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Edinburgh Rugby: Exercise and Diet

Why do we gain weight?

Weight gain occurs due to a calorie surplus, meaning you are consuming more calories than you are burning, resulting in the excess calories being stored as body fat. In order for the team to lose weight most effectively, they need to address both sides of this equation:

1.       Increase the amount of calories being burnt

2.       Reduce the amount of calories being consumed

At rest, without going to the gym or exercising, we burn energy through our resting metabolism each day. This is the energy required for basic living, and by exercising we increase this metabolic rate and cause the body to burn more calories to fuel whatever activity we do. This is highly individual. Everyone will know someone who they feel can eat what they want and gain little weight – well this is simply someone who has a higher resting metabolic rate. Likewise, people who gain fat easier will have a lower resting metabolic rate.

Exercise is important

Clearly by exercising more we can lose weight. The team focus on exercises that repeatedly fatigues large muscle groups through high intensity exercise and burn more calories to lose more weight. Ignore “fat burning zones” and target high intensity exercise. Your body will increase its metabolic rate for up to 36 hours post exercise if its intensity is high enough. The reason that sports like CrossFit are excellent for body composition is because they burn lots of calories though whole-body movements and incorporate resistance training which helps muscle growth.

Reduce the calories being consumed

Diets are all over the internet and newspapers these days. With all the contradictory information about different diets and various high-profile endorsements for certain diets, it can be quite confusing and put people off dieting. In short, any diet you read about will work (i.e. help you lose weight) if it creates a calorie deficit that requires fat stores to be burned to fuel metabolism. Regardless of claims you read about online regarding the benefits of certain diets, it can be reduced to this; if they create a calorie deficit you will lose weight, if they don’t they won’t. It’s also important to be aware of the health concerns of excluding certain food groups, like some diets recommend. Without going into detail, unless you have a diagnosed intolerance, I’d avoid excluding any food groups.

How do we lose weight at Edinburgh Rugby?

At Edinburgh Rugby we have players who need to drop body fat at certain times of the year. To do this, we alter our diets to reduce total calorie intake and add supplementary training to our programmes to increase the energy burned each day.

To reduce calories in our diets we will control fat intake and reduce the carbohydrates consumed. 1g of fat contains 9 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories. Whilst carbohydrates are important in order to perform, we can identify certain periods of our training weeks and our season where players can afford to function with low carbohydrate levels.

If you are following a normal healthy diet and try to avoid sweets and other treats, it is less likely that you are overeating on fats. Most of our bigger players have issues around carbohydrate intake and so we place a large emphasis on structuring when they eat them and targeting periods where we limit them significantly in order to create this calorie deficit.

Graham’s Protein 22 

One of the biggest concerns when you are restricting calorie intake is that you want to lose fat. Remember, your body also has the ability to lose muscle mass and when you restrict calories this is very easy to happen. I talked in the last bog about how important protein intake is to maximise muscle mass in our players. This becomes even more important when dieting, research tells us that you will maintain muscle mass if you consume a high protein intake whilst restricting calories.

Dieting can be boring, there’s only so many ways to make high protein and low carbohydrate diet enjoyable. In order to keep protein intake high we have to find ways of making protein enjoyable and tasty whilst avoiding excessive carbs. Graham’s Protein 22 is ideal for us here, the yoghurts taste good and are a quick and easy way to get that protein boost pre or post training – our players will consume 1-2 of these as snacks a day when dieting. With 22g of protein and only 11g of carbohydrates, these yogurts play a key role in our players maintaining their muscle mass whilst they are losing weight.