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Rugby is a physically intensive sport. To ensure peak performance on game day, proper nutrition is crucial. Eating the right foods at the right times will give you the energy and endurance to make it through the game. However, it's important to note that players in different positions require alternate nutrition plans.

In this article, we will look at the optimal game-day nutrition for rugby players, which you can use as a basis for your own nutrition plan. Specifically, we will discuss what to eat before the match starts, as well as during and after play.

The Day Before

It's important to start preparing for game day well in advance. The day before, you should focus on eating high-carbohydrate meals. This will ensure your muscle stores remain topped up, so you're ready to go when the game starts.

Many rugby players pack in as many calories as possible the day before a game. Doing this ensures they wake up on game day feeling full without eating a heavy breakfast.

Aim to eat foods that are low in fat, high in carbohydrates, and easy to digest. Here are some great suggestions:

  • Porridge
  • Whole grain toast with peanut butter
  • An omelette and whole wheat bagel
  • A smoothie made with yoghurt, fruit and honey
  • Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Chicken fajitas

Game Day

While your head may be spinning with excitement on game day, it's important to remember your pre-game nutrition. Eating too much or the wrong thing could leave you feeling sluggish and off your game. You also want to ensure you are adequately hydrated for the entire match.

Pre-Game Hydration

Rugby players sweat a lot during a game. They must drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to reduced performance, a lack of concentration and muscle cramps.

It's recommended that you drink at least 500mls of water the morning before the game and drink small amounts throughout the match.

Pre-Game Meal

The meal before a game should be light, balanced and full of complex carbohydrates. Eating too much will leave you feeling bloated and may cause discomfort.

Most rugby players eat their pre-game meal 3-4 hours before kick-off. This gives your body time to digest the food and extract energy from it so you can perform at your best.

Here are some good pre-game meal ideas:

  • Porridge with fruit and nuts
  • Toast with avocado, eggs and tomatoes
  • Chicken and salad sandwich
  • Quinoa bowl with chicken roasted vegetables
  • Wholemeal pasta with beef mice

Always have a glass of water with your pre-game meal to keep your hydration levels up.

Pre-Game Snack

You may start getting some hunger cravings as kick-off approaches. If so, a light snack 1-2 hours before is a great way to boost your energy levels and keep hunger away.

Aim for something that's easy to digest, such as:

  • A banana or piece of fruit
  • A handful of nuts or seeds
  • Plain yoghurt with honey
  • Peanut butter on crackers

As always, have a glass of water with your snack.

During Play

Playing rugby is incredibly taxing on the body. You're constantly putting out energy and need to ensure you can replenish it during play. This is where sports drinks come in handy, providing essential electrolytes and carbohydrates while hydrating the body.

Water is also key for hydration, so make sure you drink plenty of it during the game.


After the match, your body needs to recover quickly. Eating a meal or snack rich in protein and carbohydrates can replenish lost energy and rebuild muscle.

Here are some great post-game meals:

  • Grilled chicken or fish with brown rice
  • Whole wheat wrap with turkey and avocado
  • Greek yoghurt bowl topped with fruit, nuts and oats
  • Smoothie made with banana, cows milk and protein powder
  • Eggs and cheese on whole-grain toast

Make sure you rehydrate as well. Aim to drink 1 litre of water following the game to ensure you don't become dehydrated.

Supplements for Rugby Players

Your diet should be 'food-focused', which means you get most of your nutrition from whole foods. However, supplements can also greatly enhance your performance and ensure you hit all your nutrient targets.

Rugby players' two main types of supplements are protein powder and creatine.

Protein powder, such as whey or casein, helps to build and repair muscle after physical exertion. It's especially useful for players who struggle to get enough protein in their diet. Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the body. It helps to increase energy output and can be very beneficial for rugby players looking for an extra edge on game day.

Always speak to a nutritionist or dietician before taking supplements; they can advise you on the best type and dosage.


Rugby players must be well nourished to perform at their best on game day. Eating the right foods at the right times will ensure you have enough energy to last through the whole match.

Your nutrition plan should also include adequate hydration and a diet rich in protein and carbohydrates. Supplements can also help to enhance performance but always speak to a nutritionist before taking them.

By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way to optimal game-day nutrition for rugby players!

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