The Tour de France and fellow Grand Tours, the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, are uniquely demanding on the athletes, three weeks of intense racing requires specific nutrition to both fuel the riders, and help them to rest and recover.
Our EF Education-EasyPost team nutritionist, Will Girling, shared the team's menu for their first week of the 2022 Tour de France, an insight into the kind of foods that our riders use to power their extreme efforts, day after day.
Starting the day right, nutrition-wise, is extremely important for any bike race, especially one that lasts three weeks.
Riders take breakfast several hours before the stage starts, allowing plenty of time to digest their meal.
Cereals, oats, pancakes, rice, bread, and berries are on offer as well as eggs, avocados and high-protein yogurt. The focus for the riders, and the nutrition team, is on full plates, plenty of protein and loads of lower-fiber, easy-to-digest carbohydrates to maintain energy through the day without making them feel heavy or bloated. The riders can load their plates with foods they know will suit them well for the stage ahead, eating enough to make them comfortably full.
- Sourdough pancakes: Our team chef often makes pancakes using a sourdough starter he keeps throughout the Tour in his catering truck. Topped with bananas and maple syrup.
- Omlets: Most of the riders take an omlet for breakfast, its a great source of protein and easy to digest. The riders have preferences on white to yolk ratio, fillings and how they are cooked. For example Rigoberto Uran takes 3 full eggs, salt, cooked ham and cheese, cooked medium rare. Alberto Bettiol takes 2 eggs, cooked medium, no pepper, sometimes a little ham & cheese.
- Steamed rice: Many riders opt for this as a carbohydrate source over toast, oats or cereals because it’s easy to digest and low in fiber. Some add a couple of fried eggs and avocado for a little fat and protein.
- Fresh juice: To keep fiber low, riders bypass smoothies and stick to freshly-pressed juices, blended by the team chef with the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Carrot + ginger, or a green juice made with spinach, kale, kiwi, apple and cucumber are rider favorites for being packed with critical nutrients and minerals without the bulk of whole or raw vegetables.
-Coffee: Are you even a cyclist if you don't like coffee? Almost all of the team riders start their day with an espresso, it's not just a quick pick-me-up, caffeine has been shown to help with endurance efforts too.
As soon as the riders finish the race, recovery fuelling begins. Meals are prepared and waiting for them in the team bus as riders have about an hour to start replacing the glycogen stores necessary to start the next stage strong. These meals are full of easy-to-digest, low-salt, carbohydrate-rich foods.
Fresh pasta with simple proteins: Pasta tossed with a simple sauce and protein - usually fresh chicken, is the ideal type of meal to replenish riders. The balance of carbohydrates and proteins are just what the body requires – no complicated flavor combinations, or processed proteins here, just simple good food to start the recovery process.
- Protein and carb-focused snacks: Various bars, yoghurts and shakes are available on the team bus for quick and effective refuelling.
Perhaps the most important meal of the day during the race, all the riders sit down together at the team hotel each night, as early as possible. The aim is to replenish their stores with plenty of time for digestion before getting a good sleep.
The dinner menu offers simple, fresh foods that are low in fiber, not too heavy but full of the carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients needed to fuel the riders for the next day.
Unprocessed proteins are a must to boost recovery, along with soups, cooked vegetables and simple carbs. Cooked, easy to eat vegetables are included to provide micronutrients, while ensuring that riders have plenty of time to properly digest and eliminate the fiber before their systems are under the duress of the next stage.
Fresh pastas, noodles and rice with a light but flavor filled main course of steamed fish and roasted or grilled chicken for protein. If the riders have tackled a day in the mountains or if the day has been particularly grueling, a dessert is a sweet morale-boosting treat.
- Simply-prepared proteins: Grilled or roasted chicken or steamed fish with light fresh sauces. Processed meats are avoided for their high sodium content. Red meat is offered on rest days to help with recovery.
- Easy to digest carbohydrates: Options like rice, mashed potatoes or pasta are always available on the buffet table.
- Soup: There's always a fresh soup option on offer, these help with calming the digestive system, especially if a rider is struggling to eat. Soups are great for being low fiber while maintaining high vitamin and mineral intake.
- Steamed, grilled or roasted vegetables or a small salad: Larger salads can be very challenging to digest due to their high fiber content. Instead, riders load up on cooked vegetables or tender greens, easier to digest and assimilate but still packed full of nutrients. Beet salads are popular with the riders and nutrition team for their ability to reduce inflammation and boost recovery.
- For dessert: Nothing too heavy or full of overly processed sugars, fruit based desserts tend to be preferred. It's also a chance to get a little more protein in, with yogurt or crème fraîche on the side.
Here's EF Education-EasyPost's menu for the first week of the 2022 Tour de France.