1.  Probiotics to keep you in the game and out of the doctor’s office.

Probiotics are the good microorganisms in our body that science has demonstrated can help fight of bad microorganisms that can make us sick.   In a study utilizing 30 elite rugby players the researchers demonstrated that probiotics can indeed keep you healthy and avoid missing matches due to illness.  When taking probiotics 16/30 got sick after the 4 week period compared to the 24/30 in the placebo group also the probiotic group had less days on average 3.4 compared to the 5.8 of the placebo.  There are many commercial products available to consume probiotics such as yogurt or a quick shot of Danactive or a similar product should do the trick.

 Haywood, Brylee A., et al. "Probiotic supplementation reduces the duration and incidence of infections but not severity in elite rugby union players." Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2013)

 2. Caffeine and Carbohydrates keep you explosive on the pitch.

 Researchers utilizing a rugby union-specific protocol found that a combination of carbohydrates and caffeine caused faster 15 meter sprints, faster motor skills test, and lower rate of perceived exertion (RPE) than the placebo.  That means you can move faster, more accurately, and feel like you are working less than your opponent; talk about a tactical advantage.  To match the same formula used in the experiment consume 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight along with 4 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight.  Consume the beverage about 1 hour before the match to allow the caffeine to kick-in.  For example: to create a similar beverage than the one in the study mix 7 tablespoons of Gatorade(or similar sports drink) powder in 16 ounces of water and with 1.5 Vivarins (200mg of caffeine per pill) would roughly meet the guidelines for a 180lb individual(82 kilograms).

 Roberts, Simon P., et al. "Effects of carbohydrate and caffeine ingestion on performance during a rugby union simulation protocol." Journal of sports sciences 28.8 (2010): 833-842.

3. Get cold to recover.

Tournament style play is not always won by the “best” team but rather the team that is best at recovering and can maintain a high level of play.  In order    to optimize recovery time of ruggers Italian researchers concluded 10 minutes of cold water immersion of the legs followed by 10 minutes of active        recovery (light cycling) can be effective at improving recovery based on blood markers.  However you do not need a fancy Italian research group to  implement this protocol for you team.  Just get some large trash cans and fill them with ice and water and if a stationary bike is out of the question have  the player walk leisurely for 10 minutes after coming out of the water.  This simple 20 minute drill after your match might mean your team is fresher and  more recovered than your opponents in the next match.

 Banfi, Giuseppe, Gianluca Melegati, and Pascal Valentini. "Effects of cold-water immersion of legs after training session on serum creatine kinase concentrations in rugby players." British journal of sports medicine 41.5 (2007): 339-339.

 Although simple, these three practices alone have to the potential to help you play faster, longer, and miss less days due to illness.  Not too shabby for free article that only took 5 minutes to read.  Just think of all the time and money you just saved.  Probably enough to invest in a sweet new American Sin Bin rugby shirt:http://www.americansinbin.com/collections/mens-gear

Go ahead; you earned it. 

Nick Barringer MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS