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England Sevens: What to eat to stay in shape

Feeding time: Celebrity chef Neil Rankin gives the England Sevens boys a lesson Rugby World

Players on the Sevens circuit are some of the fittest athletes in the game but what is their attitude to nutrition? Here are a few tips from the England Sevens boys


The London leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series takes place this weekend at Twickenham, with the foodie theme ‘a Feast of Rugby’. Never one’s to miss a meal, RW went to Soho for a butchery lesson from celebrity chef Neil Rankin at his restaurant Temper and caught up with a trio of England Sevens stars to quiz them about their nutrition needs…

Alex Davis
Age 24
Position: Centre
Height 1.86m
Weight 92kgs
Honours: England U16, 19, England Sevens

Footrace: Alex Davis gets to the ball first in the England v Argentina game in Sydney Rugby World
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Attitude to food
“As senior players, you don’t get told what to do, it’s more about taking responsibility. Our nutritionist says you have listen to your body and feed your hunger. It needs fuel. Personally, I’ve always been quite a foodie because I know you can get those marginal gains. I like to keep my protein intake up but we don’t worry too much about small fat gains because you’ll burn it off training.”

Tale of the tape
“We have a nutritionist that comes in quite regularly that checks in with us on our intake and does a skinfold test. He looks at eight sites around the body and it’s measured every 4-6 weeks between tournaments.

Top tip
“I was out injured for a while, and while most people would think you need to eat less, in fact, you need to eat just as much, if not more because your body is having to work hard to recover your muscle or joints that are healing.”

Pre-match meal
“Before a Series leg, my go-to is pasta carbonara because it’s gives you energy. Believe me, you’ll need it!”

Key quote: “Try and eat a rainbow a day.”
“We get fed well at our training base and load up on protein like chicken, fish and ham but I’m also mindful to eat plenty of colourful veg, which will give you different vitamins and minerals and add nutritional value.”

Charlie Hayter
Age 28
Position: Wing
Height 1.87m
Weight 98kgs
Clubs: Nottingham, London Scottish, Worcester Warriors, Moseley, Wasps

Skills: England's Charlie Hayter offloads the ball against Russia in Hong Kong Rugby World

Attitude to food
“We try to get as much energy as we can in. That means getting in four or five meals a day. I’ll get carbs in early on, say some porridge, oats, milk and berry seeds. Lovely. I’ll also take my supplements and get an early morning shake in. Now we’re approaching off-season, it’s about refuelling with a balance of meat, veg and carbs. I’ll look to stay within the 97-100kg area.”

Get your preparation right
“We train every day, with our main days being Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. I plan ahead so I can tailor my intake. For example, when you have a death zone session (a high-intensity session), you’ll load up on carbs the night before.”

Top tip
“Make sure you eat your leafy greens for their nutrients; spring greens like kale, chard, spinach and bang them in a sauce for your main meal. Also try and get some fish in your diet. I like smoked mackerel on rye bread and try not to have too much red meat because it can take longer to digest.”

Pre-match meal
“Before every tournament, I always have a roast chicken with all the trimmings – it’s a bit of a superstition of mine but on the night before a tournament, I’d go for a tomato-based pasta.”

Key quote: “Regarding alcohol, we trust team members to make the right decisions.”
“We tend to self-monitor and we’re pretty controlled throughout the season, but after two consecutive tournament weekends, we tend to let our hair down, even though the turnaround is so tight.”

Richard de Carpentier
Age 27
Position: Flanker
Height 1.93m
Weight 105kgs
Clubs: Nottingham, Leicester Tigers, Worcester Warriors

On the hoof: RIchard de Carpentier takes flight against the Blitzbokke Rugby World

Attitude to food
“I’m one of the bigger lads, so I need some bulk to carry through people, but I tend to cut out carbs in the evening. In fact, I only eat them during training; stuff like pasta, potatoes, rice, wraps. When I was playing 15-a-side, I was eating carbs all the time.

If you’re carrying any bad weight you can really feel it…
“You need to get lots of variety in your diet. I eat a lot of broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, mange tout, peas and carrots. It is about eating up the rainbow. I’m 106-107kgs and a lot fitter and leaner than I used to be playing fifteens.”

Top tip
“Stay disciplined. It’s only human to want to switch off in off-season, but you’ll have to work three times as hard to work off the extras, especially if you’re my size!”

Pre-match meal
“I like to have chicken and pasta, I don’t want anything that could upset my stomach with all the nerves. Having carbs feels like a treat.”

Key quote: “You wouldn’t put olive oil in a Ferrari…or a Hummer in my case”
Nutrition is so important and you need to put the right stuff in. However, you need a good balance. There’s nothing wrong with a spaghetti Bolognese or a pizza every so often…my nutritionist will kill me for saying that!

Tickets start at £40 for an adult and can be purchased in advance from http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/HSBC-London-Sevens-tickets/artist/28827

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