NRL Sports Dietician – Cronulla Sharks
Interview with Jessica Spendlove
9 October 2014
I’m just going into my third season working with the Cronulla Sharks. I also work with the GWS Giants AFL team and with private clients at Balmain Sports Medicine and Sydney Sports Medicine in Olympic Park. My role as Sports Dietician involves group education sessions and individual consultations. On Game days, I’m involved in meal planning for the team.
What are the key components of a rugby player’s diet and nutrition?
The key foundations for all players is lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, low fat dairy and adequate water. Frequent intakes of small amounts of proteins is optimal for gains in muscle mass, say 3 main meals and 3 snack meals per day. This helps with muscle mass gains and maintenance and increases strength, a very important component of being a good rugby player.
What’s different for Game Day nutrition?
Getting more carbs pre, during and post heavy training and competition is important. This is to provide fuel and allow the players to train at maximal effort for longer. Increased carbohydrates before the game gives additional fuel; during continued supply of fuel for working muscles; and post to replace the glycogen which was used.
Hydration is also massive. We don’t want the players to get dehydrated.
How does Fitness Meals fit into the Sharks diet?
Within 30 minutes of a game, the players eat Fitness Meals as their recovery meal. The meals provide good protein and high quality carbohydrates. The players need high carbs to replace the energy they used on the field. They would have burnt a lot of energy. The players eat together as a team in the sheds, and they really enjoy the meals.
What are the greatest challenges the players face with their diets?
Many players struggle to eat an adequate breakfast. This is especially important during pre-season because they need to fuel themselves properly before training. Some players find that fitting in a breakfast meal that is convenient can be difficult. Part of my job is to work with players to find something they tolerate, enjoy, is nutritious and also gives them what they need.
What advice have you given the players for the off-season?
Go off, relax and enjoy themselves. I remind them to stick to the foundations to ensure they maintain muscle mass. Players develop big appetites, so they need to adapt their appetite for off-season and to maintain proper body composition. Carbs don’t need to be as high. Alcohol in moderation is fine but too much will result in loss of muscle mass. Try to be as sensible as possible.
What are your plans for next season?
We’ll be placing extra focus on nutrition next season. We’ll be setting up a Performance Kitchen where we’ll be running cooking classes, demonstrating food preparation techniques, giving tips such as how to make great smoothies. We’re also planning shopping tours, and of course concentrating on getting basic diet and nutrition right.