Diet and nutrition have become a vital part of the daily lives and schedules of today’s professional athletes. We spoke with sports dietician Anja van Geel about the introduction of collagen peptides in the diets of professional athletes at Olympic Training Center Papendal, the Netherlands leading elite sports training center. Anja shares her experiences and advice on the use of collagen.
Sara: Hello everybody, my name is Dr. Sara De Pelsmaeker and I work as Global Business Development Manager at Rousselot. I am today with Anja van Geel from the Papendal Center to talk about nutrition for athletes. Good morning Anja, can you shortly introduce yourself?
Anja: Of, course, I’ll introduce myself first. My name is Anja van Geel and I’m a sports dietician. I work at the most beautiful sports location in the Netherlands, Papendal. Here, I work for several organizations. The first organization is the Papendal Sports Centre. Sport talents train, live and study in one location here and we call it the Centre for Top Sports and Education (CTO). Food is an important part of the programs. Nutrition is one of the most important pillars for optimal performance in all sports.
A second organization I work for is the Papendal Sports Medical Centre. Here, I work together with other experts, such as sports doctors and sports physiotherapists. Athletes can make an appointment here for an individual nutrition plan and guidance. The goal is often to use nutrition to improve performance.
And finally, I am part of TeamNL Performance Nutrition, part of NOC*NSF. NOC&NSF is a Dutch organization whose goal is to promote sport and top sport in the Netherlands.
Sara: Very interesting. You indicated that you work with several types of athletes. Can you tell us which types of athletes you work with at Papendal?
Anja: The target group I work for are mainly the talent athletes, aged 15 to 20 years old. I work at Papendal for many different branches of sport, for example, volleyball, handball, judo, badminton, hand archers, paracycling, wheelchair basketball, that’s a lot.
Sara: A lot of different types of athletes! You said in the beginning that an athlete can come for nutritional information. So what are the most important nutritional criteria you use when you prepare a nutrition plan for athletes?
Anja: Nutrition plays an important role in recovery and optimal sports performance. In sports, you adapt nutrition to training goals and competition goals. So performance is always the starting point. The difference between healthy food and sports nutrition lies mainly in the amount of carbohydrates because this is the main fuel for most men and women in sports. Training more generally means taking in more carbohydrates in your food. Protein plays an important role as a building material. Usually, our Dutch diet provides a generous amount of protein. For athletes, it is especially important to use the proteins at the right times. So 5 to 6 protein moments per day – one or two directly after training and one before going to sleep. Those are important moments for proteins.
Sara: Very interesting. Collagen is a specific protein; did you have any knowledge of collagen before working with Peptan and its sports nutritional benefits?
Anja: I work mainly with young talent athletes and for these athletes you don’t immediately think in supplements. So I had never worked with collagen before, although I had read about this subject.
Sara: Rousselot is now the official collagen ingredient supplier for Papendal. When did you start recommending Peptan to the athletes that you help?
Anja: About 3-4 years ago, we started advising Peptan to the male volleyball talent team at Papendal. In this project, the effect of collagen hydrolysate supplementation was examined.
Sara: So it’s a new ingredient to you. How did you explain that to the athletes? Did you explain the benefits to the athletes, or how did it work?
Anja: I go to training sessions of these athletes. Before training, I explain the effects that collagen can have on ligaments and tendons, and on reducing the risk of injury. I emphasize the preventive effect of this. Then I tell them how they can use it and where they can get it in the Papendal kitchen. We have created an infographic that contains this information.
Sara: That’s a very interesting idea to have an infographic for athletes. After they started taking collagen, did you get questions? What kind of questions do you usually get from these young athletes?
Anja: The kind of questions I get are often about the taste, and I tell them the taste is okay. I get questions about how they can use it during competitions and tournaments. And for competitions and tournaments, the athletes can take the collagen in a jar from the kitchen at Papendal. They can then dissolve it themselves in orange juice. So this is well arranged by the cook (chef) at Papendal. Another question I get is whether collagen has been tested for doping, and I am very glad that I can tell them it has been tested for doping.
Sara: Yes, absolutely, that is obviously very important for these athletes. When you started giving collagen, or advising your athletes to take it, three or four years ago, did you observe any effects of having collagen as an ingredient in their nutritional plans?
Anja: Yes. That is a little bit of a tricky question for me, but I’ll try to give you an answer. Three years ago, a student at Papendal did a small observational study. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of daily collagen hydrolysate and vitamin C supplementations on tendon and joint complaints in male volleyball athletes. 17 male volleyball athletes consumed 15 grams of collagen hydrolysate, solved in 100 ml orange juice containing 60 gram of vitamin C. They did this one hour before training, for a period of 24 weeks. This study demonstrated that 15 grams of collagen hydrolysate supplementation taken for a period of 24 weeks, showed a trend in decreased physical pain, especially in the knee. So that was positive.
Sara: That’s very interesting that you did an observational study. So based on that and based on your experience with collagen and your athletes, would you recommend it to other athletes, or maybe even to a broader bigger public, maybe not just athletes, but also others with a more or less active lifestyle?
Anja: More and more people are seeking a challenge in sports. When training is frequent and intense, the use of collagen can be useful to prevent injuries to ligaments and tendons. The use of collagen is harmless. I think it’s a good advice for these groups of sportspeople.
Sara: That’s very nice to end with, of course, Anja. With that, I want to conclude. Thank you very much for your time and for the nice answers to several questions we had. Thank you very much. Please feel free to share this video with your community when we have it online. And thank you again for your time.
Anja: You’re welcome!
Helping athletes to shine
Sports dietician Anja van Geel has been guiding competitive athletes, including many top athletes, for over 25 years. She is co-founder of the Association of Sports Dieticians in the Netherlands, co-authored a book in Dutch on nutrition and sports (‘Voeding en sport’, ISBN 9789021563169) and has been commissioned by Dutch sports organization NOC*NSF to work on the development, implementation and continuous improvement of a Sports Nutrition apprentice line, covering the role of nutrition for sportspeople on their journeys from talent to top athlete.
‘As a marathon runner and cyclist, I know not only how important nutrition is in relation to performance, but also how difficult it can be to put nutritional advice into practice. Because of my experience as a sports dietician and athlete, I know what is going on in the field of sports nutrition and what the influence of nutrition is on health and performance. Together with individual athletes, I bridge the gap between theory and sports practice.’
SPORTS DIETICIAN ANJA VAN GEEL OF OLYMPIC TRAINING CENTER PAPENDAL: ‘COLLAGEN CAN HELP PREVENT INJURIES FOR ANYONE WHO TRAINS INTENSIVELY’
To find out more about our partnership with Papendal click here.
Learn how Chef Erik at Papendal prepares orange juice with Peptan, watch here.