bowl of cereal with milk, chicken noodle soup, or yogurt, to ensure sustained energy and optimal performance.

What should a rugby player eat after a match?

After a rugby match, players should consume a meal rich in proteins for muscle recovery and carbohydrates to replenish energy stores. Options might include grilled chicken with quinoa, a protein shake with a banana, or a tuna sandwich with a side of fruit.

What do rugby players eat to get big?

To build size, rugby players typically consume a high-calorie diet rich in lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Foods may include lean meats, fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, often spread across multiple meals and snacks throughout the day.

J P Myburgh

J P Myburgh

A rugby enthusiast, I bring you news and insights from the exciting world of rugby.

More Posts