FoodFriday: Glimpse behind the scenes with our nutrition specialist

Marcel Hesseling, Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s nutrition specialist, competed at a high level in mountain biking for several years and even road with, amongst others, Bram Tankink and Maarten Tjallingii. Now he doesn’t just advice the riders about nutrition, but also works closely together with the soigneurs and partners of the team.

“After mountain biking for 5 years, I got stuck at a certain level and I started to wonder how to proceed from there. I decided that I wanted to stay in sports, but in a different way. When I was a mountain biker, I was already interested in nutrition, and read about it a lot. I decided to expand my knowledge of nutrition and started an education in nutrition and dietetics in Amsterdam, as well as sports dietetics. After my education I started as a self-employed sports dietitian and shortly after that I was asked by the former Rabobank to join them. Now, four years later, I’m back in sports, but on the other side.

“Next to advising the riders in nutritional choices, my job also consists of a lot of organization and logistics. Together with De Bisschopsmolen we’ve developed special breads and granola bars for the riders, which actually takes up a lot of time! It all starts with literature, which ingredients should you use to make your bar effective? Making it effective isn’t the hardest part, though. It has to taste good as well. If something doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to work, because after a while the riders just won’t eat it anymore. Then it’s up to the partner and me to make it a great product. Before the composition and taste are perfect, you could be well up to your twentieth try!”

Nutritional schedules
“In accordance with Louis Delahaije’s training schedules, I set up nutritional schedules. Together we try to coordinate food and training, to make sure the riders train as efficiently as possible. Sometimes we deliberately take out carbohydrates, and at other times during a period of training we provide a schedule that’s high in carbohydrates to enlarge the effect of the training.

“Together with Louis and the other coaches we coordinate meals for races, which are prepared by Daily Fresh Food and Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s chef Jesper Boom. What’s in a meal depends on the race schedule and the energy consumption we expect a rider to have. For example, a rider has a higher energy consumption during a mountain stage than during a flat stage, therefore, we set up different meals.

“Next to this, I also coordinate with the soigneurs and storage. Jumbo Supermarkets delivers all the basic products to storage, and from there they are brought to races for breakfast and the soigneurs’ (healthy) snack box. That has to be coordinated. If I advise the riders’ a certain product, it needs to be there. I advise the soigneurs about the composition of the drinks for the water bottles and provisions during the race. OTE Sports supplies the team with sport nutrition. The riders, as well as the soigneurs, know exactly what’s in their products.



“I also work together closely with the team’s medical staff. At the beginning of the season, the riders have undergone a complete body scan, which we analyzed, so the riders were up to an optimal start. The physician and I also keep an eye on the riders’ blood levels, so we can check whether they ingest enough vitamins and minerals. Together with Virtuoos and the coaches we can decide whether to prescribe extra food supplements or, if necessary, have them developed.”

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