WorldTour nutrition: EF Education-NIPPO’s Tour de France table
In the quest for the yellow jersey, riders in the modern Tour de France tackle 21 challenging days on the bike. This year's counterclockwise route wound riders through Brittany, across the hilly heart of the countryside to the Alps, then south to the Pyrenees with a stop at Mt. Ventoux where the race tackled the Giant of Provence twice in a single day – the first time in race history. The course spanned 3,414 km to the finish line on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. It is hard to comprehend this daily menu of challenges because the event is so much longer and more intense than anything most athletes will ever encounter. Perhaps, however, we can relate more to the menu on the dining table...
We asked our EF Education-NIPPO team nutritionist what foods the riders typically find on the table each day at the Tour. Here’s what’s for dinner (and breakfast and recovery) for our riders:
Each morning, the team is met with a healthy spread of sweet and savory options several hours before heading to the start line to ensure adequate digestion of their meal before go-time. Cereals, oats, pancakes, rice, bread, and berries are on offer as well as eggs, avocados and high-protein yogurt. The focus of the riders, and their nutrition team, is on full plates, plenty of protein and loads of lower-fiber, easy-to-digest carbohydrates to keep their energy up through a massive day without weighing them down. The riders are welcome to graze as they wish, choosing to fill their plates with foods they know will suit them well for the stage ahead, leaving the table feeling satisfied, but never overfull.
- Sourdough pancakes: Our team chef often makes pancakes for the riders using a sourdough starter he keeps throughout the Tour in his chef's truck. Topped with bananas and maple syrup, they're a rider favorite.
- 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. They often add a couple of fried eggs and avocado for some fat and protein.
- Fresh juice: In effort to keep fiber low, riders bypass smoothies and stick to freshly-pressed juices, concocted by the team chef with the freshest seasonal ingredients. Carrot + ginger juice, or a green juice made with spinach, kale, kiwi, apple and cucumber are rider favorites, and are favored by the nutrition team for their ability to provide critical nutrients and minerals to riders without the bulk of whole or raw vegetables.
Off the bike, riders have about an hour to start replacing glycogen stores necessary to arrive at the start line strong tomorrow. Straight off of the course, team staff has a recovery meal at the ready, full of easy-to-digest, low-salt, carbohydrate-rich foods to help riders replenish and refuel.
- Fresh pasta with simple proteins: Whether it be gnocchi, ravioli or fresh noodles tossed with a simple sauce and a powerful protein, this is the ideal type of meal to replenish riders. The carbohydrates and proteins are just what the body needs – no complicated flavor combinations, or processed proteins here.
- Steamed rice: A perennial favorite among riders. Usually served with a simple protein.
- Protein- and carb-focused snacks
Before heading to bed each night, the riders sit down to dinner together at the team hotel. They want to top off their stores with plenty of time to digest their meal and enjoy a restful sleep for a speedy day tomorrow.
The menu focuses on simple, fresh and straightforward foods that keep fiber low, keep the riders fueled without feeling too full, and with enough carbohydrates to fuel the next stage. Unprocessed proteins are a must to boost recovery, along with a soup, cooked vegetables and simple carbohydrates. Cooked, easy-on-the-gut vegetables such as cooked beets are included in the buffet to provide micronutrients while ensuring that riders have time to properly digest and eliminate the fiber before their systems are under the duress of the next stage.
Fresh pastas, gnocchi or ravioli, and a flavorful main course of steamed fish or roasted chicken are usually on offer, and if the riders have tackled a day in the mountains, there’s dessert on the table, too. If the day has been particularly grueling, a slice of our chef’s tangerine cake, or a bowl of rice pudding is a sweet and morale-boosting treat.
- Simply-prepared proteins: Grilled or roasted chicken or steamed fish in parchment. Processed meats are avoided for their high sodium content.
- Easy to digest carbohydrates: Options like sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes or couscous salad are always on the buffet table.
- Soup: Carrot + Cumin Soup is a specialty of our chef. The warm liquids help with calming the digestive system, nutritional assimilation and keeping fiber low while maintaining high vitamin and mineral intake.
- Steamed or roasted veggies or a small salad: Large salads may seem like a light option, but they can be very challenging to digest due to their high fiber content. Instead, the riders load up on cooked vegetables or tender greens, easier to digest and assimilate. Beets are a rider and nutrition team favorite for their ability to reduce inflammation and boost recovery.
- For dessert: Rice pudding, a slice of tangerine cake or a high-protein yogurt parfait with granola and fruit compote on a particularly big day.