THE thrill of winning is a feeling that professional rugby player Dave Kearney says he can’t quite explain, but it’s one that drives him to do all he can to stay in peak physical condition.
Training and fitness are a huge part of the picture, but so too is good nutrition. The Ireland and Leinster star says eating the right food is inextricably linked to his performance on the pitch.
And that means making sacrifices. For instance, he took just a single day off at Christmas and while he enjoyed a festive dinner with family, he didn’t go over the top. He trained on Christmas Eve and was back on the pitch again on St Stephen’s Day. “It’s something you get used to. It’s a choice. You just don’t go off and have pizza and chips and burgers,” he tells Feelgood.
Getting your diet right is crucial for everyone who wants to live a healthy life but, for Kearney, it has been particularly important in the run-up to the Six Nations Championship. An average day for the wing and fullback looks something like this.
Breakfast is usually porridge or granola or eggs and bacon, along with some supplements and vitamins.
He’ll have a protein shake during his morning gym session, followed by lunch (chicken, veg, salad and sweet potatoes) at any time from 11am.
Then it’s back to more training, followed by a recovery drink. After that, it’s time for a light snack — maybe a salad— and dinner (steak, chicken or fish with sweet potatoes, butternut squash and veg) at about 6.30pm.
“You want to give yourself every chance of being a better player and being a step ahead. Daily routine and a proper diet are of the utmost important. If you are not eating well, you will be in trouble,” he says.
Though the focus on good wholesome food is not new to Kearney. He and his older brother, fellow rugby star Rob, grew up on a dairy and potato farm in the Cooley peninsula in Co Louth.
As a teenager, he boarded at Clongowes Wood College, Kildare, where, he says, the food was always pretty good. Although, he admits there was one pasta dish they all dreaded.
When he’s not following his daily nutrition routine to the letter, he likes to cook himself. Ask him if he’s a good cook and he laughs, adding: “It’s really not too difficult to cook a steak on a barbecue.”
There has to be the occasional treat too. He has a weakness for chocolate. “Dark chocolate with sea salt is a favourite and the nutritionist has said it’s not as bad as other chocolate,” he says.
During the season, there’s a no-alcohol rule but if he had a few days off, he might let his guard down and have a pint. Or indeed he might be the one pulling the pints at The Bridge 1859 in Ballsbridge, Dublin, which he owns with brother Rob and fellow players Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien.
“We help out and have a laugh. You have to let your hair down sometimes,” he says.
In general, though, he thinks that men (and not just athletes) are now more concerned with diet and fitness and that it’s a good thing.
Looking ahead, he says he thinks about his life post-rugby.“Putting the body on the line is part of the job. That is why recovery time is so important. You have to keep your body in good nick.”
That’s one of the reasons he’s chosen to be brand ambassador for Cleanmarine Krill Oil. Made by Co Wicklow-based company Naturalife, Krill Oil is a blend of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids designed to maintain a healthy heart, boost energy and support healthy testosterone levels.
He says he hopes that men will aim to be healthy at all stages of life. Ask him what he’ll be doing when he reaches pension age and he says running for the bus and walking the Camino.
n If you want to play tag rugby with Dave Kearney at a ‘Cleanmarine Afternoon Boost’ on fitness and health in the Aviva Stadium this spring, log on to www.cleanmarine.ie/win to register.
Anyone aged over 18 is eligible. Attendance is free but limited to 10 places.
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