On Sunday I spoke to The 2011-2012 Hunter Academy of Sport, Rubgy Union Squad, at the University of Newcastle. Squad players ranged from 14 years to 18 years of age. My talk was dedicated to maximising performance while on and off the field. What was most interesting to me is that school boy rugby union players experience the highest rate of upper respiratory infections out of any football code. While the average teenager experiences 2 upper respiratory infections a year, school boy rugby players experience on average 4 upper respiratory infections a year, with backs experiencing between 6 to 8 infections in one year. I suggested to the players I was addressing that staying on top of their immune system was critical, not just to their performance, but to the team's performance also. If you are missing games and training due to being ill, the opportunity to qualify for representative teams becomes all the more difficult as consistency of performance can be compromised. I enforced to each of the players that eating correctly could strengthen their immune system and reduce the likelihood of falling ill during the season. One of the key principles I addressed, regarding nutrition, was what to eat prior, during and after a game. I told players that the co-ingestion of a good quality protein and carbohydrate rich meal (1/2 cup basmati rice and a 1/4 cup of pinto beans, not steak and salad) 2 hours prior to game time would allow them to have the energy needed to maximise their endurance during the game. I also spoke extensively on the importance of hydration, as most senior rugby players lose 1.9 litres of fluid during an 80 minute game, yet on average only replace 680ml of this loss.
The one thing that school boy rugby players want to know is' how can I get big'. Both players and coaches wanted to know if they should be taking protein powders to maximise their lean muscle mass. I told the players and coaches that with whey protein and creatine the benefit of these supplements only comes with using them while training the muscle, what I mean by this, is that muscle is not built by the protein powder alone, the research only confirms increases in muscle mass as a result of training. On the other hand, their is no research on the safety of using a supplement containing creatine (which is in musashi) for players under the age of 18. For this reason, if junior players are interested in using a protein supplement, a whey protein powder would be a safer option. However, in implementing any supplement into a training regime, players need to discuss the introduction of a supplement with a qualified health care professional.
If you play rubgy union or are involved in any sporting code, please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will ensure they are answered on Q&A.