Do you need a post-workout shake? How do I get started with a diet? Do I need white or brown rice? Find out the answers to these questions and many more facts about nutrition as this week TJ Jankowski takes us through 50 random nutrition tips for rugby players.
Tips For Getting Started
1. If you want to diet properly, begin by tracking with MyFitnessPal to know exactly what you eat. Even if you don’t adjust what you’re eating, you give yourself a starting point and a reference to possibly why you have the body you have, be it good or bad.
2. Use MyFitnessPal for tracking food only, when using the app to track exercise, the accuracy of this is pretty off.
3. When tracking try and use scales to get to know the weight of the food, from there you can start to guestimate (an actual word I’ll have you know) portion sizes much better. It is incredibly hard to gauge portion sizes until you do this. Use grams instead of portions wherever possible for the most accurate recording, sometimes a chicken breast can weigh 60g and others it can go up to 180g.
4. You need not to track every single day, particularly if you’re heading in the right direction, use it as a tool to help you make more accurate reasoning as to why you may or may not progress.
Tips For Consistency
5. Understand before subjecting yourself to ANY new diet regimen that it is CONSISTENCY of diet that is going to get you on the road to progress. Think “will I be able to stick with this way of eating for years to come?”
6. Make small adjustments to your diet, overhauls will fail 99% of the team because they are too different from your normal habits.
7. For the most part stay consistent with breakfast and lunch, it’s easier to stay on track with these meals for routine. It is also easier to just give up with everything and have a whole pot of Pringles for lunch if you haven’t got anything planned. Starting your day off right is a big key to success
8. Also stay consistent with snacks, it is easy to eat snacks without thinking when you’re on the go, and because of the nature of what most snacks are these days (mostly sugary or fried food) you’ll still feel hungry soon after. If you have a number of healthy snacks on hand you’ll be set.
9. Batch cook healthy recipes so that you can eat them for the following days and not make poor choices
10. Batch cook meat so that you can have it for days, then adjust what accompanies the meals.
11. If you’re going out to eat, try and figure out what you want ahead of time, this decreases the chance of being overwhelmed and making a poor choice. (Extra: you can also try and track it on MyFitnessPal early and make it fit perfectly with your daily totals)
12. Try as best as you can to keep your kitchen stocked with nothing but healthy, whole foods. If there isn’t crappy snacks in your house it becomes much harder to eat it.
Tips to Control Calories
13. Consider having some sort of legume every day, they are high in protein, low in fat and they contain a ton of fibre which aids digestion and makes you feel full.
14. Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep = stress. Stress = mindless snacking.
15. Drink water often, we often think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty.
16. Eating a side salad with meals will really help fill you up and get in many nutrients and fibre. Most dishes can be turned into a good bowl of food by mixing in a salad.
17. Use smaller cutlery if you’re trying to cut, it makes it seem like you’re eating more as it takes longer, you can then allow you’re body the time to realise that you’re full. Use a big spoon if you’re bulking or have trouble eating.
18. Use smaller plates, we have a desire to fill the plate/bowl with food. Smaller plates and bowls are easier to fill. Use a big bowl if you need to eat more, they make it easier to eat bigger meals and also make them less daunting.
19. Whilst peanut butter is healthy, it is very high in calories and therefore is easy to over consume. You can use this to your advantage if you’re trying to bulk
20. The same also applies to all oils
21. Natural, whole foods are usually going to be more filling and easier on your digestive system than any man-made processed foods. This is obvious but a diet based of whole foods will usually keep you fuller.
22. No supplement should ever be the cornerstone of a diet. It shouldn’t even be a replacement for quality food. They are used as a “supplement” to your current plan.
23. It is ok to drink diet drinks instead of sweets to keep away cravings, just keep a level of moderation
24. Berries can also be used to satisfy your sweet tooth at a low-calorie cost.
25. Frozen yoghurt for ice cream – you can add in protein powder and it mixes well
26. Instead of buying pre-made fries, make your own at a fraction of the calories using potatoes and cooking spray and baking them in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
27. When eating eggs keep 1 or 2 yolks and then make up the difference with egg whites. Egg yolks are healthy but it easy to over-consume the fat in them. (note: egg beaters are just as tasty as the real thing but with 0 fat)
28. You’ll amazed at what deserts you can easily add protein powder into to make an alternative.
29. Flavoured rice crackers are going to be a much better carb source than crisps
30. If you struggle to eat lots of fruit and veg, add a greens shake to your diet – blend 1 handful of spinach and whatever fruits you enjoy and you wont even taste the spinach.
31. Don’t overthink white rice vs brown rice or white potatoes vs sweet potatoes, there are much bigger things that will make a difference than this.
32. Everyone knows that one guy that has a really crappy diet yet somehow looks like Zeus and plays like a beast. This guy is the exception, not the rule.
33. If you don’t poop a couple times a day then you need more fibre (and food)
34. Taking a dump frequently is actually healthy and a sign of an efficient digestive system If you’re trying to gain weight be prepared to spend a good deal of time on the loo.
35. No one food is the key to your health or weight loss, if you really don’t like a food, don’t eat it – fairly simple.
36. You cannot use diet to “detox” or “cleanse” the body. These words are used to sell products that are not only unhealthy, but dangerous!
36. Whilst we’re talking about buzz words – “Superfood” is just a made-up marketing term that allows the price of said food to be higher.
38. You don’t need to consume a post-workout protein shake, this idea was made up by the supplement industry.
39. You should still eat a meal which has a good deal of quality carbs and protein post-training to give yourself the best chance to recover and make progress.
40. Don’t think of protein powder as anything other than a food itself, because that’s what it is – powdered, flavoured cheese.
41. As a rugby player in-season, you’ll need to ramp up your consumption of food when you play games if you’re going to train well the next week. Quality post-match nutrition of a lot of calories can go a long way to helping you repair the damage from all those collisions
The Mental Game
42. You can’t make up for a day of consuming more food by consuming less food for the next few days, that’s not how the body works.
43. I know from that last point that people will say “but what about cheat/re-feed days”? Let me quickly explain; put simply these are used to ramp up the metabolism when dieting, but it is only the increased carbs that make the difference here – so just be wary of over-consuming fat and protein on “cheat days” (and alcohol).
44. Be accountable for what enters you! It’s something that only you control, be aware of the fact that everything you do has a consequence.
45. This comes from being aware of what you’re eating, use the tips above to create structure to your eating. Unconscious eating is one of the biggest causes of weight gain.
46. Be prepared to say no to people because of your nutrition choices, people seem to get offended if you don’t let them buy you a beer etc. but you can’t please everyone.
47. If you are going to eat tasty food that you know isn’t quite in your plan then ENJOY IT. Too many people feel so bad about eating junk food that it takes all enjoyment out of eating it… so whats the point?! Just eat it and make sure the next meal is back on track.
48. The idea that you can diet to change hormones, which then in turn leads to a lower bodyfat is completely backwards. Diet to get in great shape and perform well and the hormones will sort themselves out
49. Remember that you are an athlete and need to eat as such. You can’t starve yourself on a super-low calorie diet and expect to perform well. Consistency is king.
50. A diet is what you eat day-in, day-out. It is not a short phase of “6 weeks to shredded” or whatever is the popular thing. Don’t get sold on the latest magic pill / fad and keep focussed on your current work to success. It’s cliche to say but it truly needs to become your lifestyle.
This may be daunting but plenty of people have done it with success and there’s no reason it can’t be you.
About TJ Jankowski
TJ Jankowski is a former international rugby player for Poland rugby, who achieved their highest world ranking of 23 whilst he was part of the team.