How I fuel: Jack Nowell
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The England and Exeter Chiefs winger puts away around 5,000 calories each day to fuel his stringent training regime and busy match schedule. But what is he eating, when and why?
When you consider that a pro rugby player's working day often involves spending 7.30am-3.00pm training in the gym, it's easier to understand why Exeter Chiefs winger Jack Nowell is putting away over double the daily calories of your average person.
When he's not dead-lifting eye-watering amounts during his nine-to-five, Jack's Saturdays are spent playing gruelling 15-on-15 games with the Chiefs, leaving his Sundays free to recover from the many thunderous collisions inevitably endured the day before.
It's a demanding job that must be fuelled with a meticulously planned diet. Here the 26-year-old Cornishman shares an insight into what he eats each day to maximise his performance and recovery.
How many meals a day do you have?
We’re very lucky at the club because we have breakfast and lunch given to us, which is based around our sessions each day.
I always have two meals at the club and as soon as I’m home, I have another meal around four o’clock and then I’ll try and have my dinner around seven o’clock.
Overall, I’ll have about four big meals a day.
Talk us through the food you eat on a standard training day.
I wake up, then have 5g of glutamine, colostrum and creatine mixed with orange juice or apple juice (mainly for the taste). Breakfast is toast, avocado, spinach, eggs (poached or scrambled), bacon or sausage and then some porridge to finish. Lunch is usually a chicken breast or steak, with rice or potatoes and green veg like broccoli or peas, and a salad.
Dinner is similar to lunch, but concentrating more on protein – so more chicken or steak, with limited carbs and more veg. I don’t really have snacks during the day, as I have bigger meals. Before bed I’ll have 20g of casein protein, with 5g of creatine, glutamine and colostrum.
How many calories do you consume a day?
I’m not a big calorie counter, so I’m not sure, but with all the protein shakes and the amount I eat I could well be having 4,000-5,000 calories a day.
What do you eat the night before match?
The meal I eat the night before a match is important. Dinner is a bit of a tradition: it’s always barbecue chicken fajitas, guacamole, salsa, sour cream – the full works. Then some ice cream or rice pudding.
I’ll quite often have my mum and dad up with me, as they come and watch the game and they stay the night before, so [having chicken fajitas] has kind of turned into a big family tradition. I feel very, very weird if I don’t have fajitas the night before a game!
[My Chiefs team-mate, hooker] Jack Yeandle, who lives next door to me, quite often comes over for fajitas as well, but I’ve got to be the one that cooks them unfortunately!
What do you eat on match day?
I probably only have two small meals [on a game day] as I get a lot of my food in the day before the game. If we’re playing on Saturday, Friday will be quite a big day for me to eat, so I’ll have four or five meals that day. I’ll eat quite late night in the night and when I wake up, I’m not that hungry, so I don’t have to fill up as much and just have a little top-up during match days.
On the day of a game, for breakfast, it’s a bowl of porridge, toast, egg and avocado. Lunch is usually small and simple, such as pasta with tomato and chicken. Post-match is pizza or Indian takeaway – I usually allow myself to eat whatever I want.
How do you use Red Bull as part of your training and before a match?
Red Bull’s a big one for me as it gives you that energy [that you need].
I don’t drink coffee at all. Coffee’s quite a big thing in rugby where a lot of the boys rely on the caffeine hit from it. For me, I just stick to Red Bull for that.
It keeps you focused, it gives you that energy hit you need before each session I think.
I probably have one can a day before our main session and then I’ll quite often have two cans before a game. I’ll sip one on the way to the stadium, when I’m in the stadium and I’ll quite often have one before I go out and play.
Dinner is a bit of a tradition: it’s always barbecue chicken fajitas, guacamole, salsa, sour cream – the full works. I feel very, very weird if I don’t have fajitas the night before a game!
Do you have a set meal/nutrition plan?
I don’t, but some of the forward boys do in order to control their weight. I’m one of the lucky ones who can eat pretty much what I want and stay the same weight and keep my fitness.
If we were coming over for a fancy dinner, what would you cook for us?
As I’m the son of a fisherman, it would have to be nice, light crab or a prawn cocktail starter, followed by Dover or lemon sole, dipped in a bit of flour, pan-fried, then grilled. I’d make a pretty mean salad, alongside homemade French fries. Then dessert would be the big finish – I’d pull out all the stops with a chocolate fountain.
To find out more about how Jack and other Red Bull athletes train, fuel and think, head to the Red Bull Pro hub.