Innovations in Sports Nutrition in The Netherlands

Published: 26-06-2015

Eating sufficient carbohydrates and proteins is the basis of a good diet for most top-level athletes. Ingredient suppliers can help create more healthy sports nutrition. With the help of researchers and professional athletes, they are developing new products, technology and knowledge. Dutch Sports Nutrition R&D can be subdivided into three main areas, which have resulted in many new products over the past few years. 

Optimum Nutritional Value
Athletes need to perform at the highest level, perfect their fitness and strengthen their muscles. That is why they need a diet that consists of a well-balanced combination of carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fiber and minerals. The recently concluded Dutch ‘Sports, Health and Nutrition’ project was a collaboration between Dutch business and knowledge institutions that generated several new nutritional products for athletes. The project was subsidized by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

One of the products the project generated is a teff sports bread, developed by Bakels Senior, supplier of bakery ingredients; Millets Place, supplier of teff; Arnhem and Nijmegen University of Applied Sciences (HAN) and Papendal InnoSportLab. The bread is formulated to meet professional athletes’ energy needs and consists of a well-balanced mix of functional ingredients like wholegrain wheat and teff, linseed and sugars from cranberries, raisins and bananas. The mix of starch and fruit supplies the right composition of carbohydrates. The bread was marketed as ‘Sportsgrain’ and used by the Dutch Olympic speed skating team in Sochi and the Dutch soccer team during the World Cup in Brazil. Another product developed during the project is Carezzo’s protein-enriched snack for athletes. Consuming these new snacks increases protein intake between meals, which is useful for many people who do not absorb enough protein during their meals. The snacks – bars, cakes and yoghurt – contain 10 grams of protein per 65 grams (single snack size).

TOP’s RE:Balance sports drink was also developed during the ‘Sports, Health and Nutrition’ project. This protein-rich drink that undergoes only mild heat treatment contains 25 grams of protein per 250 ml bottle. The fresh, chilled product is based on whey and blackcurrant, apple and beet juice. It has a high content of vitamins (C, A, B2 and B6) and minerals (potassium, calcium, iron and zinc). In the current ‘Beet-ing your competitors’ project, Maastricht University, Arnhem and Nijmegen University of Applied Sciences (HAN) and Papendal InnoSportLab are jointly experimenting to find the dosage, timing and source of nitrate that will produce the best results.

Food Preparation Technology
At training centers, professional athletes want to be able to order an ‘on demand’ meal any time of day. This poses quite a challenge to the chefs at such centers. After all, the meals’ nutritional value must be high and its taste excellent. Preparation technology becomes key.

Mild Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology enables chefs to prepare a healthy, customized meal at any time of day. PEF ‘cooks’ products like fish, meat, potatoes, fruits and vegetables by treating them with high-voltage pulses. This does away with the need for extended cooking at 100ºC, while preserving the products’ nutritional value, taste and texture. IXL Netherlands and Papendal’s Topsportrestaurant have tested the preparation of meals for top-level athletes using the NutriPulse e-Cooker®. The athletes highly praised the meals they were served, while the chefs liked the easy-to-use technology. The PEF equipment has meanwhile been scaled up and will soon be available to other restaurants.

Analysis and Monitoring
Papendal Training Center and Papendal InnoSportLab are monitoring and analyzing professional athletes’ diets in several ways. The data gathered will form the basis for a new type of nutritional advice. For example, the Topsportrestaurant’s POS system is used to track what athletes eat when they are given a free choice of food products. But there is also a ‘Sports Nutrition Panel’ consisting of young top-level athletes who are asked to judge the taste, preference and user-friendliness of innovative nutritional products for athletes. The panel’s input is used to improve the selection of products on offer.

Another analysis and monitoring project is the ‘Functional Nutritional Monitor for Individual Top-level Athletes (FIT). This project is developing ways to digitally monitor professional athletes’ nutrition. Currently, an app is being developed that would allow athletes to match their daily nutrition to their individual training schedules and nutritional needs. This app should ultimately make it possible to give athletes just-in-time, individual feedback and recommendations about their nutritional choices.