Olympic gold-medallist on his marks for Amsterdam show

Bart Veldkamp Barts bars

Elite athlete Bart Veldkamp's diet was focused on energy and nutrition from an assortment of foods

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Former Olympic champion speed skater Bart Veldkamp has hung up his competition skates as he concentrates on coaching and nutrition. He will be at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference on November 3 and is keen to find out more about the produce scene as he launches his own exciting new food product to the market. Produce Business UK reports

Q: What's your motivation for being at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference?
A: I am in the process of developing a 100% natural nutrition bar. It has no preservatives in it and uses no tricks to make the ingredients stick together. I wanted to attend the show to gain more knowledge about the overall market as I continue to develop my bars.

Bart's bar
Bart Veldkamp's 100% natural nutrition bar

Tell us about when you started speed skating competitively.
A: I started skating when I was five years old and started competing when I was between eight and nine years old.

Q: What kind of training regimen did you follow to reach the ultimate pinnacle of the Winter Olympics?
A: When I was between 14 and 18 [years of age] I trained about 10-12 times a week, besides going to school. Then when I was 18 I became a full-time athlete, with a more intense training schedule. I almost made the Olympic games in 1988, I just missed them that year. And this motivated me to work and train even harder for the 1992 games – my whole focus was being able to skate in the 1992 games.

Q: What was your diet like when you were competing and did you incorporate a lot of fresh produce into it?
A: No, I really didn't eat a lot of produce when I was competing. Instead, I tried to get my energy and nutrition from an assortment of foods. By that I mean good, complete meals. I ate a lot of fish and tried to stick to an organic diet, cutting out sugar and dairy products. I tired to make meals from scratch using organic ingredients. This is actually quite common in Holland. People cook their meals here, they don't eat a lot of pre-packaged food. 

Q: So you didn't stick to a strict regimen of fruits and vegetables to reach peak performance?
A: No, not really. When I was competing I didn't drink ready-to-go energy shakes either. I tried to get my protein from fish and eggs and meat instead. And I was focused on not consuming added sugar. I also avoided milk because I am allergic to it. My diet stressed eating well-balanced meals. 

LtoR silverJohann Olav KossGOldBartVeldkampBronzeGeir Karlstad
Left to right: 1993 Winter Olympics 10,000m speed-skating medallists
silver Johann Olav Koss, gold Bart Veldkamp, and bronze Geir Karlstad 

Q: How has your diet changed post-Olympics? Have you altered what you consume since you are burning fewer calories than you did 10 years ago?
A: By nature, I have a slow metabolism. By this I mean that I can go for a long period of time on my fat-burning system. So even when I was training hard and competing I had to watch my energy intake closely. But after training for so many years and watching my nutrition so closely, my system became very efficient.

For a long time, I did watch and count my calories, however, I stopped all of that. I no longer believe in that system. To me, it’s more about the question of where the energy [calories] come from.  When they come from sugars, especially added sugars, I gain weight faster than when the same amount of energy is coming from fats and proteins. So today, my system is much more efficient, and that's a good point to be at, because when your metabolism works more efficiently, the body stays fitter, more energized, and is less sensitive to diseases. Today, I eat less in general...But I drink more wine...! 

Q: If you had to advise a person embarking on an exercise programme to lose weight, what would you say? And what diet modifications would you recommend?
A: I would tell a person trying to lose weight to slow down on carbohydrates. I would tell them to eat whole grains and make food from scratch as much as you can. And I would tell them to use fats and proteins as the primary energy source.

Q: What are your favourite fruits and vegetables today?
A: I like grapes and oranges. Those are the things I eat the most. As far as vegetables go, I like peppers and tomatoes. Brussels sprouts are also good.

Q: Do you shop for groceries yourself?
A: Yes, I do. 

Q: What stores do you frequent?
A: I live in Norway and I try to go to the small organic markets as much as I can. When I lived in the US I often went to Whole Foods. The products are very good there, but expensive. Everyone's watching their budget – me included. But I do try and buy organic as much as I can. 

Q: Why?
A: I believe that it's a healthier way to go. The organic crops haven't been exposed to pesticides, they haven't had the weed killers sprayed on them. And I prefer not to have chemicals on my food. I really believe that even the smallest amount of pesticide can harm your system.

Q: You've created a line of power bars. What inspired you to bring them to the commercial market? And just what makes them unique among the plethora of energy bars already filling up supermarket shelves?
A: Yes, but I wouldn't call them power bars. They're actually nutrition bars. I make them with fruits and vegetables, with seeds and even quinoa. As I mentioned before, they are 100% natural – a small and convenient bar that has everything you need packed into a small size.  I wanted to bring them to the commercial market because, yes, there are lots of bars out there already, but the ones that taste good are full of sugars and preservatives. And the healthier alternatives don't taste as good. My version is about blending good taste with sound nutrition. As I told you, my bars use no sugar or preservatives. And I use no date paste to bind them and make the ingredients adhere to each other.

Q: So what binds the ingredients if you don't use the date paste that is common to this energy-bar type of product?
A: It's my own recipe and the procedure is a secret! I believe it's important to be unique and original when you're launching a new product. But I will say that a lot of work goes into creating these bars. They take longer to make because my process is more involved since it does not rely on chemical additives or syrups of any kind.

Q: What kind of fruits and vegetables do you incorporate into Bart's Bars?
A: Dates, raisins and figs. Also carrots and beetroot.

Bart Veldkamp beetroot and carrots

Q: Do they feature nuts of any kind?
A: No nuts. They are nut free. And also gluten and lactose free. I believe in nuts, but these bars are for people who are intolerant to nuts and gluten.  I wanted them to be allergy free.

Q: Can they be purchased yet?
A: Not yet. The product line is still in development, but I project they will be up for sale by March of 2017.

Q: Do you plan to sell them in supermarket produce departments at any time in the near future?
A: Eventually, yes. But first I want to start [selling them] on-line and build enthusiasm for the bars among people who really want a product like this. After that, I would like to introduce them to the US and to the grocery markets. 

Q: Where can people learn more about what you're doing and follow Bart's Bars to commercial release?
A: They can go to my website www.bartsbar.nl – it's all there.

The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference takes place from November 2-4 at the Westergasfabriek. Don't miss out! Register online now.  

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