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Gameday nutrition

Saracens’ performance nutritionist George Morgan takes us through the ins and outs of preparing the lads for a match.

As a team, eating together is a constant for us at Saracens. We have breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack daily, all at the training ground. There are buffet-style hot and cold options, so players will portion themselves, and they have the responsibility of portions that relate to their individual energy demands. The options will differ depending on the day or phase of training, and there will be options to fit eating goals of all the squad. 

We do monitor the players’ weight and body composition across the season, but I’m very lucky to work with a very driven group of players, so I don’t have any issues with any of them. There are no specific allergies or intolerances within the group, but we take full histories and consult the medical team to ensure none are missed. We don’t have any vegetarians or vegans on the team, either. I think it would be an interesting challenge to work with a vegan.

Provided that the players have fuelled well a day before, then game day is all about topping up those energy stores. I advise all players to stick to a well-practised routine, focusing on foods that they regularly eat before training. Food should ideally be easily digestible, so I recommend lean proteins such as chicken or fish, and lower-fibre carbohydrate portions, such as white rice, rice noodles and bagels.

Players who suffer from indigestion may wish to focus on lower-gluten options and fibrous foods. Players will eat a pre-match meal three hours before kick-off, the menu for which is consistent across all games, so that players can stick to their planned routines. The meal will follow the principles above to not slow digestion, so they’ll contain a variety of lean proteins and carbohydrate options. 

In the changing rooms, the players will have primers; these are drinks that contain caffeine. We use Optimum Nutrition’s Amino Energy drink, which they consume an hour before the game. The aim of primers is to give the players a boost mentally and physically to take on the challenge ahead of them. We also have some jellied sweets or sports gels to give players a quick hit of sugar in the minutes before kick-off. Naturally, hydration is very important, and we make sure the players drink plenty so that they’re hydrated in the build-up to the game. They’ll hydrate at any opportunity throughout a game, too.

When players leave the field, the refuelling process begins quickly. We use refuelling blends, such as Optimum Nutrition’s Progainer, which deliver a large hit of protein and carbs simultaneously. We’ll have a selection of fruit smoothies and hot snacks in the changing room, which provide immediate refreshment and kick-start the recovery process to prepare for the next game.

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