“The school has helped me to become a much more complete professional and to find solutions to problems from a multidisciplinary perspective”

The work of nutritionists in the sports environment is not only a matter of providing athletes with guidance to eat healthily, it is also the key to directly improving the athlete’s performance.

We’ve spoken to Gorka Prieto Bellver, nutritionist from the cycle team Euskadi-Murias and graduate of the Master in Sports Training and Nutrition, who has told us about his work, his challenges, his experience and how his career was impacted by his time at the Real Madrid Graduate School.

When he joined the team, Gorka created some baselines to follow which, when looking at the season results,  he said “we’ve successfully reached the objectives that we set at the beginning of the year”.

“When I joined the team during last season, the first thing that I did was to educate the cyclists with a very concrete nutritional model, explaining to them the benefits that having a proper nutrition can have during the different stages of the competing season, and creating a training and nutrition plan to make the most of the physical aptitudes of each of the cyclists.”

One of the challenges that he has overcome is to be able to say that “as a sports nutritionist, I’ve been able to apply all the knowledge that I’ve acquired to date. It is to appreciate the good welcoming that I’ve received as a nutritionist from the cyclists and other team members. This is why I can say that I’ve managed to reach my goal of being part of a great multidisciplinary team.”

The role and work of the nutritionists is still a bit unknown in the cycling world. “The reality is that the menus are created in a very meticulous way, having in mind all the macro nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that each cyclist need to perform in each competition stage.”

In races like Le Tour de France, La Vuelta or El Giro “the cyclist starts from an exceptional physical condition. During all the race stages we want the cyclists to keep their weight (due to the correlation between weight and power) and we want them to recover as fast as possible after each of the stages. This is why the menu is created based on the weight of the cyclists, the duration and topography of each of the stages, as well as the calorific expenditure. This is what we call nutritional periodization.”

As well as what happens with carbohydrates (pasta, rice, fruit, potatoes…) proteins and fat are also important when it comes to the cyclists recovery and health.”

Each stage is important, this is why the cyclists must thoroughly control glucose levels, “depending on the stage topography during the race, and the power that the athlete is generating, they eat more or less carbohydrates. Your body can absorb up to 90 grams per hour (60g of glucose + 30 g of fructose) so this needs to change every day.

Gorka’s professional passion for sports comes from his early life when he was a little boy, even before joining the Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea. “I’ve always been attracted to the world of sports and nutrition. Once I finished my nutrition studies at the university, I tried to find a way to get further education in the sports training side of things, and this is why I decided to do the master in sports training and nutrition, and I must confess that it was the best decision ever.”

He has said that what he is currently doing now at a professional level was always his objective and what he was reaching for. His time at the school helped him to become a “much more complete professional and to find solutions to the problems from a multidisciplinary perspective. Once you finish the master, with all the knowledge you acquire, you become a much more competent professional.”

He believes that the value added from the Real Madrid Graduate School to his professional path has been the “great quality of the chair of professors. We had the best teachers from all over Europe and from all over the world to teach us the most recent trends from the world of training and nutrition, and it is true enrichment, you learn a lot. The facilities of Universidad Europea deserve a special mention too, they are incredible! And the Master’s Director, Sergio Lorenzo, he is a great person very close to his students.”

A tip that he was given and that he never forgot was “to keep learning, as in this job, if you are not on top of the latest trends and you don’t keep learning, you don’t have a future.” When we asked him to share a message for the students and sports professionals that will join the Master this year, he said “make the most of the teachers and the classes, ask all the questions that you may have, and absorb all the possible knowledge. Your teachers are unbeatable.”