As the Official Sports Nutrition Supplier to the DHL Stormers and DHL WP, Biogen is delivering a performance nutrition boost to players at the rugby franchise, which boasts a rich heritage and an impressive trophy cabinet.

Founded in 1883, it is the oldest provincial rugby union in South Africa with a multitude of accolades that affirm its position as a true rugby powerhouse, with a record 34 Currie Cup titles, seven Vodacom Cups, and countless other regional and national triumphs.

The success enjoyed by the DHL Stormers and DHL WP stems from the franchise’s dedication to excellence in every aspect of player development, which starts at grassroots level and focuses on a holistic approach that encompasses training, nutrition, lifestyle habits and premium supplements to support physical performance and recovery.

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Building strong players

According to Migael Wahl, Strength and Conditioning Coach at DHL WP, the focus on and importance of the junior or age-group players has become instrumental in the franchise’s success.

“Players are often required to play Currie Cup or even Vodacom United Rugby Championship games within their first 12-18 months out of school, whereas this was less common in the past,” explains Migael.

“As a result, they need to be physically ready much earlier than they typically would if they followed the conventional route by progressing through under 19, under 20, and under 21 ranks. This makes the approach to training, nutrition, supplementation and education around player development more important from an earlier age.”

This holistic approach lays a solid foundation to prepare players for the immense physical demands of professional rugby.

“We aim to educate the players from an early age. As such, we often have chats with both junior and senior players as a group, in addition to individual engagements around their nutrition and all other aspects of recovery. It’s important for them to know which tools are the most effective and then find out what works best for them.”

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Food-first approach

With regard to nutrition, the DHL WP strength and conditioning team advocate a food-first nutritional approach that provides the macronutrients and sustenance needed to complete multiple training sessions a day, fitness and intense weight training sessions, and perform at their peak during games on consecutive weekends while supporting optimal recovery afterwards.

A consulting dietician provides guidance in this regard, and a company produces balanced meals for the players whenever they are within the DHL WP environment.

“Our primary aim is providing quality food sources to players, followed by hitting the right macronutrient and calorie targets,” explains DHL WP strength coach Nico de Villiers.

From a macronutrient perspective, ensuring players get sufficient protein throughout the day to meet their massive recovery demands is imperative.

Our main aim is to prevent players from falling into a protein deficit. We educate players on the importance of consuming ample protein regularly throughout the day, especially first thing in the morning, after training sessions or games, and at night before bed,” continues Nico.

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Supplement support

To help players meet their nutritional demands, players augment their nutritional approach with quality supplements from Biogen, the Official Sports Nutrition Supplier to the DHL Stormers and DHL WP, for added support and convenience.

“While we invest significant time and resources to educate players about the role supplements can play in a broader performance nutrition plan, we are not prescriptive,” explains Nico.

Migael adds: “We use a wide range of Biogen products and work closely with the Biogen team to understand exactly what each product offers and how it can benefit our players. We then use this information to offer the best possible combination of products to each individual player based on their specific needs.”

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Prioritising player safety

“In this regard, it is comforting to know that the sports nutrition products supplied from Biogen have been extensively tested and form part of the Informed Sport program. We would never offer an untested product to our players, which is why everything we receive and use has to be tested and certified.”

The products that Biogen supplies to the DHL Stormers and DHL WP players are strictly limited to those tested by respected bodies such as LGC in the UK, which offers the best risk management and certification programme in the world, including the ground-breaking Informed Choice and Informed Sport programmes.

Any products supplied to the players that are not on either of the ongoing, aforementioned screening programmes are sent for custom testing before players are permitted to use them, with a certificate provided for every batch supplied. This stringent process ensures that players can use Biogen supplements with confidence to meet their nutritional needs.

“We have confidence in our partnership with Biogen because the company batch tests what they provide DHL WP to ensure every bottle or tub contains only what it says on the label,” states Nico.

Providing protein

The team and players use Informed Sport-certified Biogen Iso-Whey Premium Protein extensively.

We make sure there is always protein available, particularly within the first hour after any physical activity, by offering a protein shake, protein bar, flavoured milk product, and a selection of solid food options to ensure players get in a 30g protein serving within that window,” elaborates Nico.

“Something that is incredibly effective is using Biogen Iso-Whey Protein powder in the smoothies prepared in our kitchen every day. The players love it. We also often use whey protein in conjunction with creatine,” adds Migael.

“We also use Biogen Night Feed in the evening as casein protein offers an effective means to keep players in a positive protein balance overnight,” continues Nico. While not enrolled in the Informed Sport programme, Biogen batch tests the Night Feed products supplied to DHL WP, along with all other vitamin and mineral supplements the players choose to use.

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Replacing lost nutrients

Electrolytes and a daily multivitamin are additional focus areas in the team’s comprehensive supplement approach to support recovery and boost performance by replacing the micronutrients lost during hard training.

“The various hydration products offered in the Biogen range are essential to the daily recovery routines among our players,” continues Migael.

According to Nico, there are always sachets or ready-mixed bottles available for players during training sessions and games, especially during the warmer months.

We also include an electrolyte drink with certain snacks or lunch during the day. In summer, players will drink this mix twice a day.”

Players will drink 400ml of water that contains electrolytes with their pre-match meal on game day  and again at half time.

From a micronutrient perspective, the Biogen Multivitamin Plus is a big hit, says Migael.

“The players put their bodies through a lot, so we try to support their systems as much as possible, primarily through balanced diets, but these trusted products play a big role in supporting their nutritional status.”

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Supporting recovery

Another element where the team focuses intensely during player education is hammering home the importance of sleep. “Players often underestimate the importance of sleep when it comes to optimal recovery,” explains Migael.

“We all know how tough it can be to operate optimally after a poor night of sleep. This feeling is magnified in top-level athletes as the demands placed on them to perform are massive. These demands are obviously physical but are often mental too, which can impact sleep, and visa versa.”

The DHL WP recovery matrix:

  • After gym training: Biogen Iso-Whey Protein shake with Biogen Creatine Monohydrate.
  • After rugby practise: Hydration with Biogen Electrolyte+. Lunch with a protein smoothie using Biogen Iso-Whey Protein. Ice bath, massage, sleep.
  • After fitness sessions: Biogen Iso-Whey Protein shake with Biogen Creatine Monohydrate.
  • After a game: Ice bath, protein and carbs, hydration. Physio treatments and massage on Monday.
  • Before bed: Biogen Night Feed casein protein.

Boosting performance

When it’s time to perform on the field, the team looks to supplements before training sessions and games that offer proven performance benefits.

“I push creatine a lot because it is a supplement with numerous longitudinal studies backing its efficacy,” says Nico.

“We use Biogen Creatine Monohydrate before workouts to boost the players’ physical capacity in the gym and on the field. The ability to train more intensely for longer periods provides the impetus for muscle growth from strength gains, but only when coupled with adequate nutrition.”

Nico also prescribes creatine for injured players to aid their recovery. “Research shows that creatine supplements, when coupled with other amino acids from protein, can slow muscle atrophy (muscle loss).”

In addition, the team uses collagen and vitamin C to aid and accelerate recovery from injury.

Biogen products used by DHL WP:

Many DHL WP players also use a pre-workout, but caution was always required to ensure the products used did not contain prohibited substances.

Unsurprisingly, the DHL WP camp is excited about the launch of Biogen Premium Pre-Workout, the first ever Informed Sport-certified pre-workout product in South Africa that is guaranteed free from banned and prohibited substances.

The formulation contains 150 mg caffeine, another performance-enhancing compound with significant research backing its effectiveness.

“Players normally use pre-workouts before matches. We typically try to keep daily caffeine use quite low so that when they use products that contain stimulants, like Biogen Premium Pre-workout on match day, it is as effective as possible,” explains Migael.