The Tour de France is one of the hardest and most challenging endurance events in the world. You only have to glance at the stats to get an idea of the lengths the riders have to go through just to finish.
Nutrition plays a key role in the success of a rider’s race for the following reasons:
- Allows riders to maintain their level of performance for the three week race
- Promotes recovery
- Prevents weight loss, especially lean tissue mass as riders do not want to lose muscle. Helps to maintain health and wellbeing
Many teams now work with a performance nutritionist and have their own team chef who travels with the team. This ensures the food being prepared and consumed by the riders meets the above requirements, with the focus always on quality not necessarily quantity. The team chefs need to make sure the food is nutritious and varied, to avoid meal fatigue during the three-week race.
The recommended daily calorie intake for the riders ranges from 4000 – 9000kcal, while fluid intake can be as high as 10 litres. Typical daily carbohydrate needs vary from 500-700g, with approximately two-thirds of this being consumed after the race. Rider variation, weather conditions, terrain and altitude all play an important role in determining rider’s nutritional requirements. No two riders will have the same nutritional requirements.
A Typical Day At The Tour De France
On Waking: Riders often consume a juice drink. This helps to kick-start hydration for the day, and provides them with a host of nutrients and energy, without ‘the bulk’ of eating large amounts.
Breakfast: This isn’t much different to what you probably eat before a ride; porridge, eggs, yoghurt, bread, jam will all be found at the breakfast table. There will, however, also be rice and pasta options. Probiotic drinks are also used to aid immune function, as the riders body will naturally be under a lot of stress.
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During the Race: For the first two-thirds of most stages, unless involved in a breakaway, riders tend to eat solids and then as the intensity increases the riders turn to using the technical nutritional products such as gels . In terms of solid food, riders will start the stage with food and gels in their pockets and pick up additional supplies and bottles from the team car as they go. Alternatively, they can pick up a musette from a team assistant en route at the designated feeds that will include energy bars, energy gels, small sandwiches, homemade rice cakes and sometimes even small pieces of cake. The gels consumed will be both normal energy gels and caffeinated ones. Riders also need to remember to stay hydrated and will consume energy/ electrolyte drinks. As a guide, riders are encouraged to consume 2-3 pieces of race food (energy drink included) per hour and then an extra 500ml of water each hour. Riders can be looking to achieve up to 100g of carbohydrates per hour, which is now made much easier by our super range.
Post Race: As soon as the riders get back on the team bus it is essential that the recovery process begins. Recovery shakes are provided along with food such as cooked rice, boiled potatoes and tuna. Getting a 20-25g intake of protein kick starts protein resynthesis however it is the co-ingestion with carbohydrates that has been found to really optimize a rider’s recovery.
Evening meal: This will naturally change every night so riders do not become bored thus minimising barriers to refuelling. Each meal will typically start with a salad, the main course will consist of meat plus a serving of carbohydrate (rice, pasta or potatoes) and some vegetables. Riders will often have a fruit yoghurt or fruit flan for desert.
Before Bed: Cereal and milk, yoghurt and honey or protein shakes are often consumed before riders go to bed. Sleep has been found to potentially be an extension of the ‘window of opportunity’ for recovery where muscle adaption and repair can take place. Therefore having a 20-25g intake of protein before bed can be crucial to optimise recovery, especially after a long hard day in the saddle with more to follow.
– pro peloton
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