Matt Lovell is widely regarded as one of the top nutritionists in the world, having worked for over a decade with the England Rugby team as well as UK Athletics, Leicester Tigers, Saracens, Man City, Tottenham and the England Women’s Football team.
Matt currently runs his own elite performance based company. This is aimed at elite athletes and corporations and includes all levels of health-related performance. Matt has also developed a range of sports supplements under the trade name amino man.
We met with Matt to gain industry insight including his view on:
– The importance of educating the consumer on nutrition
– Supplement quality vs clever marketing
– Whether PT’s should work more closely with nutritionists
– Useful technology for nutritionists
1) Should new brands focus more on quality than marketing?
Without the best possible ingredients you’re on a road to nothing, so I think when beginning a new product, service – or anything really – the quality is going to dictate the longevity or success of a brand. However, you could have created the best thing ever and if you don’t tell anyone about it then it’s going to crash and burn. So there’s a balance between beginning with the best innovation, science, efficacy, all that; and then telling people about it. What sometimes happens is that you get some companies, particularly in the supplement business, who create something which tastes brilliant, but might be loaded with sugar, fat and all these other things. Then they stick a really fashionable cover – a ripped model, male or female, drinking the lovely drink. Anyone that tastes it says it’s delicious, it’s going to get me ripped, but then what you’ve got is a mismatch between the best marketing in the world and potentially the worst product in the world. So I think ultimately you must always be completely honest with your consumer and then do the right level of marketing to combine with that.
2) How important is taste in the supplement market?
Well there’s a phrase people sometimes say which is ‘taste is clear’, and I think certainly for the mass market if you create a nasty-tasting product, then you’re going to struggle to get it out to a wide audience. However, efficacy and the strength of the product for me comes first. Working in elite sports where people need to get quick fixes and extra, small percentages in terms of performance, often that might mean using quite bitter herbs in quite large amounts which makes it quite difficult to master flavour. So I think that question relates to it being an audience-specific need. But if you create strong products which work with the right amount of the different types of ingredients you need to have a strong effect – and you can make it taste good – then you’ve got a match made in heaven.
3) How vital is educating consumers on nutrition?
I think if you’ve got an audience, client or someone like that, essentially, the whole reason to have a product is to fulfill a solution to a problem that a client might have. So educating a client in terms of the reasons why they might have a quick fix for say, sleep, an issue with a mineral like magnesium or if they’ve got a sticking point in achieving in their optimum body composition because their protein balance is wrong, I think more and more the consumer is discerning, the consumer is self-educating, so if you can bridge that gap by producing quality understandable information. It also shows that whatever product you’re making should do exactly what is says on the tin because it’s got the clinical evidence, it’s got the case studies, and once someone starts taking that they get an immediate benefit. And if you’re providing a solution, that solution-styled approach is essential to being a successful practitioner and probably essential to running a successful business as well.
4) Should personal trainers be giving diet advice?
That’s a really good question. I think a lot of that boils down to whether you get adequate insurance in order to manipulate someone’s diet or recommend supplementations as a personal trainer. So the first thing is if you want to do that, make sure you’re covered and you’re giving safe advice. One of the grey areas is around nutrition systems that get taught to personal trainers which also come with a heap of supplements to backup the protocols. Now, in some instances, those types of protocols will use very high amounts of certain nutrients, which in fact can be very dangerous. I have had people come to me on a testosterone protocol, 50 milligrams of zinc every day for six months and that becomes zinc toxic, and that happens because a trainer believes what they have been told, given the person supplements, probably made some money from the supplements, but haven’t gone through the proper due diligence of blood testing and knowing what the safe levels of mineral supplementation are in the longer term. So, train yourself as much as you possibly can, offer a holistic service as much as you can, but if there’s something you don’t know enough about then refer to an expert. Make sure you are properly insured for all the advice you give to somebody.
5) Should nutritionists find and promote a specialism?
Well I find that as a nutritionist you have to know a lot about all these different systems in the body. What naturally happens is that you gravitate towards areas that you either enjoy working in more, or that you’ve had particular experience fixing yourself, and therefore because of your own experience you’ve got a passion and you want to help others fix it yourself. So that basically means you need to know a lot about a lot of different areas, but do end up specialising and have your own niche areas that you’re known for being a particular expert in. The areas that I’ve gravitated toward so over the years would be anything involving improving performance sports wise and things like that, but my particular areas that I enjoy are around fatigue, over-training syndrome, and fixing people that have gotten themselves in that sort of state.
6) How can technology be useful to nutritionists?
I would say using those types of kit has been really helpful for clinical practice. Second thing I would say is any bit of kit comes with inherent flaws, so you just need to know that as long as you’re working with a consistent flaw then ultimately the stats will line out in the the end. The bits of kit I’ve been working with for a while, and will continue to work with, are bioimpedance scales. I know they’re hydration sensitive and they jump around, but I get people to get on them enough so it irons out the noise that might occur from being hydrated, pre-impact training and so on. I do like step counters, I have used a lot of them; I have a Fitbit, I have a Biostrap, they do a variety of things; steps, heart rate is hit and miss, sleep quality basically knows if your moving around too much or not. The Biotech is a bit more detailed, it does heart rate variability. I think heart rate variability is definitely something of the future. Essentially, this is the interval between your heartbeats and it tells you how stressed or recovered you are – in very simple terms. I have another bit of Italian kit called Biotech Now which is a bit more accurate on the heart rate variability. So it looks at stress parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activation, and it does a very detailed bioimpedance, so it’s correlated really well with DEXA for bone marrow density, visceral fat of and even fat within the muscle which can interfere with glucose metabolism. So my feeling is: arm yourself with as many bits of technology as you can. Non-invasively is much easier because you’re not going to a lab, you’re not drawing blood, you’re not spitting in to tubes and things like that. There’s a final bit of kit which I should mention called the raman scanner. It shines an infrared light in to the skin and gives you an antioxidant score really quickly, so it relates really well to over all fruit and vegetable intake with somebody. I find that that’s a great, quick test to do as well.