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Winter nutrition guide for rugby players

Training and playing during the cold winter months brings about a number of nutritional challenges that you may not necessarily be aware of. Below is a quick overview on the dietary changes you need to make during the winter to aid performance, reduce the risk of illness and to improve mood.


Cold weather blunts your thirst response. When you’re wearing plenty of layers of clothing, it’s also very difficult to tell how much you’re sweating. It is not uncommon for players to become dehydrated on a more regular basis in the winter compared to the summer.

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A drop in body temperature is known to stimulate feelings of hunger. Winter weight gain is not uncommon at this time of year as changes in brain chemicals increase cravings for carbohydrates (also known as seasonal affective disorder). Couple this with the availability of more carbohydrate based foods (e.g. crisps, sausage rolls, roast potatoes, chocolate), you need to be very disciplined during this time.

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The combination of a drop in temperature, an increase in the number of viruses circulating and the temptation to over-indulge in poor quality foods increases your chances of getting ill and missing training. First and foremost you need to make sure you are eating sufficient amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat to support your training load and body composition goals. If your intake of any of these macronutrients is too high or too low, you may be compromising your ability to fight off disease and illness.

There are specific foods that we know can improve immunity levels. By including these foods into your regular diet or routine you can build up your body’s immunity: Dark (75% cocoa) chocolate, Garlic, Chilli’s, Green tea, Berries (raspberries, blueberries etc), Manuka honey, 2-3 litres of water per day.

Make sure you eat some low fat, quality protein with every meal and snack. Turkey, venison, chicken, fish, eggs and nuts are excellent choices. An adequate intake of iron, zinc, vitamins A, E, B6 and B12 are also important. You should eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure an adequate intake of these vitamins and minerals. The majority of your diet should focus around whole unprocessed foods, vegetables and fruits.

Examples of how to get these into your diet

Anti immunity foods and factors which reduce your immunity