Gymnastics with Sanne & Lieke
Nutrition (by T.Leenders)
How I met Sanne and Lieke

Story of Lieke
This how I met Lieke, and then Sanne in november 2010.

After the October 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam the federation organised a meeting with Lieke Wevers.
The physical training I started (M.E) with women's gymnastics had already shown to lead to significantly less injuries and good training results.
They introduced me to Lieke and hoped I could provide her with  a program to keep her out of injuries too. Lieke her sister Sanne was in the national team and had international competitions but Lieke was often injured. In fact, being 19 already, she was more or less finished with gymnastics.

We talked and I invited her to train a few times together, so I could study her. But I recognized her situation very early, I have helped more athletes in the same circumstances.... Lieke couldn't even cope
with a moderate training load because her nutritional status lacked basics.

So my report to the Federation was that any extra training,
of any kind, will get Lieke into móre troubles. Her problems
are of a nutritional (supplementational) kind....
It is probably not what they expected, in the Netherlands
Federations are obliged to mainstream nutritional programs.
But my experience with many hundreds of athletes made me
choose what works best even tough it's a very different approach.

But trainer Vincent invited me to come and work with his local team. This was not just some team, after a year or so this team had 5 (of 7!) girls in the national team.
Lieke her situation changed bigtime - but what about Sanne?

Story of Sanne
Sanne got into the international competition often.
She did not have as much injuries as Lieke.
But with Lieke changed so much wouldn't there
be any change for Sanne?
Well there was... Sanne got into the program shortly
after her sister. And I knew that she did have a
problem making weight for the bigger competitions
like European and World championships.
With there DNA not too different you could expect Sanne to
gain form a nutrition change too.

Right - Sanne at the Worlds 2010

Below - Sanne way before Worlds 2013

Of course to get in this shape you need proper training and
discipline but without a good program, meaning nutrition and
supplementation, it will be at the cost of health and power.

So what is the program like?

June - 2015 
Sanne and Lieke have just shown great results in the International competition.
Sanne :
Lieke  :

This program should be viewed as a nutritional manipulation and it works just like training.
In training we are used to change athletes so they improve the way we think is needed in training and competitions.

The program consists of two very different parts.
1 Nutrition                 Learn and find you own way
2 Supplementation     Be strict in following the (ever changing) program

Together we have to devise a framework of do's and don'ts.
The result is very personal... so there is no recipe. You could be disappointed not finding out what Sanne or Lieke are allowed to eat .. or have to eat regularly but of course an individual program is personal.
First I need some time to know sport and person.
I like to know about birth, background and everything since.

I've seen many hundreds of blood tests in combination with types of training and performance level etc. and it is clear that my athletes are very healthy.
But health should not be the main goal.
The goal is being able to withstand the training load and perform better. We want less injuries, less days of sickness, good energy, good sleep.... don't we all?
Not all of the healthy stuff is helpful in that respect.
I never(!) allowed athletes to use light products, talked to them about calories or told them to stay (even a little) away form fats or animal products.

Old fashion, natural foods are preferred. Milk products can be great, depending on the person.
Athletes have to learn about the cave cats of modern food products.
And especially: A lot of information is not suitable for athletes.
They'll have to un-learn a lot of what they know through the usual channels.
And they have to learn about how to use instincts, make good choices and recognize what's good or bad.
Race, age, gender and training age make things more complicated.
Although Sanne and Lieke are twins they make different choices based on what they think
and experience is good for them.
They are not identical twins so their DNA is as similar as it would be between ordinary sisters.
Personal experience is important... what I do is inform them about their choices and learn.
Now and then I give them some ideas to improve their situation.
Sometimes I think(!) I know better alternatives, and sometimes I show them that this
or that has a different impact as opposed to what they expect from it. 
Or maybe some foods are not too good choices because of their gut status.

We are all in constant interaction with our surroundings.
Nutrition, as part of our environment, has always carried information about this
environment into our body. It first meets a "foreign" DNA mass ten times bigger
then that of the rest of your body. You are in symbiosis with this gut micro biota
and your health depends on it. The Gut - Brain axis determines immune system
capacity, health and behavior.
Secondly nutrition changes how your DNA makes you! This happens very fast,
e.g. training does so within an hour after your workout.
But some changes take one and even two years. This is because when the immune
system grows stronger over time complaints like, headaches, back pain, gut
troubles and vulnerability to infections become much less. We have seen this with
about 150 athletes since around 1995. But this way of linking nutrition to the individual
athlete and his or her sport is not a Dutch national program.
It seems that a better functioning immune system also contributes to the effectiveness
of all training and learning

The process shows a lot of trial and error. It's about finding the individual optimum.
Sometimes a nutritional habit has to change if I think it could play a roll in recurring complaints.

So all of this is only possible if there is regular contact and a good relation between me the gymnasts.
It takes some time but once you make this new way of thinking your own it's relatively easy to make good choices.

To me indirect knowledge is more important than most nutrition research.
This means I like to learn from Genetics, Anthropology, Biology, Paleontology*/Geology,  Biochemistry.

*I know this field since mid 1980's. And no, I don't think eating Paleo is suitable.

Only when the nutrition part is what it should be then there is the possibility of supplying certain nutrients.
This is a real manipulation of conditions because meals have always delivered thousands of nutrients and only since a couple of generations it is possible to enrich your meals with some(!) nutrients.

It is not easy to do this right.
Some key factors:
- What is the goal. Physically and mentally gymnastics is not like other sports.
E.g. age, bodyweight (and maintaining it), and physical demands differ from other sports.
- All nutrients show drawbacks, especially if you use an isolated substance.
So you have to be aware of when the net result of your substance is negative.
- All nutrients interact with each other and nutrition.
- What works for one gymnast will probably not do so for another.
So there is the biggest problem.. finding out the individual needs and effects.
- The internet for instance provides lots of "good ideas", but mixing programs has the same result as mixing training programs.
More than one approach makes you often end up with a bad result.
- Lots of popular nutrients influence coordination, mental states and physiological parameters.
A copy of someone's program could easily make things worse for someone else.
This is a underestimated adverse effect of supplementation in general.
And many, even popular pills, do not really improve your condition as an athlete.

So I have to monitor the girls and gather all information. I'm in contact with them at least twice a week.
For me this is easy because I see them when we do the physical training.
And then there is of course the information of the head coach about performance, coordination, behavior or anything he notices.
If applicable, all information a physiotherapist or doctor can give me is important too and I use it.
I check Sanne's and Lieke's condition and want to know about all big, but also little, complaints.
All this together with their nutritional habits and preferences forms our working background.

The program works because of the discipline of Sanne and Lieke, sticking to it.
And because it is based on their input (and head coach Vincent's!) and our cooperation.

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