What do Tour de France riders eat?

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The caloric cost of the Tour de France is enormous. The average 150-pound runner will burn between 5,000 and 8,000 calories per day while covering over 2,100 kilometers around France in 21 days.

And it’s not like they have any weight to lose. They’re already riding the razor’s edge between peak performance and tank immunity, so keeping them well-nourished and well-nourished is of the utmost importance.

In that regard, the team leaders are the real stars of the show, says Nigel Mitchell, RD, head of nutrition at EF Pro Cycling.

“We are able to maintain an energy balance with the runners on a grand tour. We can recover the energy they burn. And that’s because chefs help provide them with great food, refueling strategies and plenty of eating opportunities, ”Mitchell says.

But this was not always the case. “Fifteen years ago, it was more difficult. Runners have talked a lot about flavor or food fatigue – getting tired of eating! It’s because they didn’t have team leaders, ”Mitchell says. “They ate in hotels that had the same menu every day – chicken and pasta, chicken and pasta over and over. They have had enough. The food was also dense in calories, but light in nutrients, so runners didn’t feel well after eating. Today’s chefs pack food with nutrition and flavor. We never hear about food fatigue these days, ”he says.

Here’s a look at what goes into creating those perfect menus, meals, and eating possibilities.

Start the day off right with breakfast

Four hours before the departure time, riders flock to the cafe for a morning meal, which consists of omelets, toast, jams and nut butters, and oatmeal with a range of toppings like seeds and nuts, says Mitchell. “They have the chance to really refuel for the day right away.”

Get on the snack bus

After breakfast, the runners pack their bags and get on the bus for the start. “The bus is a real performance center,” says Mitchell. “The healers make purebred dishes like paninis and rice cakes. These are on the bus with bananas and energy bars, and of course, coffees. There are lots of snacks to be had on the bus.

Fill those pockets

Cyclists eat about 400 to 500 calories per hour on the bike in the form of gels, bars, drinks and food, Mitchell says. “Before going to the start, they fill their pockets with their favorite race foods. We make sure there is a good variety of flavors and foods. And of course, they will have plenty of opportunities to have more snacks in the feed areas and the race car on the course.

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Maximize macros

With a focus on real food, it’s relatively easy to make sure riders get all of the macronutrients – fat, protein, and carbohydrates – they need, Mitchell says. Carbohydrates are pretty straightforward, as they eat them up from morning to night. The team is paying more attention to protein, ensuring runners are getting at least 2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight, or 140 grams for a 70 kg (~ 150 lb) runner.

“We make sure they have protein at every meal so it’s well spaced out throughout the day as they need it,” Mitchell says. “With two or three eggs and oatmeal with garnish, it’s easy to get 30 or 40 grams right away for breakfast. There is some protein in their purebred foods, like paninis. Then they are given a recovery shake with 20 grams when they are ready and lots of protein with the dinner and evening snacks.

“Fat is underrated and extremely important for health, immunity and performance,” Mitchell says. To make sure runners are getting enough, EF provides omega-3 supplements as well as snacks with healthy fats, including seeds and nuts like pistachios, which contain alpha-linoleic acid ( ALA), which converts to omega-3 eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) in the body to help fight inflammation and preserve muscle tissue.

To drink

Hydration matters. As with food, team management make sure there is plenty of water and other hydrating drinks at every turn for their runners. “We get a body weight and take a urine sample from the runners every morning,” Mitchell says. “It’s a very rudimentary science, but it gives us an idea of ​​how hydrated they are. I did 30 great laps and have never had a driver with serious hydration issues in the morning of a race.

Riders can choose their preferred drink mix flavors. EF also uses Skratch Superfuel, a high-carbohydrate drink that contains a carbohydrate called cluster dextrin, which is regularly digested like real food and doesn’t interfere with your hydration like some dense, high-calorie drinks can. “We can get 300 or 400 calories in a bottle, which is really amazing,” Mitchell says.

Recover right

Runners receive their recovery drinks immediately after the finish. Then on the bus for more snacks until they arrive at their destination where dinner is waiting for them. “Dinner is usually lean white meat, a few sources of carbohydrates, vegetables, salad and dessert,” Mitchell says. “There is also a dining room at the hotel, so they can have snacks like dried fruits and nuts before bed.

Get juice

Real vegetable juice is a great performance and health boosting factor during a long, arduous three-week tour, Mitchell says. “As the tour goes on, the runners really feel like they need more nutrition, but they literally can’t eat enough veggies and salad without feeling like all the fiber is there. right in their stomachs, ”Mitchell says.

“We therefore eliminate some of the fiber by squeezing the vegetables. This way, they can contain all the nutrients of carrots, beets and other vegetables without having to eat everything. They still have salad, but they don’t feel the need to try to eat that much. I introduced vegetable juice to Team Sky 10 years ago and now everyone is doing it.

Go for gut foods

Your gut flora is essential for good digestion, health, and performance, and it takes hits on a grand tour with all the strenuous effort and an incredibly high calorie load, Mitchell says. “We are working to best protect gut flora and health, because if it is compromised, so is your digestion. I remember talking to a runner in the late 1990s and early 2000s who said he was just going to lie in bed with his stomach bloated at the end of the Tour because his gut health was so bad. compromised.

To avoid this, Mitchell focuses on foods that are more alkaline than acidic. “Many sports foods and drinks are acidic. We are looking to reduce this burden. So, for example, you can have a gel, no problem. If you take eight during a race, that could be a problem. This is where real foods like rice cakes and bananas are so important. They help maintain a healthy pH in the gut, which allows it to do its job by releasing digestive enzymes and breaking down food and absorbing nutrients.

Food for a good mood

Finally, everyone knows that food is more than fuel. It is also a comfort and even a source of joy. When you push your pedals over two thousand miles over monstrous passes in all types of weather, trying to stay upright and avoid massive accidents and mayhem, you need all the joy you can get. This is why the team makes sure that the runners receive special meals.

“Once or twice a week we try to have steaks,” Mitchell says. “Usually before the flat stages or the day before a day off, so they have enough time for digestion. It’s nutritionally good for runners, of course. But from an emotional standpoint, it’s really important.

Likewise, on the last supper of the night before the last stop, the table is set with good-humored foods, Mitchell says. “The chef will ask for what they want and inevitably it’s homemade burgers and fries. It’s really good humor. It makes them happy and goes fast. ”

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