Personalized nutrition for Mariska Beijer
Personalized nutrition for wheelchair basketball player Mariska Beijer
Plates of plain pasta. Plates of chips. The nightmare of every elite athlete who has to recover after his training. It had been reality for wheelchair basketball player Mariska Beijer for a long time. Because due to her allergies, she often could not eat anything else during tournaments and training internships. Fortunately, this belongs to the past now that the Elite sports restaurant @Papendal provides her with her bread and hot meals wherever she goes.
It was June 2015. Mariska applied for the national selection @Papendal again, after she had lived, studied and trained in America for 2.5 years. Coming home. Papendal is not an unknown territory for the wheelchair basketball player. In the run-up to the Paralympic Games in London, where the team won bronze, Mariska had trained at our training centre for two years.
In June 2015, it was still a year and four months until the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Mariska is a solid value for the team, a first-string player. Her ambitions are clear. She wants to be the best centre player of the world. Become the champion with her team, achieve gold. For that, everything has to be in place. Therefore, she lives for the sport and she is occupied full-time with wheelchair basketball. As for any elite athlete, the right nutrition is of utmost importance. For recovery, for instance, but also to have enough energy for the intensive trainings. After all, food is your fuel.
Yet, nutrition is a particularly difficult aspect for Mariska. As she suffers many different allergies to take into account. She is allergic for the egg white of chicken eggs. Allergic for lactose. For nuts, pips and seeds. If she takes in the wrong products, the situation can become life- threatening.
So Mariska turned to Erik te Velthuis, chef and manager of the Elite sports restaurant. Together, they looked at which bread Mariska can eat and what the chefs have to take into account when they prepare her dinner. The adjustments that the kitchen team has to make for Mariska’s dinner are not that big, as they already cook purely. Mariska can thus put together her meals in the Elite sports restaurant in a heartbeat. She knows exactly what she can and cannot take. It is not that easy on training camps. Hotel restaurants frequently use nuts, pips and seeds in their meals. And many meals contain lactose. Restaurants do not always dare to prepare an extensive meal for Mariska, taking into account her allergies. Because the consequences can be detrimental if a wrong product is accidentally used. Therefore, Mariska and her coaches turned to Erik again.
Take bread with you
The first question for Erik was about bringing bread along. Many types of bread contain nuts, pips, seeds and/or lactose. In the Elite sports restaurant, she had found two bread types which she liked. White sourdough and round whole wheat. She asked if there was a way to bring these types of bread with her to training camp. Erik accepted the challenge. How do we ensure the bread stays good for a longer period of time? He started testing and ended up packaging the bread in a low oxygen atmosphere. And this seemed to work! The bread stays good long enough for Mariska to still be able to enjoy her breakfast and lunch at the end of her training camp.
But if this is possible with bread, does this count for hot meals as well then? Erik started testing and prepared the first meals for Mariska. Vacuum cooked and pasteurised. So that it is food safe. The meals are packaged in a low oxygen atmosphere and carried along on the team bus in a cooler. And that works. Meanwhile, Mariska even takes Erik’s food with her on the plane. Around the world. From Almere to Croatia. From France to Canada.
Once arrived at her destination, Mariska only needs to heat up the meals. This way, she can enjoy healthy and varied food anywhere in the world. Without having to worry about her allergies. Like it should be. This enables her to perform optimally at training camps and tournaments as well!