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Recover like a pro with Protein 22

Nick Lumley, Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach at Edinburgh Rugby, reveals his tips on how to recover like a pro...

Two of the biggest influences on recovery of rugby players in season are diet and sleep. At Edinburgh Rugby, we put a huge emphasis on diet and getting this right in our players. When training our players, we aim to maximise strength, power and speed while having the endurance to last 80 minutes.

Furthermore, a key requirement of rugby is to win collisions; whether that is carrying the ball into contact, hitting rucks or at scrum time. Rugby players need to maximise muscle mass, minimise body fat and develop strength and speed.

At any moment in time, the body is going to be increasing its muscle mass (called muscle protein synthesis or MPS) or losing muscle mass. This happens to such a small degree that the effect is negligible to most people.

There are two predominant ways in which we can increase our MPS, by lifting weights or by consuming protein. Depending on what you do, lifting weights will elevate MPS by anything between 12-36 hours and consuming 20-30g of protein will increase MPS for around three hours. 

Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids, and different proteins are made of different amino acids. In terms of MPS, one protein in particular is more important than the others and this is called Leucine.

Research shows that MPS is dependent on sufficient quantities (around 5g of Leucine) to be present to have the biggest response. The best sources of Leucine come in dairy products. Because of this we use milk proteins for post training and post gym recovery.

With rugby being such a physically demanding sport, ensuring a high availability of quality proteins is essential to allow the muscles to recover from the demands of playing and training, prevent injury and maximise performance.

Our basic training day is structured with all this in mind. We try and consume 25-30g of protein every three hours throughout the day (a higher dose because our players are bigger than your average man on the street). We therefore eat three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and then a small snack mid-morning, mid-afternoon and before bed. 

We use Graham’s The Family Dairy Protein 22 daily because it meets all our requirements. They contain 22g of milk proteins with high quantities of leucine to help maximise our muscle growth and are low in sugar, which is important in preventing certain players gaining too much fat. Furthermore, they taste great and are very popular with our players as a result. All our players will have one Protein22 per day as one of our three daily snacks between main meals.