Energy and strength is more important than ever in the pre-season when training revolves around grueling fitness and conditioning sessions that aim to ensure players are ready for the season ahead.
Knights TV sat down with Newcastle Knights' sports dietician, Rachel Svenson, who acts as an important cog in the wheel in assisting players to be in the best shape possible on the field.
For Svenson, providing the right fuel for their engines is critical to reaching results.
That’s where food comes into it.
“Because it’s high intensity, the amount of food that they need to eat it a lot higher and the amount of calories they need to get in each day,” Svenson said.
“They need to be aware of that and make sure they’re eating to the demands of the sessions.”
After training sessions, the players sit down to a meal that aims to replenish their energy and give them the nutrients their bodies require to make continued growth and development.
“Because the training is higher intensity, they are burning through more carbohydrates than they typically would in season,” she added.
“We make sure in and around their training sessions they are loading well with carbohydrates which is good for pre and for recovery.”
Svenson also works one-on-one with the players and builds eating plans tailored to individual's goals.
For players aiming to reduce their skinfolds and lose weight, she explains the timing of when they eat food is integral.
“Often when they are home, it’s about looking at what they are going to snack on and chose when they are walking to the fridge looking for food when they are bored,” she said.
On the other end of the spectrum, some players' objective is to bulk up, add weight and gain lean muscle mass.
“We look at how much protein they are eating combined with their carbohydrates and where their quality nutrients are coming from to build that lean mass,” she added.
“Most of them are learning really quickly because as soon as they don’t do it well, they really suffer and they notice it.”
Svenson goes on to explain supplements play a less significant role than food for players but refers to their use as the icing on the cake.
“We have to get the base right and everything in place first, then supplements can have quite an important role to finish off the last one per cent we’re trying to get out of every player,” she said.
After hours of challenging conditioning drills, testing gym sessions and the mental energy expelled in football skills sessions, the Knights work up a hefty appetite.
“These guys will be eating a phenomenal amount every day,” she said.
“Anyone who has a teenage son will know the quantities boys can eat, plus with training on top of that, they are eating a huge amount of calories at the moment.”
During the pre-season Wests Mayfield caters for the team four days a week and provides a hot carbohydrate option with a fresh salad and meat sandwich bar.
As part of the training routine, the players sit down and enjoy their food together as a team, something Svenson thinks complements the science of nutrition nicely.
“The good thing about food is it always brings people together. For any occasion food is always really important,” she said.
“When you have good quality food, it lifts the spirits and being together is a small part of that team bonding.”