Phil Burgess, Dan Norton and Jamie Barden chat to Lauren Taylor about how they fuel themselves before a big match or training session.
The HSBC London Rugby Sevens kicks off on Saturday, with 16 countries – including Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales – playing 45 matches over two days.
If you’re new to ‘sevens’, it’s different to ‘fifteens’ rugby union, in that there are less players on the pitch and the games are much shorter (seven minutes each side), but the size of the field and the rules are the same. It’s now an Olympic sport, included for the first time in Rio 2016, and teams are looking for qualifying places Tokyo 2020 – so this weekend’s tournament, the last in the HSBC World Series, will be telling.
We caught up with some of the England players to find out what makes the perfect pre-game or training session breakfast.
Phil Burgess, flanker in the England team, says breakfast is a particularly important meal ahead of tough training sessions.
“At home, I’d always have a smoothie; whole milk, oats, protein, yoghurt, nut butter, frozen fruit, frozen spinach, and then I’d have a mixture of powders – sometimes maca, spirulina, wheatgrass, chia seeds – things that I know add value, but on their own would be a bit time-consuming, so I whack them all in a smoothie.
“For me, breakfast is about fuelling my body for the day, so I don’t really see it in terms of having avocado on toast, or something I’m going to enjoy. When I’m working, I need to have my calories. I just know that if I didn’t achieve in training or I was more tired, it would always play on my mind, ‘Did I have enough fuel?’
“Working hard in the gym, or working hard when you’re running, is a relatively easy decision – it’s all mental. And it’s the same for food, you’re the one buying the food, you can control that.”
Barden (in the middle of the huddle above) is just 19, making him one of the youngest in the England team.
“For breakfast, I like to keep to it quite simple. I have two slices of brown seeded bread and then I have scrambled eggs on top of that – three or four eggs. If I’m still feeling a little hungry after that, I’ll have some porridge with berries.
“Overnight oats have been a big saviour for some of the boys who like a bit of a lie in – make it the night before, put it in the fridge, wake up and eat it on the way to training.”
On a training day, Barden says they look to eat around 3,000 calories. “On the ‘off’ days, you obviously want to step back a bit from that, because you’re not doing anything to warrant eating more,” he says. “Some boys in the house will eat four or five meals a day! I have around four – I have an extra meal after the gym.”
Winger Norton, 31, holds the record for the most tries ever scored in rugby sevens.
“I’ll have breakfast at 7:30am, before we meet for training at the gym around 9am. I’ll have a mix of muesli and porridge, it sounds similar, but porridge is a bit boring on it’s own, it goes a bit dry. So I weigh them both out, add in the milk, put it in the microwave, add some berries and seeds on top, lace it with honey, obviously, nice and sweet. And I’ll have that with a matcha green tea – a bit healthy and boring.
“The nice thing is that it’s a slow release, with some fruit on top, so it keeps up your energy.
“I’ll also have a protein shake with that, with extra carbs. Carbs are key to sevens – energy, energy, energy. In the shake, I’ll have a scoop of protein and a scoop of carbs [powder]. The protein is low sugar, and for me, I need to have a lot more carbs to keep my weight on and energy up.
“I don’t like having a coffee in the morning, I try and limit my coffee before I play. On match day, I avoid greens, because they’re a lot coarser, they sit in your stomach a bit. I’m after fast-acting foods, more carbs than protein, fruit and seeds – natural sugars.”
As you’d expect, Norton’s diet is healthy generally, but he does have one ‘naughty’ favourite – “I love a cream tea!”