An interactive workshop to provide coaches of young rugby players with up to date sports nutritional information took place in Connacht Rugby Sportsground, Galway City on Wednesday 16th May 2012. Organised jointly by the IRFU & The National Dairy Council as part of the Milk it For All It’s Worth campaign, it set out to up-skill coaches working with players ranging from about 12 – 16 years of age, providing practical nutritional advice which can help to improve sports performance to the best of each young person’s ability.
Performance Nutritionists, who work with professional rugby players and understand the nutrition demands specifically for rugby, delivered the technical content of the workshop.
Ruth Kilcawley, Performance Nutritionist, Connacht Rugby Academy told coaches at the workshop that good sports nutrition practices must be built on a solid foundation of a healthy diet which meets the needs of young athletes.
‘Young rugby players gain most from sports nutrition after they apply healthy eating practices to their every day lives. Core sport nutrition concepts such as recovery and hydration can then make a significant difference to their performance.’ said Ms. Kilcawley.
Ruth Wood-Martin, IRFU Performance Nutritionist explained: “Food is the fuel used to support growth in young players as well as providing for the extra energy demand of exercise. The main fuels used during exercise are fat and carbohydrate, and both of these fuels are stored in the muscles that allow them to work during exercise. Without sufficient amounts of the right type of fuel, every athlete’s ability to perform in sport will suffer.”
Ms Wood-Martin said that the timing of food intake to best prepare for exercise and recovery after exercise is important. “The aim before exercise is to top-up energy stores (called glycogen in muscle and liver) and maintain steady blood sugar levels,” explains Ms. Wood-Martin. “After exercise, the key is to re-fuel the energy stores that have been used up during the exercise session, and provide the right mix of nutrients to support physical adaptations that happen as a result of the exercise.”
The role of fluids in achieving good hydration was also explored. Ruth Kilcawley said that fluid is vital for life and makes up over half of the body weight. “Exercise increases heat production in the body. Good hydration helps to maintain an efficient cooling system, allowing players to sweat effectively to keep body temperature under control,” said Ms Kilcawley. “Dehydration due to a lack of fluid availability will result in over-heating and ultimately can affect the ability to continue with high intensity exercise. This is especially important in the young player who can become dehydrated very easily”.
“This seminar for coaches is timely as more and more research points to an interesting role for milk and dairy foods within sports nutrition – for example research reported from Loughborough University highlights the effectiveness of skimmed milk as a re-hydration drink after sports; in addition to research from Northumbria University highlighting the beneficial role of milk and milk based products in recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage,” explains Caroline O’Donovan, Nutritionist, The National Dairy Council.
“When you exercise or train and when you compete or take part in matches, you have to replace what you lose, for example in terms of hydration, energy stores and helping your muscles to recover,” says Ms. O’Donovan. “These seminars offer coaches expert nutritional advice which they can use to inform their players, and the National Dairy Council is delighted to facilitate them for various sporting organisations around the country”.
Milk It For All It’s Worth is the theme of a three year EU funded ‘Milk in Action’ campaign, a collaborative venture between The National Dairy Council (Ireland) and The Dairy Council (England and Wales), who partner with The Dairy Council (Northern Ireland).
The “Milk In Action” programme in Ireland is co-funded by the European Union, The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and by the industry with funds raised through NDC members in Ireland. The campaign is implemented under Council Regulation (EC) No 3/2008 on information provision and promotion measures for agricultural products on the internal market and in third countries.
Shirreffs SM et al. (2007) Milk as an effective rehydration drink. British Journal of Nutrition 98: 173-180.
Cockburn et al. (2008) Acute milk-based protein-CHO supplementation attenuates exercise-induced muscle damage. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism 33; 775-783.
Profile – Participating Performance Nutritionists
Ruth Wood-Martin has worked as a Registered Dietitian for over 20 years. She is a registered Sports and Exercise Nutritionist (SEN UK), has gained Technical Membership in Nutrition with the Irish Institute of Sport and currently works full time as the Performance Nutritionist with the Irish Rugby Football Union.
Her main focus is with the National Senior squad where she is responsible for the nutrition education of players as well as advising on meal plans and hydration and recovery strategies during national camp assemblies. She also includes talented younger players as a focus for nutrition education and development. Ruth believes that the goals of nutritional support for performance are:
· To translate the science of sports nutrition into everyday eating and drinking practices
· To deliver effective sports nutrition advice to players by working with them, their coaches and other sports performance professionals
· To use the most up-to-date evidence-based practice to deliver sports nutrition advice that makes a difference.
Ruth Kilcawley is a sports nutritionist based in the west of Ireland. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2002 with BSc in Human Nutrition & Dietetics (Hons) and also holds an honours diploma in Dietetics from Dublin Institute of Technology. She has worked in sport nutrition for over ten years and specialises in Nutrition support for young development athletes. She is also a specialist in the role of Nutrition in mental health & sporting performance. She is a member of the INDI and is a high performance sport nutrition provider for the Irish institute of Sport.