It was a comeback that defied logic. Harlequins’ season was all but over as they trailed Bristol 28-0 after 30 minutes of their 2021 Premiership rugby semi-final before a miraculous revival.
Four second half tries saw Quins stun Bristol and level the scores at the end of normal time before they completed an incredible turnaround to win the game 43-36 after extra time.
Fans and pundits have since been asking the same question – how did Harlequins find the physical and mental fortitude to fight back? The answer may well lie in their nutrition strategy…
At Harlequins, no stone is left unturned in their search for marginal gains and key to that approach is the food, drink and supplements players put in their bodies every day of the week.
Since working with SiS, Quins players have focused on consuming vast amounts of carbohydrates the day before and on the morning of games so that they can run harder, faster and further than their opponents.
Fuelling correctly means that the club’s players were able to maintain high intensity sprints, keep making big tackles and focus for the entire 100 minutes.
Fuelling Harlequins’ comeback started at half-time. Some of the club’s players weigh over 130 kgs, which means that they burn large amounts of energy during a game of rugby.
As a result, fuelling at half-time is crucial to ensure their physical and mental tanks remain full, so that they can still perform at their maximum intensity until the final whistle.
Consuming enough carbohydrates through food is difficult, so at half-time Quins players used GO Energy and Electrolyte, GO Isotonic and Surge gels, which allow for high speed refuelling – much like an F1 car during a pit stop.
Nutrition is tailored to the needs of each individual player – those that need large quantities of carbs often favour Isotonic gels, which are easy to digest, while others use a combination of gels and energy bakes.
Staying focused on the job at hand in the heat of battle is no easy task and doing it at 28-0 down is even harder, but nutrition can play a vital role in maintaining concentration.
Carbohydrate is the fuel the brain uses to function and so Quins players have been educated that they have to refuel or risk lapses in concentration that could cost their team during games.
To avoid this, Quins’ comeback heroes also used Surge gels – which provide a combination of caffeine and carbohydrates – as well as caffeine shots pre-match and at half-time.
Surge gels have proven popular with Quins players with higher body mass who struggle to consume enough caffeine through traditional sources such as tea and coffee.
Fuelling for 80 minutes is one thing but an additional 20 minutes of extra-time provided a rare and significant challenge for Quins to overcome as they sought to complete their stunning comeback.
Sweltering heat also provided another obstacle, as players tried to take onboard enough fluid and electrolytes to avoid becoming dehydrated, which would’ve hampered their physical and mental performance.
Hydro Tablets were another key weapon in their nutritional armoury. The tablets were added to the players’ drinks at half-time so that they avoided cramp, which can often occur during hot weather.
Additional energy gels were also consumed as they refuelled again ahead of one final push that saw them score more points in extra time as they pulled off a stunning comeback to reach the final.
The full-time whistle was greeted with ecstatic celebrations from players and staff, but in the immediate aftermath of the game, focus swiftly turned to recovery ahead of the final.
Protein smoothies using SiS Whey Protein were used to start repairing players’ muscles after full-time, while they were also given REGO Cherry Juice, which is packed full of antioxidants and can help to reduce muscle soreness after games.
Sleep Plus – a product that has been designed to improve sleep quality – was also available to players, though many would surely have struggled to sleep after the most remarkable of comebacks.
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