Interview With Nutrition Expert Ben Coomber

Ben CoomberBen Coomber is a rapidly growing name within the health and fitness industry (just search “Ben Coomber” on Google to see what I mean).

For those of you who don’t already know, he is one of a new breed of fitness and nutrition experts whose no-bullshit approach to health is helping make the subject accessible to all. Even better is the fact he is a rugby nut currently plying his trade for Ipswich YM RUFC.

Outside of rugby Ben runs bespoke nutrition and fitness service Body Type Nutrition as well as writing and presenting on the subject. He has even produced this handy rugby nutrition guide that is a must read for anyone out there playing rugby at any level.

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As you might then be able to imagine, Ben is an incredibly busy guy and so it was to our great fortune he was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the importance of proper nutrition in rugby.

Here are the highlights of my chat with Ben;

Personalisation

In his work Ben is a huge advocate of personalising the approach to an individuals nutrition and applies the same logic to rugby. As a sport full of individuals compromising of all shapes and sizes it is essential to find an approach that works best for you rather than looking for a “cookie cutter” solution for an entire squad. Even amongst the different body types within a team players roles will vary greatly, for example whilst some may rely on strength and power others may focus more on speed and agility. It is therefore essential to alter your diet to match these particular goals.

The main focus within your nutritional personalisation should be the amount of carbs you take on board. Whilst a player with an ectomorphic body type may be able to consumer a larger quantity of carbohydrates, a player with an endomorphic body type will likely need to restrict their carb intake in order to avoid it becoming stored as fat. Unfortunately there is no exact science behind this approach so instead start from a point you feel is appropriate for your body shape and goals and then adjust your consumption accordingly.

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As well as looking out for weight loss/gain whilst you train and play as an indicator of the success of your diet, there are also a number of other key indicators you can monitor. Think about whether you find yourself having slumps after meals or even feeling bloated and generally pretty crappy. If so it’s likely you may have food intolerances, for example to gluten. If so then think about cutting this particular element out of your diet temporarily to see the effect it has on your body.

It’s Not All About The Food

Ben is a keen advocate of getting the basics right as well as sorting out your diet. Stress can have a hugely negative impact on your physique and must therefore be considered alongside diet and workout plans. This is particularly key if stress begins to affect your sleep as the best time to catch some shut-eye is between 10pm and 6am. Again if you aren’t catching enough Z’s then you could be working counter-productively when trying to achieve your fitness and health goals. Sleep is particularly important as it helps to raise testosterone levels which is obviously pretty essential when trying to build muscle.

Eat Your Veggies

They’re essential! Nutrient dense and great for gut health, your veggies should be the cornerstone of your diet alongside proteins. Not only will this help fill you up so you don’t end up eating a load of crap it will also help improve your digestion so you can better absorb nutrients from your other food sources. Get thinking about plenty of leafy greens so go ahead and grab another handful of spinach, in fact finish the whole bag off. It’s not all about calories, simply think “what is the value of these calories that I am about to eat”.

Mix It Up

You’re never going to get all of the nutrients you need from the same foods everyday so make sure you’re mixing up your diet. Not only will this help to ensure you are getting all the right kinds of nutrients you need but it will also help to keep your meals interesting. Nobody is ever going to stick to a really restrictive diet so make sure you vary it up a bit to ensure you stick to your goals.

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90/10

You’ll all be glad to hear that Ben isn’t tee-total when it comes to getting your fitness and nutrition right. He advocates a 90/10 split in your diet as if you get it right 90% of the time your body should be able to deal with the other 10% and still maintain the kind of composition your are looking for. So don’t feel too guilty for that pint and curry after a game on a Saturday, without it you might struggle to stick to your healthy eating the rest of the time. Just be careful that you don’t start to go beyond the 90/10 split as the more the two figures start to come together the harder you’re going to find it to maintain your body composition.

Supplements

Ben points to three key supplements that would be useful to all rugby players once they have got their basic nutrition right. I’m sure many of you will already be packing whey protein shakes in your gym kits and taking creatine, what many of you may not however be aware of is the benefits of a magnesium supplement. magnesium is a great aid in recovery, particularly after a bruising game of rugby.

Recovery

As mentioned Ben is a big advocate of magnesium supplements, after particularly bruising games think about using magnesium bath salts to help recover from delays onset muscle soreness (DOMS). In addition Ben also has a tasty recommendation for helping your recover from injuries. Get down to your local butchers and buy plenty of on-the-bone meat, get it all in a pan with some stock and a whole load of veggies. Leave it to stew for a while before removing the bones. The resultant broth is packed full of the kinds of nutrients that will help improve recovery times.

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Meal Plans

As a general guide to how your meals should look each day Ben suggests something like the below;

  • Breakfast – large omelette packed full of veggies
  • Lunch – a big salad with a decent sized portion of protein (ideally meat)
  • Dinner – portion of meat with veg/salad and some carbs such as a jacket potato
  • Snacks – whey protein shake, smoothie made with milk and mixed fruits or some fruit salad and greek yoghurt with honey

The key here is to consume the bulk of your carbs post training. As you can see it is key to get as much protein in to each meal as possible along with a big portion of veg or leafy greens.

As you can see potentially there’s a huge amount to consider when trying to get into the right kind of shape for rugby but with the right amount of prep and planning your health and fitness goals are attainable. It is all down to the individual so play around with your diet and find what works for you. This isn’t rocket science but it is clear that for a lot of people there needs to be a huge shift in mentality.

The thing Ben made most apparent for me was how wrong a lot of health advice out there is. For years the mantra particularly of Government backed advice is that all fat is bad, well if you want a counter argument for that just look at Ben. He’s in great shape and has a diet that isn’t restrictive and is full of healthy fats allowing him to play and train on a pretty much daily basis. His tip about a magnesium supplement should also come in pretty handy this season as I find myself spending more time than I would probably like to in the front row.

I highly recommend giving Ben a follow on Twitter (@BenCoomber) and checking out his podcast if you’re keen to pick up and more top tips.

A big thank you to Ben for taking the time out to speak to us and all the best to him and Ipswich YM RUFC this season.

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