If you are going to be doing nothing but cycling all day, every day for three weeks across a staggering distance of close to 4,000 kilometers, you probably want to be properly fueled up. Competing in a race as demanding as the Tour de France simply means that your job isn’t just to cycle, but to eat as well.
In order to have enough energy to cycle for a single day, cyclists will have to fuel up by consuming north of 5,000 calories worth of food. Depending on the intensity of the stage and the cyclist himself, this number may even rise up to a massive 8,000 calories. To put that in perspective, that’s four times the amount of food that a healthy adult would eat.
Couple all of the above with the fact that the cyclists’ bodies are at its absolute limits almost the entire day, and you will realize that calories alone isn’t going to cut it anymore.
What truly is needed is a balanced diet with sufficient calories that also supplies all the required nutrients. No wonder most teams bring their own nutritionists!
Before, During and After Race Diets
All of the eating and drinking is done before, during and after the race. To sustain themselves for hours of cycling, all riders tend to take loads of carb rich food for breakfast on the day of the race. All team nutritionists typically recommend their riders to eat carbs that are more easily ingested than others.
If you thought that breakfast was the only eating that will be happening before the race, you will be mistaken. Right before the race itself, all cyclists have another go at eating.
Unlike their breakfast, this ‘post-breakfast meal’ will be more fluid based. This meal’s purpose is the same as the breakfast – to pretty much load up on as much calories as possible.
Depending on the races, a different diet will be required to sustain a cyclist’s energy across long periods of time. More challenging stages in which more energy is required will demand riders to eat as they race.
More of than not, the types of food that riders get during a race are soft. These foods may include ‘softer-than-usual’ energy bars, rice bars and even consumable gels with specific nutrition’s in them.
The duration right after the race is a crucial time for the bodies of all cyclists. They would have to eat loads of carb rich foods in order to compensate for all the calories lost during the race. They also have to do it as soon as possible to avoid their bodies from going into fatigue.
In our opinion, it’s the riders’ chefs that have the most difficult jobs. On top of having to cook balanced foods, they would also have to make them as appetizing as possible to ensure that the riders do not pass on them. After all, cyclists have to eat, eat and eat in order to stand a chance to win a race.