Twitter Q&A: Graeme Close, Expert Nutrition Consultant to the England Rugby Team
How does your nutritional advice differ in preparing a rugby player for competition compared to a golfer?
The principles are very much the same. It is about achieving an ideal physique, so obviously muscle mass is different for the two sports. It is important for golfers see themselves as athletes too, but they need to be fit for their personal environment which may be 5 hours on the course, 4 days running. Rugby players on the whole are looking for lean muscle mass and low fat, so we work towards those goals and but with specificities for each player.
Which players are most obsessive with their diet?
I can’t name individuals, but over the last few years, players have realised the importance of diet. When 1% here and there can make the difference between a win and a loss. In general, players have a greater knowledge nowadays and they realise that you cannot out-train a bad diet, so take it very seriously.
Healthy eating over Christmas? Any advice?
Portion control! It's all about that! A Christmas dinner as a dinner isn't that unhealthy, but we tend to eat our own body weight. A key tip is 'try to avoid things in wrappers!' – eat plenty of veg and enjoy the time of year!
What do you recommend for vegetarian athletes, particularly around protein?
You need to be organised. Eggs are superb if they are happy to eat them and the same goes with fish. It's about getting protein from varying sources - this can make up for the lack of meat in the diet.
Is sugar the devil?
I wouldn't go that far, but most people do consume far too much of it! It can have some serious negative health effects, especially for elite athletes. These guys don't consume as many sports drinks as maybe people think they do!
Are there any supplements that elite athletes use to improve performance/recovery that the public isn't aware of?
I don't think the public realise the amount of focus that is put on food - high quality meats and veg. There has been a reduction in the use of supplements as the results of improving general diet far outweigh what we can get in a bottle.
What’s your position on the opinion that saturated fats are good for you? And how should this effect diet?
Not all saturated fats are treated equally - I like to focus on food rather than components of foods. Avocado and coconut, for example, are very healthy, but high in saturated fat... The opinion that ALL are bad is wrong. They definitely have a key place within a balanced healthy diet and are not as 'evil' as excessive sugars.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to forge a career in sports nutrition?
Get quality qualifications and try to get some hands-on experience whilst gaining these qualifications. Experience doesn't have to be at the elite level, just get some under your belt! Create a network and make yourself known to those already in the industry. Get yourself on the @SENregister which shows you are competent to provide advice to others. A combination of all aspects and you'll be set!
What pre and post nutritional recommendations would you give to the average person when competing in sport?
That completely depends on what sport the individual is competing in. A marathon runner has different needs to a sprinter. Pre-competition should include a light meal that is easily digested and doesn't sit in the stomach during performance. Post-game food should be proteins to help repair any tissue damage and carbohydrates to help replace lost energy.