Get to know Team Novo Nordisk’s Nutritionist : Nele Compernol
27 April 2020
- What is your expertise and educational background?
I did my studies as a dietitian at Odisee Hogeschool (Ghent, 2008-2011). After this, I did a Master in Health Education & Promotion at the University of Ghent (2011-2013). Because I was always interested in sports and diabetes, I followed up with a Postgraduate Diabetes Educator at Vives Hogeschool Bruges (2014-2015) and later the Postgraduate Sports Nutrition at HAN Nijmegen (2015-2016). Two years ago, I did my Postgraduate ISAK level 1 at HAN Nijmegen (2018), so I can do skinfold measurements following the International Standards. I started my own private practice in 2014 and see all kinds of patients (athletes, weight loss, diabetes patients, etc.). Additionally, I work part-time at the Odisee Hogeschool in Ghent as a lector. Two years ago, I started working with Team Novo Nordisk.
- How did you come to join Team Novo Nordisk?
I was always interested in nutrition and athletes with type 1 diabetes. I began following the team long before I joined the staff. I came to join Team Novo Nordisk when sports dietician Gino Devriendt (who I worked with at my practice) invited Team Novo Nordisk’s Dr. Peter Lagrou to the Belgium Sports Congress in Ghent. During this congress, I gave a presentation on the nutrition guidelines for athletes with type 1 diabetes. Following the conference and through meeting Peter, I was first officially introduced to Team Novo Nordisk.
- What makes this team interesting and attracted you to join as a nutritionist?
This team is so much more than a cycling team; it is one big family. Everyone in the team contributes every day towards the better performance of the athletes. We are proving day by day that we can perform at the highest level with type 1 diabetes. This is an inspiration for me, and I get a lot of satisfaction for my part in this.
- What have been the challenges of working with a team where all the athletes live with type 1 diabetes?
For athletes with type 1 diabetes, they must adjust their food intake to their glucose level and needs for that day to perform at the highest level. This can make giving nutritional advice challenging and requires a constant balance each day. Next to that, the riders have different nationalities and eating habits, which makes it challenging to find the right nutritional balance for all of them.
- What learnings have you made over the years and how has this helped the athletes?
There are a lot of ‘recommendations’ and ‘guidelines’ for all athletes, including those with type 1 diabetes. However, the guidelines for a cyclist on a professional level with type 1 diabetes are rather exceptional. Over the past two years, I’ve noticed that it is essential to look at each rider individually because each one can react differently to sugar intake and insulin. It is always good to keep guidelines in mind, but it is more important to look at each athlete individually.
- How do you see that the team has improved/grown from a nutritional standpoint since you joined?
You can see the athletes are very motivated to eat healthily. They all know the effect of nutrition on their performance. Next, they are no longer afraid of consuming the correct amount of carbs while on the bike. Nutrition, motivation, and timing can really make the difference for these athletes in reaching their full potential. It is great that the guys on the team realize this and apply the nutritional advice daily. I am happy I can play my part in this special project.