By Joyce Fegan
HE’S played for the Maori All Blacks and he’s currently signed to Leinster, so if there is anyone who can talk about fuelling their body for optimal performance it is 25-year-old professional rugby player James Lowe.
Standing at over 6ft tall, the New Zealander’s physical presence is strongly felt. I’m to meet him in Leinster Rugby’s headquarters in University College Dublin. I’ve been shown my seat by their press handler. My back is to the door as I prepare myself for the interview. With our two seats facing each square on, James jumps into the seat opposite me, all 15 or so stone of him. His jovial demeanour is instantly disarming.
We chat about the scenery of his homeland and the scenery of ours before getting to meat of today’s interview — what he eats to perform at his best.
“Eating, what you put into your body, it’s fuel. You don’t put 91 RON (standard petrol) in a Ferrari do you? So if you want to be moving and acting like a Ferrari, you’ve got to watch the quality of food you do put in - how much carbs? How much protein? Protein is awesome for recovery, especially at night when you’re asleep,” says James.
About seven years ago, the full-back got serious about his nutrition, particularly the recovery side of it. While it is now like second nature to him, the difference to his game and output is obvious.
James is open about his week and what he puts into his body for optimal output.
“For breakfast, porridge and a banana with a bit of honey will get me through to lunch time. If I do feel like a snack there’s always fruit and fruit is always a good source [of nutrition] and it keeps you going.
“Lunch is normally a bigger meal because we would have had a training or a gym session or we would have been on the pitch in the morning and bar a little snack that would get me through to dinner,” he says.
For his evening meal he will steer clear of carbohydrates, relying on protein to allow for overnight recovery from the day’s training.
“At night I try and stay away from carbs because they will get stored, so I have protein and a salad.”
The no-carb rule for his evening meal means he’s energised and ready to take on the next day’s training schedule.
“It makes it a lot easier when the sun is out don’t get me wrong — but if you put the right fuel in at night it makes everything a lot easier,” he says.
Optimum Nutrition, which has been the official sports nutrition partner of Leinster Rugby for six seasons, takes tailored care of his nutritional needs.
According to a spokesman for Optimum, the average protein intake is 210g for a rugby player that weighs 103kg. Based on the same weight - their average calorie intake on training days, gym and pitch work, is 4,000 calories and this reduces to 3,000 on recovery days.
“Protein,which is broken down into amino acids in the body plays an important role in providing essential building blocks to the damaged muscle allowing it to repair and rebuild after each training session. As the body does not store protein consuming high quality protein around exercise is central to providing the muscle with the key elements it needs to optimise recovery,” says the spokesman.
He recommends protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds and legumes for sports people and states that athletes. It is normal for athletes to consume at least two to four times more protein than a non-exercising athlete.
Recovery and nutrition aside, rugby has brought him from one hemisphere to another, and Ireland has been good to him as have the fans, even of opposing teams. He first came to Ireland wearing a black jersey and was welcomed with open arms and found Irish fans to be very tolerant and respectful.
But nowadays he’s wearing a Leinster jersey, his team are the 2018 European champions as of this month, and the Aviva has been as good to him.
“It’s weird to call rugby your job. I know how bloody lucky I am — I’m on the other side of the world playing rugby, in front of packed out Aviva Stadium.”