Be the leanest guy on the pitch next season – now is the time to work on body composition
This is the perfect time of year to work on your physique. As a rugby player, you don’t get that luxury for most of the year. You have more important things to worry about than your body fat levels. You know, like being strong, and fit, and staying out of injury’s way.
But let’s be honest, you do actually want to look decent too. Why wouldn’t you? You’re only human, and you put a lot of time into tough rugby training on and off the pitch. Wouldn’t it be nice to look lean, athletic, and strong at the same time?
No matter what your coach says, it is possible to be big, strong, and lean. You just need to pick the right time of year to focus on those body composition goals. The time is now… Here’s how to do it.
How To Get Leaner Without Losing Power
Getting leaner means losing body fat. Trouble is, that demands a calorie deficit. And a calorie deficit – even a small one – can leave muscled and active athletes feeling tired. An even bigger risk is the potential of losing precious muscle tissue in your quest to lose body fat. As a rugby player, your muscle is your power.
So it’s important that you go about a body recomposition diet the right way, shedding excess body fat but hanging on to all (or the vast majority of) your hard-earned muscle.
#1 Time it right
You have to pick the right time of year to embark on a fat loss diet plan. Your coach and your teammates won’t be impressed if you turn up to training with the energy levels of a prepping Physique bodybuilding competitor. The best time of year to focus on fat loss is pre season, where your next matches are a long way off. This gives you a decent stretch of time to stay in a calorie deficit without impacting important training. Remember, even 6-8 weeks of fat loss focus can make a huge difference.
#2 Don’t diet for too long
If you get your calorie deficit right, and train to maintain muscle, you can shed significant amounts of fat in just a few weeks. If you have 14 weeks between rugby seasons, you could take 2 weeks off to relax, spend 6 weeks in a fat loss phase, and then 6 weeks maintaining to transition into pre season training. Don’t diet for too long. This will either signal that you haven’t got it right (or keep falling off the wagon) or that you are being too ambitious. Aim for 5%-10% loss of total body weight per week. The goal is to “get away with” the smallest calorie deficit possible and still keep the fat loss moving in the right direction. For many people, this will simply mean cleaning up the diet and removing mindless extras like snacks, desserts, or double helpings.
#3 Small wins
Don’t try to diet for fat loss by changing your entire diet. There’s no need to suddenly start eating a totally different way. If you try to implement too many radical changes overnight, you won’t stick at it. Start by assessing your current food and drink intake. Be honest! Clean your diet up, taking out all the high calorie, high fat, high sugar stuff that you already know is sub-optimal. Add more vegetables, and more lean protein. That alone will kickstart fat loss. If you plateau, look at portion sizes, or take out obvious calorie extras like fancy coffees, daily biscuits or pastries, or desserts.
#4 The right reasons
As a rugby player, your reasons for dropping some fat will be completely different to other guys in the gym. Looking slimmer and fitting your clothes better are great bonuses. But the main reason for this fat loss phase – and the one which will keep you on track – is your rugby performance. Rugby is a faster game than ever, and extra weight will slow you down (and put stress through your joints). Losing unnecessary extra weight (from body fat) and achieving the ideal rugby player body will actually improve your game and keep you away from some injury risk.
5 Simple Switches For Fat Loss
1 Better sources of carbohydrate
Going low carb won’t do you any favours – carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy, and you’re probably used to using carbs. If your current carb intake is high, you could lower it a little (every 25g carbs is 100 calories). But your first step should be to assess the types of carbs you’re eating. If they are processed, they are likely to also contain fats (think pastry, baked goods, pies, bakery items, desserts…) Switch to lower fat carb sources like potatoes, root veg, rice, pasta, fruit, and oats.
2 Healthy fat foods
Fat is higher calorie than carbs and protein, but it has health benefits in moderation. Don’t go super low fat in this dieting phase. Get 50g-80g fats a day from good sources like oily fish, nuts and nut butters, plant oils, olive oil, avocado, and seeds, plus some red meat.
3 Fibre, protein, micronutrients
Your meals and snacks should focus around a lean protein source, some fibre (from vegetables, fruits, berries, and wholegrain carbs), and plenty of micronutrients. That means vegetables! Aim for 2g-3g protein per 1kg bodyweight. Protein has the highest TEF (thermic effect of food) of all three macronutrients. Get a good quality whey protein (if you don’t already use one) – it’s a simple and hassle-free way to keep protein levels high without taking on extra calories from carbs or fats.
4 Drink more water
You might feel a bit hungry now you’re sticking to a calorie deficit. Fibre and protein will help, but you should also pay attention to your water intake. If you’ve got into the habit of snacking at the first sign of hunger, drink water instead and wait til your next meal. Water helps digestion and will help your body take in nutrients from your food. BCAA Burst makes it easy to stay hydrated.
5 Be aware of your food habits
Before you start your muscle gain fat loss diet, you’ll need to assess your current calorie intake (so you know what you’re working with!) But you should also assess your habits and behaviours. What do you eat, when, with who, and why? This will help you cut out or replace the less-useful meals and snacks!