Elite sport nutritionist: ‘From a practical perspective, supplements can be very, very useful’

This content item was originally published on www.nutraingredients-usa.com, a William Reed online publication.

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sports nutrition Sports & Active Nutrition Summit USA content Unmetered

There is a huge variation in the consistency and quality of sports nutrition advice at the highest levels of elite sport, and this can be challenging when working with elite athletes, says Laurent Bannock, Founder and Director at the Institute of Performance Nutrition

Dr Bannock spent his summer working as the nutritionist for Belgium’s Men's National Football Team - the number one ranked nation in world football or soccer – at the European Championships. Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA, Dr Bannock explained that these players are not just elite players, “We’re talking the elite of the elite​.

But how consistent is the sports nutrition information these players are receiving? At the club level, players are seeing the same people day in and day out – sports nutritionists or sports dietitians, if their clubs have them, he said. However, at the national team level – where players are called up to represent their native countries in international games during short breaks in the regular season – the interaction with the players is only periodic.

“In my work with national teams, I will see a player who has come from another club, and one would like to think that there is a consistency in terms of what they’re told through nutrition and supplementation and so on, but that is not the case and that surprises me.”

“The quality of nutrition information will vary considerably,” ​added Dr Bannon. “Some players will come to you where they don’t even have a nutritionist at the club… and there’s reasons for that like the role of the nutritionist might be integrated into other people like the other sports scientists or strength and conditioning coaches. That doesn’t mean they’re well trained in it. And that’s because of a greater or lesser belief in nutrition. Nutrition holds a different level of importance depending on the structure of the club, the mindset of the [manager, etc].”

“What you’re trying to do is bring about the shared goal, the shared dream, which is to win the games, win the matches, and if you’re achieving those results then it becomes a win-win.”


Dr Bannock notes a food-first approach, where meals are more than just calories, and the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals are all really important. He also noted the value of fiber and the impact this is having on the microbiome, and how this affects health and performance.

“If it’s just basic food-health-associated aspects of nutrition you can achieve everything you need through a “well-balanced diet”, whatever that means. People argue over that, but you can. I’ve worked with a number of Olympians and elite athletes in various areas that have taken no supplements.

“It’s very difficult to do that particularly if you’re a traveling athlete. So, with my national team football players, for example, there’s huge amounts of travel. And there are many circumstances where, yes, food would be great, but it’s not practical: You can’t cook it, you can’t refrigerate it. There are certain environments where you cannot take food. Some things won’t be able to cross borders (and this goes for some supplements, too). But from a practical perspective, supplements can be very, very useful.”

“The ergogenic aid side of things is [that] some supplements and food products can help enhance performance in a number of different ways which may be particularly difficult, if not impossible to do through a day-to-day diet no matter how on-it you are. And that’s where we’re thinking about substances like creatine, or beta-alanine, or even caffeine.”

Sports & Active Nutrition Summit 2022

The topic of sports nutrition and elite sports will be discussed at the upcoming Sports & Active Nutrition Summit 2022, hosted by NutraIngredients-USA in association with the American Herbal Products Association’s Sports Nutrition Committee.

Taking place Feb. 14-16, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency in San Diego on beautiful Mission Bay, the in-person event will cover a range of topics, including personalized nutrition, esports, CBD, and much more. For more information and to secure an early bird registration discount visit the event homepage​.

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