Power on a plate

England and Wasps flanker James Haskell (www.jameshaskell.com) breaks down the essential eats for players ahead of this month’s Six Nations opener…

“If you want to look like a rugby player, be prepared to eat like one,” insists James Haskell, for whom quality is as key to getting into great Number 8 shape as quantity when it comes to nutrition.

Pick Protein

“When we’re training hard and breaking down muscle tissue in the process then getting the optimum protein amounts to maximise synthesis is key.” It’s recommended that players eat between 1.4 and 1.6g protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. “But you need to ‘drip feed’ this through the day to ensure you get consistent flow of amino acids to the muscles.” Good sources include eggs, red meat, chicken, turkey and fish. “For speed of delivery we’ll take protein in powder form - whey or hemp – in addition to a real food diet of dishes containing 25 – 30g protein at each meal.

Call Upon Carbs

“As the muscles rely on glycogen for energy it’s crucial that you replace it with good quality carbohydrates such as potatoes (sweet ones especially) butternut squash, brown rice, oats and quinoa to the point where around 55% of your calories should come from carbs.”

Fix It With Fats

“Including oily fish, whole eggs, avocados, grass fed beef, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and some nuts and seeds in your diet means you’re getting the ‘good’ fats that provide nutrition for muscle repair and maintenance, health and immune protection,” says Haskell, who warns players to watch out for ‘bad’ fats such as trans fats found in pastries and biscuits. “

Veg In

“Fresh vegetables supply players with a health source of nutrients, in a fat-free format that won’t send your calorie count spiraling but will ensure you’re getting some fibre and slow-burn carbs into your system. It’s important to eat your veggies at every meal.

Bulk Measures

“For players looking to add size, then they will have to eat big – but that’s not simply a case of it doesn’t mean stuffing yourself at every meal,” says Haskell who recommends using a daily calorie calculator app. “To add size you can be looking at adding 10 – 25% more calories to your daily intake, spread through the day. An 80KG player who trains four times per week and a match at the weekends, will be consuming around 3350 calories per day.” For players struggling boost their calorie intake Haskell suggests swapping the lean steak for a fattier cut like a rib eye, add an extra side of avocado or rice to your meals, or drizzle your salads with some extra virgin olive oil. “Most people find that spreading their calories out between 4 – 5 meals per day is much easier than trying to get them all down in 2 – 3 platefuls.”

Player on a Plate

How James’ foods fit into a daily meal plan

  • Meal 1: Breakfast - 2 Poached eggs on rye bread. A bowl of porridge with a scoop of protein powder mixed in. 100g smoked salmon and scrambled egg.
  • Meal 2: Lunch - 150g of white fish, 2 cups of brown rice, mixed vegetables. Handful of almond nuts.
  • Meal 3: Afternoon Meal -150g of steak, 200g butternut squash, broccoli with shaved almonds
  • Meal 4: Dinner - 150g meat balls, 200g brown rice, roasted vegetables

An Introduction to Becoming and Remaining Rugby Fit by James Haskell is out now.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your GP before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.