Inside the Belly of a Beast: Individualizing Nutrition for Young, Professional Male Rugby League Players: A Review

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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  • 1 Queensland University of Technology
  • 2 The University of Queensland
  • 3 University of Exeter
  • 4 University of the Sunshine Coast
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Professional rugby league (RL) football is a contact sport involving repeated collisions and high-intensity efforts; both training and competition involve high energy expenditure. The present review summarizes and critiques the available literature relating the physiological demands of RL to nutritional requirements and considers potential ergogenic supplements that could improve players’ physical capacity, health, and recovery during the preparatory and competition phases of a season. Although there may not be enough data to provide RL-specific recommendations, the available data suggest that players may require approximately 6–8 g·kg−1·day−1 carbohydrate, 1.6–2.6 g·kg−1·day−1 protein, and 0.7–2.2 g·kg−1·day−1 fat, provided that the latter also falls within 20–35% of total energy intake. Competition nutrition should maximize glycogen availability by consuming 1–4 g/kg carbohydrate (∼80–320 g) plus 0.25 g/kg (∼20–30 g) protein, 1–4 hr preexercise for 80–120 kg players. Carbohydrate intakes of approximately 80–180 g (1.0–1.5 g/kg) plus 20–67 g protein (0.25–0.55 g/kg) 0–2 hr postexercise will optimize glycogen resynthesis and muscle protein synthesis. Supplements that potentially improve performance, recovery, and adaptation include low to moderate dosages of caffeine (3–6 mg/kg) and ∼300 mg polyphenols consumed ∼1 hr preexercise, creatine monohydrate “loading” (0.3 g·kg−1·day−1) and/or maintenance (3–5 g/day), and beta-alanine (65–80 mg·kg−1·day−1). Future research should quantify energy expenditures in young, professional male RL players before constructing recommendations.

Kelly and Oliver are with the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Kelly and Jenkins are with the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia. Bowtell is with the Sport and Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom. Jenkins is also with the School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of The Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Queensland, Australia.

Kelly (v6.kelly@qut.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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