As the sport of rugby league has become more and more professional the players have continued to grow and become impressively muscular. The average NRL athlete now weighs 100kg. How exactly do rugby league players build this herculean size and strength? One big factor is supplementation. It’s time to find out exactly what footy players are using.
What supplements do rugby league players use?
The most common supplements used by rugby players are protein powders, creatine, multivitamins, BCAAs and caffeine. These supplements are safe, legal and have been studied extensively.
Protein powders are used by over 90% of players, creatine over 60%, multivitamins over 60%, BCAAS over 40% and caffeine over 35%. League players will consume between 1-10 supplements during the season with a player taking on average 3 supplements.
How Common Is Supplement Use Among Rugby League Players?
95% of professional rugby league players use supplements. This is based on a survey of 166 English Super League players (England’s top division). Of the players who used supplements the majority used them everyday.
In professional rugby league clubs the supplement regimes are designed by the team’s strength and conditioning coach and the dietician and the club will usually supply them. They will often consult with the player and come up with a supplement plan. Based on Wolfenden’s survey of English Super League players 25% of players had no input into their supplement plans and simply took what they were told and only 29% consulted with the team’s dietician with the majority relying on their strength coach for advice. As the list of banned supplements and the supplement industry is highly unregulated, teams will often not allow players to take their own supplements.
The staff will typically make the supplements daily and then hand them out to the players either before or after training depending on the type of supplement. This is done to ensure players actually stick to their supplement regimes as teams have had issues in the past with non compliance.
Why Do Rugby League Players Use Supplements?
Rugby league players use supplements to build and maintain their muscle (protein, creatine), aid in recovery (creatine, BCAAs), increase their strength and endurance (creatine, Vitamin D) and give them an energy boost (caffeine, beta alanine).
Based on Wolfenden’s survey of English Super League players 90% of players took supplements for recovery, 86% to build muscle, 40% for energy. 18% of league players used supplements to meet dietary requirements and 10% used them as a meal replacement.
With the average NRL player weighing 100kg and the average front rower weighing 110kg, the reality is if you want to be a professional league player you need to develop some impressive size. This leads to footy players always looking for ways to build muscle and then maintain it. This is why protein powders are so popular.
Protein is the building blocks of muscle and anyone will tell you if you want to put on muscle you will need to be eating a lot more protein than the average man. The optimal protein intake for an athlete looking to maximise muscle growth is 1gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you are a young aspiring professional league player who is currently weighing in at 90kg and are looking to bulk up in hopes of getting an NRL call up you will need to be consuming 200g of protein daily.
This can be quite difficult as protein heavy foods such as beef, eggs and chicken tend to make you full fast. To ensure that they hit their daily protein goals NRL players will consume protein powders which are a fast and easy way to bump up their protein intake as each scoop typically contains between 20-30grams, two scoops and an athlete can be well on his way to hitting his goal and putting on some real size.
Rugby league is a very physical game. The amount of high impact collisions athletes are involved in causes some serious damage to the body and some very sore bodies the next day. To help players get out of bed the next morning and back on the training field the following week players will take supplements to boost their recovery. Popular recovery focused supplements include multivitamins, BCAAs, glutamine and creatine.
With a rugby league match lasting 80mins, footy players need a whole lot of energy to ensure they keep running hard and tackling the whole game. Players will often look for ways to ramp up their energy. This is why caffeine and supplements like beta alanine are very popular amongst league athletes.
Studies have shown that 2 cups of coffee 30 mins prior to athletic competition significantly increases endurance, power output and speed and has a significantly positive effect on athletic performance. As this amount of caffeine is safe to consume and there is little risk of adverse side effects it is no wonder so many league players love their coffee.
Do NRL Players Use Creatine?
Creatine is one of the most common supplements used by NRL players with over 60% of players taking it. Creatine has been studied extensively and has shown to help build muscle and increase muscular endurance. As rugby league players are always looking to build size and strength, they will often use creatine.
After protein, creatine is the most popular supplement used by NRL players this is because creatine has been shown to improve performance in strength, power, lean body mass and in sports that are intermittent in nature (team sports involving repeated sprint activity such as rugby league) through improving the anaerobic work capacity.
Volek et al. (1999) examined the effect of creatine supplementation on nineteen male participants. The subjects were split into two groups, one group supplementing their normal diet with creatine and the other with a placebo, before taking part in a 12 week periodised resistance training programme. Following the 12 weeks of creatine supplementation, they reported that participant’s significant increases in lean body mass and increased in both lower and upper body strength by 32 percent and 24 percent respectively. The study also reported significantly greater increases in Type I, IIA, and IIAB muscle fiber cross-sectional areas in those participants using creatine supplementation.
Due to the ability of creatine to aid in strength, muscular development and endurance with little to no side effects and the importance of these factors in rugby league it becomes obvious why so many NRL players are slamming down drinks filled with creatine powder.
Supplements play a big role in rugby league with over 90% of professional players reportedly taking them. With the increased competitiveness of rugby league players are constantly looking for any edge they get over their opposition. As many supplements have shown to be beneficial to athletic performance particularly in building muscle mass, speeding up recovery, increasing strength and boosting energy their usage in rugby league has surged in recent years. The most common supplements used by footy players include protein powders, creatine, multivitamins, BCAAs and caffeine.