What does it take to keep Rafa Nadal among the tennis world’s Big Four? Natural talent, constant training, dedication, determination…and optimum nutrition. Gemma Bes is the expert keeping Rafa appropriately fuelled. We meet her at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor.
Gemma Bes Padrós is the embodiment of a healthy lifestyle: slim, energetic, with bright eyes and clear skin. Gemma lives in Mallorca but is originally from Barcelona – where she obtained degrees in dietetics and nutrition, and a post-graduate degree in sports nutrition. She also has an MSc in nutrition from London’s King’s College University and has studied Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Her passion for and curiosity about nutrition keeps her continuously researching and learning – something she believes is essential for professionals in her field.
Gemma has been working with the Mallorcan tennis supremo Rafa Nadal and his team for more than five years, ensuring that the now-32-year-old player is nutritionally fit for purpose. She tells us that Rafa already had good eating habits, which makes it easier. “But tennis is such a challenging and complex sport: you can never calculate the length of a match or tournament participation,” Gemma explains. “Hydration is the most important factor, to balance electrolytes, sugars, and minerals throughout.”
This involves essential pre-hydration and re-hydration with isotonic and hypotonic drinks before and after playing. The specific climatic conditions of a tournament’s location are also factored into her nutrition and hydration plans.
The ‘King of Clay’ is not the only elite athlete to benefit from Gemma’s expertise. She also works with footballers, motorcycle racers, marathon runners, and others. “I’m lucky always to have a good relationship with my clients,” she says. “None of the elite athletes I’ve worked with has ever made difficult demands. I explain everything, we have great conversations, and find a good balance.”
Gemma offers consultations at the Juaneda Clinic in Palma de Mallorca and at the Rafa Nadal Academy, but you don’t have to be a sporty sort to benefit – although Gemma believes “we are programmed for physical activity.” During her twenty years’ experience she has also helped people, individually and in groups, who simply want to eat better or who are ill. Gemma dedicates time to investigating suitable nutrition for those suffering from diseases such as cancer and diabetes. “When someone says, ‘I feel so good!’ – that’s what I most like about my work.”
Although nutrition is Gemma’s primary focus, her aim for people is to create a sustainable lifestyle, more than a diet. She motivates clients to keep researching and discovering new foods and to enjoy eating well. An individual approach is taken with each person, but one thing she always asks is about their digestion. “The digestive system is the most important thing we have in our body,” she says. Conversations with those who consult with her result in two specific objectives: what to reduce and what to improve. “The goals are theirs, not mine!” she says. “They need to want to change their eating habits.” Learning to eat well is the ultimate objective.
As a mum of two, it’s not surprising that Gemma is particularly interested in child nutrition; she wishes schools taught the subject. She encourages parents to let their children cook with them at home. “Time preparing food with my children in the kitchen is lovely,” she says.
You’ll find recipes and more on the website Gemma created with her friend and colleague Estrella Alba. The site’s name incorporates its components: nutrition, eat, and attitude. Gemma also presents workshops for the public and has written books – including Vivir Sin Gluten, in collaboration with renowned Mallorcan chef Tomeu Caldentey.
Few people are likely to achieve Rafa Nadal’s outstanding tennis prowess, but optimal nutrition and a sustained healthy lifestyle are attainable for anyone with the help of his Mallorca-based nutritionist Gemma Bes.
Gemma’s Top Tips for tip-top health
Feeling motivated to make some positive changes to your health this spring? Gemma shares these tips:
- Eat only when you’re hungry – not out of habit or boredom. Let your stomach rest to reset.
- When eating, leave about 20% of your stomach empty for better absorption of nutrients and to prevent inflammation.
- Follow your intuition but don’t over-analyse it. Notice which foods make you feel good.
- Cut out white refined sugar. Instead, choose natural sugars – for example, fruit and juices.
- Consume only natural and unprocessed food. If possible, buy fresh seasonal produce at local markets.
- Breathe! It’s the base of everything. Try to concentrate on your breathing for ten minutes a day.
- Make moving fun. Find a sporting activity you enjoy. Take the stairs; walk every day, if only for ten minutes.
- Organise to prevent stress. Plan your week and write everything down instead of keeping it in your head.
- Take time out. Save a small amount of time for yourself during the day, be it for meditating, working out or simply resting for five minutes.
- Try to go to bed before 23:00h. Read a book instead of watching TV or using your phone, because the light emitted deactivates the sleep hormone melatonin, causing sleeping disorders.
- Information is key. Learn about nutrition and how to prepare healthy dishes.
- Finally, enjoy food. Eating shouldn’t be a stress factor in your life. Be creative, innovative, and experimental in your cooking.
For more information, nutrition tips, and easy healthy recipes: www.nutreatude.com
Photos by Pernilla Danielsson