Written by markjohn. Monday, June 22nd, 2015
Northampton Saints, England and British Lion rugby star Alex Corbiseiro talks to Foods You can about England’s 2015 Rugby World Cup chances as well as his diet and fitness regimes, his ambassadorial work with Newburn Bakehouse and how he has been able to reach the top of his sport despite living with gluten and dairy sensitivities.
Alex we are now at the end of the rugby season, give me your views on the past season with Northampton saints and also on England?
Yes in regards to the season that has just gone, the team did fantastic to be top of the league in the regular season so to lose to Saracens in the semi final was disappointing especially as being champions in the 2013-2014 season we wanted to become win again this year, but Saracens were the better team on the day and congratulations to them on winning this year and we although we lost in the semi finals we lost to the eventual champions.
Congratulations to be included in the England world cup training squad I guess that the hard work now starts to be included in the final squad ?,
Yes the training camp will be starting soon and it is an honour to be involved , to get back in training I will be working hard as I can, like the rest of my team mates will with the aim of being involved in the final squad.
Especially with the world cup being at home to have the opportunity to be involved must be exciting?
Yes it is a fantastic opportunity, with the tournament being in your home country with the british nation getting behind there teams as they did in the 2012 games in London, and with the atmosphere and how the home crowds will get behind the team at full stadiums, I would relish the opportunity to be involved.
We here at Foods you can would like to wish the team all the best! Moving on know to gluten sensitivity
How you find out that you had a gluten sensitivity?
I found out about having a gluten sensitivity 4 years ago when I was a player at London Irish, the nutritionist at London Irish asked all the members of the rugby team fill out a health/wellbeing questionnaire, following my answers to the checklist, where I mentioned that I had tiredness and stomach pain, the nutritionist team at London Irish had said that it didn’t sound right and wanted me to get further checks carried out, he advised me to get a blood test carried out which I did and I found out that I had a high sensitivity to gluten, I then started to take gluten out of my date it took around 3 to 4 weeks for gluten to be totally removed from my diet before I went gluten free,
I started to notice a difference to the symptoms that I had shown previously that I was feeling less tired, less bloating and less stomach pain since I went gluten free and being gluten free is something that I will continue to do and I will be forever grateful to the staff at London Irish for giving me that help.
Do the Northampton Saints and England work together to provide you with a diet and fitness plan based on a gluten free diet for your own individual needs or do you have to manage that yourself?
It is a bit of both at Northampton Saints I am catered for at the venues where we train or stay by having gluten free Newburn Bakehouse products available and rest of my teammates know of my specific dietary needs that i use and need these products for my diet, the nutritionist Emma Gardner at Northampton saints looks after me with regards to my diet, while at England, it is different, the nutritionists make sure menu wise I am catered for so when we are training or even abroad for matches involving England the chefs will cook for me and again make sure with regards to the menu I am catered for gluten and dairy free meals,
I guess with foods high in carbohydrates like pasta is there a gluten free options available as well?
They will always be pasta gluten free options available to me including soya bean pasta options the chefs will make sure that i am well catered for with the menu options.
Talking pasta mentioning Italian foods, did your family own a restaurant business in America?
Yes my grandparents started the restaurant/catering business in Queens, I go back to New York every year and when I am over, my family are well versed in cooking me gluten free food, Newburn Bakehouse supply me with bread when I am over in New York, I use the breadcrumbs for chicken parmigiana, I eat gluten free pasta, therefore I am able to eat and enjoy Italian food when I am there and I thank my nana for that.
One of the questions I was going to ask you was if Italian cuisine is your favourite food group as I guess it plays a big part in family history?
Exactly,, it does, and being diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, my family , I have been very lucky, my mum and dad have been very understanding and they can make a good gluten pizza, pasta and chicken parmegiana
Since being gluten free have you shown less symptoms ie bloating, tiredness now than you did before,? This would include peak performance during the match but also training and recovery as well?
Since making the decision of going gluten free I don’t have the symptoms people associate with a having a gluten sensitivity, in the past with eating pasta carbs etc on the day of the match to prepare for the game, I would struggle in match days and I would put that down to nerves, I felt sluggish, heavy legged, I would also have a long recovery period after training and matches.
Now after making the changes I don’t suffer those symptoms, I don’t have the heavy legged, tiredness, feeling sluggish, I feel much better in the run up to games, I feel less pressure, I feel better within myself, have more energy, I feel fitter, in addition to this my body shape and fitness have also changed for the better.
Have you found having a food sensitivity being a barrier to performing at the highest level, what I am trying to say is with the help you receive from nutritionists with the Northampton Saints and England and previously with London Irish with young up and coming sportsmen with food sensitivities try and use them as a positive?
Exactly, we learn that as an elite level athlete, that if you have a food sensitivity you have to research to look into the substitutes, I am very lucky with the help I receive it makes it easier for me to follow my dietary requirements, I also feel that they are many benefits of going gluten free, which would help elite level athletes with performances especially if you have any food sensitivities.
Do you have any other food sensitivities Alex?
I also have a sensitivity to dairy products., soya I have to have dairy free diet also,
Really would you have more products like soya?
Milk wise I tend to go for Almond milk, there are also a lot of various dairy free cheeses that I have, but having a gluten and dairy sensitivity it can be difficult to find foods which are suitable for my diet.
With your relationship now as an ambassador with newborn bakehouse do you find it easier to find foods which are suitable to you diet now than when it was when, you are first diagnosed with gluten sensitivity ?
During the last 4 years since I have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity the market has changed dramatically, there is more variety, they are more foods to choose from when you go to a supermarket now their is a designated area for gluten free foods in supermarket, the food is more readily available, I think there is massive potential to grow and grow and develop the gluten free market as the demand will continue to increase
Back in the day Uk sportsman especially football players were told that they were not as fit or had a healthy lifestyle as of those on the continent, do you agree with that? Do England feel that diet & fitness is an area where they could hold an advantage over opponents at this years RWC due to the amount of effort put in in this area ?
Areas of injury prevention, is really important, in regards to fitness it is small margins that can make the difference in elite test level rugby, nutrition is massive and with the work that England does we feel that it can give us that edge, as every minute every second counts during a match at elite test level rugby, as the teams at the world cup will have a long time to prepare, so they will all be fit. so margins can make the difference
Many thanks for the interview Alex and all the best to England for the World cup ahead.
To find out more about Newburn Bakehouse and Alex ambassadorial work please visit www.newburnbakehouse.com for more details,
Alternatively find Newburn Bakehouse products here on Foods You Can.