Mid-season means the start of a new year with a positive outlook on the year ahead. This said, the cold weather and more games along with poor rest management can bring detrimental injuries you can’t afford to pick up as a player.
Playing up to 30 games (or more) has its complications and you need to really be on the ball with your training, rest, diet and any supplements programmes. Rugby injuries can range from collision type injuries such as concussion, fractured bones, dislocated joints, strained tendons or muscles to overuse injuries like tendonitis – all of which will potential jeopardise your game play and general strength and fitness.
The demand rugby players put on their bodies nowadays is far more extreme and players are getting bigger and stronger than ever before. It is no longer enough to keep fitness up through game play. An intense training regime is vital.
Get a good training plan underway and you should maintain fitness and strength and successfully develop throughout the season ahead.
Can Diet Help?
To help prevent any injuries you should do all of the standard practises, like warming up correctly, cooling down, stretching and resting, but it is also important to keep your diet up to scratch.
You should aim for roughly 40% of your diet to be carbohydrates, 35% protein and 25% unsaturated fats. Quality carbohydrates are key for energy, normal blood sugar levels and to help with protein synthesis. Protein is important for growth and repair (even when not exercising) and maintaining your muscle mass.
Unsaturated fats are also a good energy source and will help reduce inflammation. It is also important to take in a sufficient amount of fluid, which can often be overlooked slightly during the winter months. Even if you are not necessarily hot, it is likely that you will be sweating during a training session or game, so it is so important to stay adequately hydrated. Even a loss of 1% body weight can reduce athletic performance and impair recovery.
When injured, it goes without saying that physiotherapy and strengthening exercises are key to get you back in the game with minimal chance of a reoccurrence. However, diet is still also very important during this testing period and is a factor you can actually control whilst injured.
One main worry when an injury occurs is gaining weight.
Since you are most likely to be completely out of your training for at least a few weeks, this means you need to always match your energy intake with your energy expenditure.
This said, it is not a time to cut calories too much as your body needs nutrients to help repair and recover from your injury. Try to focus on what types of food you are eating. You can still eat the same sorts of foods, but try consuming a lower calorie version or eat one less thing than usual.
Some examples would be 80g pasta instead of 100g, one sandwich instead of two, 1 chicken breast instead of 2, etc.. Carbohydrates, protein and fat intake will not need to be consumed at as high levels as when you were exercising since your body is not demanding as much energy. However, don’t cut any of these food groups out of you diet in the hope of keeping the weight off.
Although it would be foolish to think that supplements are the answer to a quick recovery, a balanced diet along with some supplements can be a good combination.
A multi-vitamin supplement would be beneficial to ensure that you are getting all the important vitamins and minerals needed to help your body during the recovery process. Some sort of antioxidant will also be helpful along with a joint health supplement such as glucosamine or chondroitin to aid inflammation.
Usually injuries last about two weeks (with exceptions obviously) and after that, although you may not be able to go straight back into your training regime, you will be able to partake in other forms of exercise such as low impact and strengthening exercises.
So remember, injuries do happen and once they do there isn’t much you can do about it apart from keep a positive attitude towards your recovery. What you are able to do is fuel your body appropriately to ensure a fast recovery and help prevent any more injuries in the future. It is a very hard and trying period in any athlete’s career, just be patient and put all your efforts into eating right and getting back on the pitch.
Here are a few winter-style recipes to try if you are injured and out of play, or just having a rest day:
Tex Mex Chicken Soup
1. Lightly fry half a diced onion and handful of jalapenos; cook until tender (around 5 minutes). Stir in 1 garlic clove and cook for a further 30 seconds.
2. Add a low salt chicken stock and increase the heat to high, bringing to a simmer. Add 1 diced chicken breast and cook for about 3 minutes (until it is no longer pink).
3. Stir in a salsa (bought or homemade), bring back to a simmer, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot with an option of a dollop of soured cream.
Simple High Protein Beef Stew
1. Dice 2x slices of thick bacon and cook well in a frying pan.
2. Brown off around 500g beef stewing steak in the same pan.
3. Add half a chopped onion, 1 green pepper, 2 medium sliced carrots, 4-6 new potatoes, 200g sweetcorn.
4. Slow cook for 5 hours, checking meat for tenderness.
Moroccan Veggie Pittas
1. Blend 250g chickpeas, 2tbsp smooth peanut butter, 1 large egg, 1 tsp coriander and cumin.
2. Add in the other 250g chickpeas and 6 spring onions, season with salt and pepper.
3. Create four burgers from the mixture and place on a plate in the fridge for around 2 hours
4. Fry burgers for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
5. Mix 150g natural yoghurt and salad leaves and place in pittas, serve warm.