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The All Blacks' World Cup Winning Diet

Considering they're the best rugby team in the world, it's probably worth taking a bit of nutritional advice from the All Blacks. The first thing you should know is that the All Blacks diet has changed considerably over the past decade. The New Zealand Rugby Union is widely known as an innovative organization so its no surprise that before the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks diet underwent an overhaul. The diet is now more in line with the concepts of Low-Carb Healthy-Fat (LCHF) espoused and used personally by their strength and conditioning coach Nic Gill.

Who Made The Changes?

Far from being "just" a strength and conditioning coach for the All Blacks, Nick Gill is a world class athlete in his own right and brings many of his personal training protocols to the All Blacks. He was a member of the NZ Mens Coxless Four (rowing) Winning Gold at 2007 World Champs as well as being an elite endurance racer. As he has explained in an interview, his journey towards creating the All Blacks World-Cup winning diet started a long time before the matches in London.

“Two and a half years ago I started experimenting with the Warrior diet based on the book ‘The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse for High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body’ by Ori Hormekler. The book appealed to me, and it meant eating pretty much whatever I wanted but in a retracted eating window at the end of the day. It’s based on primal/paleo and anthropological principals." 

“After a while I discovered that the more fat I ate at night the less hungry I felt the next day and I was able to control the cravings and just generally feel better. The warrior diet transformed into LCHF with some intermittent fasting thrown in. That’s really the best diet for me. The advantages of metabolic flexibility are huge. I’m not forced to eat because I’m hungry. And in the rush of work and life I can choose to eat when I want to, not when I need to.”

The All Blacks Diet at Rugby World Cup 2015

Between the 2011 and 2015 world cups, a lot changed in nutrition science. In 2012, research began to circulate that indicated endurance athletes were seeing performance benefits from using a low-carbohydrate and higher-fat composition diet. Many subsequent studies have revealed that Low-Carb Healthy-Fat (LCHF) diets are being widely adopted by ultra-marathoners, cyclists and competitive obstacle racers. Luckily for the All Blacks their strength and conditioning coach Nick Gill was one such athlete. As he explains in an interview with Author and Professor Grant Schofield,

“Most of the guys now understand that we need to get the sugar out. We’ve come a long way. I would say we are in a low-sugar environment... We now have nuts on the sideline after training. I wouldn’t say we’ve made it all the way to high fat, but we have healthy fat on hand when we need it. We (the team) go through 6-7 tins of coconut oil a week. We travel with peanut butter and nut butters for the guys to use in smoothies and wherever else it can fit in”. - Nic Gill

Some endurance athletes, like Gill, are able to become almost completely fat-adjusted during competition because the energy contained in fat is broken down slightly slower than the energy from carbohydrates. But this is not necessarily the case for athletes in high-intensity sports like rugby. So the All Blacks diet at RWC2015 varied a lot depending on the day of the week. On game day, the diet was more carbohydrate-based with fruits and simple carbs like pasta and rice. But throughout the week, players were encouraged to eat a LCHF diet of nuts & nut butters, avocados, eggs, salmon and coconut oil.

We can't say for certain exactly what individual diet plans looked like for the All Blacks' during the World Cup. But based on the interviews Gill has given, an educated guess would look a lot like this:

All Blacks Game-Day Diet

BREAKFAST - Peanut butter toast and roasted tomatoes. An omelette with egg whites, butter and coconut oil mixed in. Some simple greens like spinach and a half an avocado. Fresh fruit including oranges and bananas for their potassium content.

LUNCH - Lean chicken, rice, pasta and sweet potatoes eaten at last 3 hours before warm ups.

PRE-MATCH - Porridge with bananas, almond butter and honey. Water and some electrolytes were probably encouraged.

POST-MATCH - Nuts and nut butters, fluids and simple fruits plus a shake with whey protein, bananas and walnuts.

DINNER - Red meats including steak, lamb chops and ribs. Green vegetables including spinach, guacamole and brussel sprouts as well as more sweet potatoes.

All Blacks Off-Day Diet

BREAKFAST - The omelette stay in, this time with whole eggs rather than whites. But on off days they may add organic bacon to the mix along with mushrooms, spinach and an avocado. No fruits or grains on off days, so cut out the bread, porridge and waffles.

LUNCH - Probably looks completely different to the game-day meal. If Gill is saying the All Blacks diet was devoid of sugars, then there's probably no fruit, pasta or rice at lunch time.

DINNER - Fattier meats that are high in omega 3 like grilled salmon. Fresh vegetables, spinach again along with broccoli. Desert may have been greek yoghurt with organize blueberries for their anti-oxidant properties.