Daniel Saifiti plays for the Newcastle Knights in the National Rugby League and for New South Wales in State of Origin. A 195-centimetre, 121-kilogram man mountain, Saifiti grew up on the New South Wales central coast and debuted for the Knights alongside twin brother Jacob in round one of the 2016 NRL season. A member of the Knights leadership group and on-field co-captain in 2021, 25-year-old Saifiti has already represented Fiji at international level and is considered by many good judges as a future Australian Test representative.
Saifiti’s nutritional regime is focused on fuelling his body to face the rigours of playing one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet, while at the same time ensuring he remains strong and lean to respond to changes that have made the NRL faster and more dynamic.
“The amount of food I eat changes day to day and week to week depending on the number of days between games and that kind of thing,” Saifiti says. “The game’s getting faster and with the new rules, if you are too heavy you are going to get found out pretty quick. I pay close attention to what I eat so I can keep performing at my best.
“So, on longer turnarounds between games we will have days off during the week. If I’m not training, I’ll eat smaller amounts than I would on a training day, when I’d eat more, particularly at the start of the day. It all tends to even itself out.”
A supercharged smoothie starts the day off right for Saifiti. Packed with healthy options including granola, banana, frozen berries, yoghurt, chia seeds, ice and water, boosted with Isagenix IsaPro whey protein, the smoothie provides just the right amount of get up and go.
“I used to have granola and yoghurt but that got a bit bland so I decided to change it up by chucking it all in a blender. It’s just easy to make and easy to digest. If I have something big and we’re training early, it can sit in your stomach and get a bit uncomfortable whereas it’s never the case with the smoothie. I feel a bit lighter and it’s easy to drink – I can even have it in the car on the way to training.”
By mid-to-late morning, the field session is done which means it’s time for a recharge.
“I’ll have a pre-workout before my gym session and team that with a banana or something else a bit light. I’ll have a post workout supplement after to keep my vitamins and nutrients topped up also. I know I’ll be eating lunch soon after finishing in the gym so it’s about getting the balance right between re-fuelling and not overdoing it.”
While refuelling is the focus on training days, with a balanced mix of proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates provided to the team at the Knights high performance facility, the team focus does not shift on days off. In Newcastle, the majority of the team live within a short drive of each other which means non-training days often involve players catching up at a beachside or city location for a relax and a bite to eat.
“Lunch is a set menu provided to the team with heaps of good lean protein and vegetables. It’s really tasty while still being healthy and nutritious. If I’m not at training, I’ll make a wrap at home with cooked chicken or ham and salad, or sometimes the boys will go out for a feed at a local café if we have a day off, which we generally do at least once a week.”
Playing in the middle, Saifiti needs to maintain his playing weight in order to be effective against the other big bodies in the NRL or Origin arena. As a result, the need to take on additional food varies by training load, but when a snack is in order the focus is on lean but filling fare.
“If it’s a day off I won’t have an afternoon snack,” he says. “But if we are training I’ll have something small because I’ll generally have dinner quite early, so I can get an early night. In pre-season it’s different again, we’re training real hard so I’ll come in and have a salad with a couple of cans of tuna, with some rice or some avocado at home to replenish the energy stores that I lost during training. I always keep fruit around too, as it’s easy and quick and not too heavy with dinner coming a couple of hours later.”
Daniel and his partner Mikenzie eat simply with dinner often taking place early in the evening, so he can rest and recharge after a big day and get himself ready for the next.
“I’m a meat and veggies kind of guy. So I’ll have a steak, or chicken breast, around 400 grams of either. I always try to eat until I’m satisfied, rather than ‘til I’m full, so I keep my weight nice and consistent. I try to stack my veggies up as much as I can as it makes me full without adding bulk – corn, carrot, broccolini, asparagus, and I prefer roasted rather than boiled so the goodness stays in. My partner Mackenzie makes a mean salad too.”
FAVOURITE CHEAT MEAL?
“I used to love a bit of KFC in my younger days. But I’m pretty good now. It’s a very few times a year kind of thing, if I have played good and we’ve won!”
DO YOU HAVE A RECIPE YOU’VE CREATED?
“My smoothie recipe, for sure.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK / GET OUT OF USING ISAGENIX PRODUCTS?
“We train hard, so the pre-workouts help me get ready while the Amped range post training keep me feeling fresher, longer while reducing recovery time overall.”