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Healthy foods

A rugby player's diet: Jonny May's food diary

Healthspan Elite Ambassador Jonny May gives us an exclusive look into his favourite foods and the demands of a rugby player's diet.

Typical daily food intake

Breakfast:

Poached eggs x 2, wholemeal toast, spinach, avocado and smoked salmon (a good balance of protein, carbs and fats to set me up for a full day's training. It gives me energy and the healthy fats from the avocado keep me fuller for longer).

Post-training:

Protein shake and banana (helps to repair and build muscle, plus a banana for fast releasing energy ready for the next session).

Lunch:

Chicken salad with quinoa (protein and carbs are great fuel and healthy).

Afternoon snack:

Nuts, usually a handful of almonds (a source of healthy fats and helps nutrient absorption, plus they're quick and easy when I get home and in need of a quick snack).

Dinner:

A choice of turkey chilli with broccoli and rice (turkey is a lean meat and great protein source), chicken wrapped in Parma ham with asparagus and sweet potato wedges, steak and roasted veg (after a long day of training I need to carb up for the next day).

Pre-bedtime:

Casein shake (I'm pretty lean so high protein intake is key for me to maintain and build muscle. Casein is a slow-release protein, meaning it works throughout the night to repair my muscles).

Daily supplement intake

  • Collagen - it helps repair tissue and good for joint and bone strength, I would have it daily during the first 2 months post-surgery.
  • MultiVitamins - to make sure my body gets all the nutrients it needs, I take one every day.
  • Performance Greens - a quick shake if I don't feel I've had enough veg.
  • Omega 3 - anti-inflammatory, I always take 3 per day.
  • Glucosamine & Chondroitin - to help recovery from injury.
  • Whey Protein - quick protein hit straight after training.
  • Casein Protein - slow release protein through the night after a hard days training.

Did you adapt your diet throughout the period you were injured?

I didn't make any drastic changes - I guess I had a few more treats in the early stages just as a pick me up as I was quite low. I'm pretty lucky because my body fat doesn't really change even if I'm not being super strict. I started taking multivitamins, omega 3, and glucosamine and chondroitin as these play a key role in joint recovery. Also for the first couple of months post-surgery I took a course of collagen. I'd also try to eat foods that were anti-inflammatory. For example, I'd add turmeric to foods as it's an anti-inflammatory, it's great on sweet potato wedges.

Do you change your diet on match day?

I'll always have a big portion of lasagna the night before a game - the carbs are crucial before bed. I'll reheat the left overs and have this about 3-4 hours before KO on game day, this will be a small portion because I don't want to feel full. Breakfast on game day is pretty light, porridge is my go-to!

What's your favourite 'cheat meal'?

It's got to be a pizza after a game on a Saturday night.

What's your biggest food weakness?

Pickled Onion Monster munch and a Wispa Gold - I'll sometimes cave and have this after a double day of training if I'm knackered. Also, when we go to the cinema I can't resist a bag of popcorn! I found out the salt popcorn has the most amount of protein and is the healthiest option of all the snacks available by some way, so that makes me feel a little bit better about it.

How does your food intake differ to the forwards?

Forwards are typically guys who struggle with high body fat will and have to be a lot stricter in terms of their food intake and tend to have fewer carbs and sugars. They need to be careful about gaining body fat whereas I need to be careful about losing muscle mass! This is just a generalization though - some forwards struggle to keep up their weight and maintain muscle mass, just like some backs have to focus on keeping body fat low!

Jonny May is a professional rugby union player who plays for the England national team.

Find out more about Jonny May, or read more about Healthspan's Ambassadors.

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