Date published: Thursday, September 2, 2010

Engage Super League players took time out of their gruelling season today to take part in a nutritional food master class with one of the country’s finest chefs. Avid Rugby League fan and well-known TV chef, Brian Turner, set up his kitchen on the pitch at Headingley to demonstrate what Rugby League players really need to eat to maintain a healthy diet – whether it’s before a big game, during the off-season or to help avoid injury and illness.

‘Engage with your health’ ambassadors, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Paul Wellens, who will be competing in the end of season play-offs, were among those who attended the healthy brunch and know all too well the importance of good day-to-day nutrition. The players were invited by Brian Turner to assist in preparing a range of healthy recipes, from health boosting fruit smoothies that are quick and easy to make, to chicken breasts cooked in brioche and parmesan, served on a warm potato salad, packed full of protein and carbohydrates.

The players even took part in an omelette ‘cook-off’ as they were able to re-enact Rugby League’s most famous rivalries. First up Paul Wellens of St Helens was beaten by Jamie Jones-Buchanan in a race to see who could cook the fastest omelette with the taste points being decided by Brian himself. In heat two, Chev Walker of Hull KR narrowly beat Mark Calderwood of Hull FC. Luke Adamson of Salford City Reds gained the win against James Evans of Castleford Tigers and in heat four the two Warrington Wolves stars of the future took each other on, fresh from watching their club successfully defend the Challenge Cup at Wembley, and ended up with Ben Evans just closing it out.

Each recipe was designed to optimise dietary intake and analysed by nutritionists from Leeds Metropolitan University who were able to lend scientific rationale behind the choices. The regular intense training undertaken by Rugby League players requires special attention to be paid to maintaining adequate carbohydrate and fluid intakes, to supply the optimum amount of energy and essential nutrients to maintain good health and maximise performance.

Brian Turner said: “I am a huge sports fan so having the opportunity to demonstrate the diet of a Rugby League player and creating recipes for this event has been something I’ve really enjoyed. I chose recipes that I know to be full of carbohydrates, calories and micronutrients – all key components to help a professional athlete through the toughest part of the season. It’s going to be a battle for teams to stay fit through the play-offs so I hope these recipes might be remembered and replicated by the guys.”

Paul Wellens commented: “It’s great to know that it’s so easy to prepare meals that can make such a difference to my performance on the pitch. I know all the benefits of the healthy eating principles but having a busy training schedule means sometimes it’s tough to find the time to make nutritious meals. Brian made it look so easy and I’ll definitely be taking away some of the recipes and trying them at home!”

Tina Clare, Head of Brand at Engage Mutual added: “Playing sport professionally is a full time occupation and players need to be aware of all external factors affecting performance. Nutrition and diet are key strands in our ‘engage with your health’ campaign, which aims to encourage a healthy lifestyle among fans, so it was great to see the players demonstrate their own skills in cooking healthily, and really lead by example!

“Hopefully they have taken some useful tips away from the day, alongside the recipes for a range of quick and simple meals that can assist recovery, stamina, conditioning, strength and speed.”

Fans can see the recipes and video clips from the event on Engagemutual.com/rugby