Some information you might find useful whenever you play sport!

Eat well, perform better

What you eat and drink is really important.  If you eat well, it really can help you to perform better in sports.   If you don’t get your diet right, you could run out of energy before the end of a game; you are more likely to get injured; if you are tired, you won’t be able to put in your best performance, perhaps giving the opposition the chance they need to get ahead. 
To ensure that you are feeling in tip-top form for playing rugby or any other sports, here are some useful tips about what, when and how much to eat and drink.


  • Eat a variety of foods.  This is the best way to make sure that you get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
  • Eat plenty of starchy foods, like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or breakfast cereals.  Starchy foods contain lots of carbohydrates, which are stored in your muscles and then used for fuel during exercise.  If this fuel runs out, you start to feel tired and your performance will be affected. 
  • Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.  These contain important vitamins and give you energy too.  Eat fruit e.g. apples, bananas, pears, grapes, as a healthy snack, or drink smoothies or fruit juice to help you get your ‘5 a day’ (only one glass of fruit juice can count towards your ‘5 a day’ though).
  • Cut down on fat and fatty foods in your diet.  These aren’t very healthy so try to eat only small amounts of fatty foods like chips; only spread a thin layer of butter on your bread or toast; don’t eat too many crisps, biscuits, or cakes.
  • Sweets and sugary foods should only be eaten in small amounts.   Although you can have some of these occasionally, too much sugar can make you feel tired.

Importance of hydration

Drink plenty of fluids each day, as well as before, during and after exercise.  If you don’t drink enough, you will get dehydrated. This will make you feel tired, weak, slower, find it hard to concentrate and you might get a headache.   Don’t wait until you are thirsty before you have a drink - by the time you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.  You should aim to have about 8-10 glasses of drink per day.
How do you know if you are drinking enough?  Have a look at the colour of your wee – you should be weeing plenty of pale urine!  If it is dark, you are probably dehydrated and will not be able to perform at your best.
Choose to drink water, diluted fruit squash, flavoured water, or fruit juice (not too much fruit juice though).  Take a water bottle into school, if you are allowed, to have with you during lessons. 

Pre-exercise meals

If you are playing rugby in the morning, it is important that you eat breakfast beforehand, even if it is an early start.  Eat a meal high in carbohydrate, such as some breakfast cereal, porridge, toast/bread with jam, beans on toast, fruit, fruit juice.   Whatever you do, don’t eat a big “fry up” of fried egg, sausages, hash browns and fried bread – it won’t help you perform better! 

If you are exercising in the afternoon or evening, eat 2-3 hours beforehand and base your meal on starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or cereals. 

And don’t forget, make sure you have plenty to drink right up until you start playing!
Fluids and snacks during and after exercise

Remember to keep drinking regularly (ideally every 15-20 minutes) during exercise, and then keep drinking once you have stopped playing.  Isotonic sports drink (e.g. Powerade, Lucozade Sport) are a good way of keeping you hydrated and can also really help boost your energy levels.

Refuelling, especially during long training sessions and at festivals, is important to ensure you don’t get too tired and can perform well.  Make sure you have a supply of small, nutritious, carbohydrate-rich snacks with you in your kit bag.  Good choices are:-

  • fruit (e.g. bananas, apples);
  • dried fruits (e.g. apricots, raisins);
  • sandwiches (with low fat fillings e.g. jam, Marmite);
  • fruit breads, scones and buns;
  • ‘plain’ biscuits (e.g. rich tea, digestives, fig rolls, Jaffa cakes);
  • simple or plain cakes like swiss roll or flapjacks;
  • cereal bars (nut-free);
  • twiglets, breadsticks, pretzels;
  • popcorn.

Avoid eating too much food between games at festivals as your body will not have time to digest this food properly and you will feel uncomfortable when you starting playing again.  Also, avoid any high-fat foods (e.g. pastries, burgers, hot dogs, etc.).   

Healthy meals for rugby players!

Remember, it is particularly important that you eat a good meal the evening before a big match or festival.  This meal should have lots of starchy carbohydrate in it and be low in fat.  Good ideas would be:-

  • pasta with tomato sauce and tuna or Bolognese sauce
  • chicken stir fry with vegetables with rice or noodles
  • roast chicken with jacket potato and vegetables
  • shepherds pie with vegetables
  • macaroni cheese, made with semi–skimmed milk and low fat cheese
  • risotto
  • deep pan pizza

Follow this with a pudding like banana with low-fat custard, piece of fruit or a fruit yogurt.

Prepared by Helen Gardiner – Sept 2006