Rugby – Blood Sugar Control

The most important nutritional skill a rugby player can master is…

Blood Sugar Control…

Managing your blood sugar levels is vitally important for the modern day rugby player .

If you can master this skill you’ll be able to:

•    Manage your weight – Losing fat at the flick of a switch

•    Control your moods – no more irritability when hungry

•    Boost your energy levels- feel perky for your next training session instead of drowsy

•    Replenish your energy stores faster – recover quicker after games and training.

•    Build muscle faster and more efficiently

In our body food works like a DRUG, if you don’t know how to control that DRUG then you are likely to end up STORING FAT and being overweight. Carrying excess fat is a definite NO-NO for the professional rugby player,  and for the average person leads to many illnesses and often premature death. How many obese 80 year olds do you see knocking around?  Exactly… they don’t normally last that long, in this day and age 80 is not really old anymore.

I often see rugby players who from the outside look in fantastic shape but because their diet is poor and they are not managing their blood sugar levels their performance is suffering.

You cannot afford to think ‘I can eat what I want because I am going to burn it off later’. If you have that philosophy for long enough your performance will definitely suffer.

Why is blood sugar control so important anyway?

Carbohydrate food s like bread, pasta, rice, pastries, fruits, veg, and sports drinks are all made up primarily of sugars.  Foods like bread and pasta are energy dense, and they are broken down into sugar quickly in the body causing your blood sugar to rise rapidly.

This rapid rise in blood sugar is good only if you have just exercised as your body produces insulin and the first thing that insulin does is to make sure your energy reserves in your muscles and liver are topped back up.

Often I see athletes drinking bottles of Lucozade first early during the day way before they are going to be training, you don’t need these drinks until you have started your warm up at the earliest and probably not until half time as your energy supplies probably have not been depleted sufficiently yet.

Insulin also helps you build muscle

If building muscle is your goal and you are weight training it’s important to have some carbohydrates that help raise your insulin level as soon as possible after training and combine this with a protein source like whey protein.  This is a good recovery strategy as well if you are happy with your body composition and just want to maintain your body composition. Insulin assists  the protein enabling it to penetrate into the muscle cells more efficiently so that it can do it’s job of repairing and growing new muscle fibres.

This is where it can turn NASTY

Once your energy levels are topped back up INSULIN converts any excess sugar in your blood to FAT and this fat gets stored as energy.

If you have too big a meal the night before a game sure your energy stores will be full, but you will have laid down some extra fat, if you do this consistently you will get fat over the course of a season.  It’s why often you’ll see people who are training and exercising hard but still remain a bit ‘lardy’.

Managing  your insulin and blood sugar levels WILL REDUCE the likelihood of you ever storing fat. If you are not producing insulin then it’s tough to get fat.

Ways to manage your blood sugar

1. Eat smaller meals more often.  4-6 small meals and snacks a day, you can eat more food this way.

2. Have protein with EVERY meal – this slows down the rate at which your blood sugar level rises.

3. Eat more fibrous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus) there is the same amount of sugar in 1 Kg of Broccoli as there is in 1 pitta bread!

4. Reduce and even remove breads, pasta, rice and potatoes from your diet if weight loss is your goal.

If you only ever learn one thing about nutrition and diet make sure it’s how to control your blood sugar levels. If you want more information visit Blood Sugar Control.


Matt Lovell – Elite Sports Nutritionist

Matt Lovell - Elite Sports Nutritionist

Matt Lovell is an Elite Sports Nutritionist. He has worked with the England Rugby Team since 2002 and also currently works with 4 premiership teams and UK Athletics team as they prepare for the Olympic Games in London in 2012..  His primary website is  chock full of useful Sports Nutrition information and if you leave a question Matt’s really good at getting back to you.

Matt has written a comprehensive guide on Preparing for a Big Event, the popular Fat Loss Program Four Week Fat Loss and Regenerate a Muscle Building Nutrition program.



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