We’re thrilled to introduce Jon Williams - Welsh Rugby Union's squad nutritionist and director of Pro Athlete Supplements (PAS) as our special guest interview!
Simba sat down with Jon, pictured left with business partner Darren Campbell who set up PAS in 2006, to talk through the kind of pressures and stresses athletes are exposed to when it comes to their recovery and what makes the crucial difference when performing at the elite level…
What are the main challenges you see professional rugby players face when trying to maintain peak levels of fitness, particularly in a career that is such a physically demanding contact sport?
“There is a huge amount of pressure on athletes when it comes to their recovery after a big game. As spectators, we only really see the surface of the amount of work that these athletes are putting into their physical preparation for the game. In reality, players have a very short turnaround time to reach 100% fitness again within a few days, to be able to train again the following Monday- week-in, week-out! To compete at such a high standard, every player must have a full week to work on conditioning, strength training and skills”
So what’s the key to effective recovery?
“Simple...a well-planned diet and good quality sleep! Over the past few years, there has been a heavy focus on the role of sleep, which was highlighted when Team Sky began taking their own mattresses and pillows to major races so their riders got a good night’s rest. When the stakes are so high, why take the risk of your top cyclist going into a race after a poor night’s sleep?”
*To discover more about Simba - the most advanced mattress in the world click here!
You mentioned that over the years there has been a growing focus on sleep in sport. Can a bad night’s sleep really affect an athlete’s performance?
“If an athlete is not getting good quality or enough sleep this can be detrimental. One sleepless night is the equivalent to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.1%, which is actually over the drink drive limit. A player's speech will be slowed and balance, vision and reaction times will be impaired. A recent study showed that response speeds were up to 50% slower and accuracy measures significantly lower. In professional sport, where the margins between success and failure are so small, this can be the difference between winning or losing, on a personal level and as part of a team.”
What do you recommend to your athletes around sleep?
“It’s proven that athletes who get 6 hours sleep or less have increased injury rates. In one study they found that the number of hours slept was the strongest predictor of injuries. It’s no surprise that sleep is so vital for an athlete because whilst we’re asleep many of the recovery processes take place, muscles are rested, nourished with nutrients and the mind has time to switch off. I recommend getting a full 8 hours sleep per night to allow your body enough vital recovery time.”
Are there any specific causes of a bad night’s sleep for an athlete?
“A common problem is the ‘game day effect’. Nerves, excitement, adrenaline and staying in alien environments like hotels can all keep players awake at night. It could happen to them once and then they have the fear of it happening again and exaggerating the problem. Sleeping after the game can be just as hard due to high caffeine intakes pre-game, late kickoffs and adrenaline all make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.”
Can you tell us how you approach nutrition with the elite athletes you work with?
“As soon as the players leave the pitch my main focus is replenishing muscle glycogen, re-hydration, promoting muscle repair and reducing cortisol levels. I use a BCAA electrolyte blend (AGF-2) mixed with an isotonic drink (Pro Iso). Then in the dressing rooms, a recovery shake usually containing a carbohydrate and protein blend, which is a great way to start this process. I keep the process going with recovery snacks such as healthy chicken goujons and salmon skewers until the players are ready to eat a balanced meal about an hour later.
The correct daily intake of protein, carbs and fats, eaten at regular intervals is very important, along with staying well hydrated.
In terms of helping soft tissue repair, that may have been damaged in contact during games, then a daily protein intake of approx 2g per kilogram of muscle is a good guide, and then aim for a big hit of 40-50g before bed as this is a great time for the body to repair itself during sleep.”
You have developed your own sleep supplement aimed at enhancing recovery processes after exercise. Can you talk us through how this works?
“We wanted to create a product to aid athletes sleep and nighttime recovery. Night Time Recharge (NTR) is a combination of L-Tryptophan, Cherry Active Powder, L-Taurine, L-Glycine, Branched Chain Amino Acids and Magnesium. Cherry Active naturally contains Melatonin, the hormone that anticipates the daily onset of darkness, it gets us ready for sleep. Taurine and Glycine are amino acids that will have a calming effect on neurotransmitters and Magnesium is added for muscle relaxation. The feedback from athletes has been superb, many can’t believe how well it works making it a must have for game day protocols! With 10 games, all 8pm kick-offs and many different hotels the NTR may well be a useful product for the British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand 2017!”
We hope you enjoyed this interview and special thanks to Jon Williams, BSc. To shop Simba - the most advanced mattress in the world, click HERE!
*PAS is an official Supplier to the Welsh Rugby Union, Football Association of Wales, Current Premier League Champions Leicester City FC and the British and Irish Lions