Interview: Dr. Daniele Fortunato, Nutritionist Biologist, Talks about Sports Nutrition (Part I)
Every person is different from the other, both by structure and by lifestyle. That’s why each one of us must have a specific nutrition. But how can we know what our body needs? How can we understand if we need to eat more, or less, or simply in a different way?
Dr. Daniele Fortunato: We should first of all to distinguish between a sporty person and a professional athlete. If for the sporty person would be enough just some general nutritional guideline, for the professional it’s necessarily needed a proper specific nutritional plan. That is because a personalized diet that suits that specific sport will always makes the difference.
The energy and the nutritive needs can be evaluated in different ways:
- anthropometry – the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body;
- plicometry – the estimation of body mass by measurement of subcutaneous adipose tissue;
- bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) – commonly used method for estimating body composition analysis.
Dr. Daniele Fortunato
Also, lately, we got a new method to evaluate the nutritional status. It’s called stratigraphy. It is a specific ultrasound test for the adipose and muscular layer. Thanks to this method we can directly evaluate the type of subcutaneous fat and especially the quantity and quality of the deep fat, which is the most difficult to reduce. Another fundamental data that we can get is the quantity and type of the muscular layer. This is useful to understand even if an athlete is overtraining or if, vice versa, does not train effectively.
From all these evaluations we can understand very well if the athlete follows a proper nutrition or not.
When the daily routine keeps us away from following a proper diet, are there any more convenient and fast alternatives? For example protein shakes or energy bars can help us stick to our diet? Or do we have to find the time to sit at the table to eat?
Dr. Daniele Fortunato: “We are what we eat”. A silly and superficial slogan which gives the idea: if we eat in a disordered and rushy way we will hardly give our body all the nutrients that can make it work well. Each one of us has a more or less complex lifestyle. But it is always possible to organize and dedicate the right amount of time to nutrition. Supplements can certainly help, but they must be considered only diet supplements and not the diet itself.
If we are approaching a competition, how can we adapt our nutrition to get to the event in optimal physical condition?
Dr. Daniele Fortunato: Dancesport is a particular discipline. It does not have a predictable duration. A competition can end up quickly or it can last for many hours. With the right nutrition we can put the body in the condition to have all the energy reserves fully loaded. This will help the athlete to maintain an optimal performance level longer and to reduce the fatigue. Thanks to specific nutritional strategies that must be evaluated according to the needs and characteristics of the athlete. This is possible, but this is not enough. We must avoid the total decrements of muscle and liver glycogen reserves.
As you were saying earlier, unlike other sports where the duration of the event is always the same (e.g. the 90 minutes in football, the four-time in basketball). In dancesport it’s not always known for how long we will be engaged. Imagining now that we are on the day of the competition. If we have to dance a direct final, when do we have to eat and what? And if we have to compete the whole day and we have a couple of hours of break between rounds, how should we eat in order to always have the necessary energy?
Dr. Daniele Fortunato: In the case of a short performance it is advisable to eat about 2 hours before, and have foods based on complex carbohydrates, few proteins and few fats. It is better to avoid vegetables, or have small quantities, in order not to clutter the stomach that must be able to digest quickly. Particular attention should be given to hydration. It plays the major role in the nutrition the day of the competition.
If the event takes place in the morning, particular attention will be given to the breakfast, choosing foods based on complex and simple carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fats and few proteins, both animal and vegetable. For example, toasted whole bread with a veil of butter and jam without added sugar, dried walnuts and orange juice.
If, instead, the first round is in the afternoon, particular attention will be given to the lunch: using the same precautions, you will prefer a plate of pasta or white rice with EVO oil and a little bit of Parmesan cheese, a fruit and a small portion of baked cake.
In the case of competitions that last for several hours, it is important to always have a bottle of water with a maltodextrin supplement in it and some energy bars to consume during breaks. It is very important to drink in small sips but constantly even in the absence of thirst and to have small meals (even with the bars, if necessary) whenever possible.
After the competition it is necessary to eat as soon as possible to efficiently restore the lost energy reserves.
Make sure you check part 2 of the interview here. You’ll be able to read the answers Dr. Daniele Fortunato gives to the following questions:
- Is caffeine for athletes a good or a bad friend during a competition?
- How does a relationship start between you and an athlete asking for your support during his preparation?
- So, could a nutritionist have a distance relation with an athlete, without the need to check him every week?
- If an athlete wants to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, can he still guarantee his body a diet that will satisfy it?
- Could you give an advice to those who try in every way to lose weight, not succeeding, without following a nutritional plan specially studied for them?
You can find more info on Dr. Daniele Fortunato on his website: www.dottorfortunato.it
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Italian, dancing since the age of 5 and currently based in Moscow. With his partner Ekaterina Utkina, he is in the top 50 WDSF Adult Standard World Ranking, representing the Russian Federation.