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Fueling like the Tour de France pros: nutrition strategies for stage races

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In this blog, we take a look at how the Tour de France pro cyclists eat. Includes fueling strategy for stage races!

Do it like the cycling pros: nutrition strategies for more power


It’s that time again. Currently, the world’s most famous stage race in cycling is underway: the Tour de France!

The 21 stages of this year’s Tour de France with a total of 30 climbs of the highest categories are a new record in the history of the Tour de France, which runs 3405.6 kilometers from Bilbao to Paris.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in the constant performance & regeneration of the cyclists during the individual stages and the entire tour.

But getting the right nutrition is not so easy and is especially challenging for such a long duration of exertion as a stage race. Therefore, cyclists often have difficulty absorbing enough energy during the tour.

In a stage race, an individual fueling & regeneration strategy is of particular importance.

In this blog, you’ll learn how professional cyclists fuel themselves during the Tour de France and how you can apply this strategy to your stage race.

The diet before the grand tour/stage race

The body’s own carbohydrate stores are severely limited and only last for a short duration of exertion. For this reason, the body is dependent on “fuel” in the form of carbohydrates during long periods of exertion.

The gastrointestinal tract is especially challenged during prolonged sports activities. However, studies show that the absorption capacity and tolerance of carbohydrates can be greatly improved by regularly supplying carbohydrates during training.

Applied to your tour, this means: Slowly increase your carbohydrate intake in training in the weeks before competitions. You can do this, for example, with the high-dosage & top-tolerated POWER CARB or FAST CARB as well as the GEL 40. Also, plan training sessions where you’ll eat the competition-specific product with appropriate dosage .

Important: Already in the extensive preparation weeks, make sure you have a sufficient carbohydrate intake outside of training! Not only will this ensure you have enough energy for your workout, but a carbohydrate-rich base diet is also important for carbohydrate tolerance during exercise.

The final countdown – 3 days left until the stage race

A prerequisite for a multi-day stage race are filled glycogen stores. Pay attention to a high carbohydrate intake in the last days – you should supply about 8g/carbs per kg body weight daily in these days.

Reduce the fiber and fat content of your meals. Dietary fiber is found, for example, in vegetables or whole-grain products. These are very important in a healthy & balanced diet, but in the last days before the competition you should neglect them. This makes it easier for you to consume the larger amount of carbohydrates.

  • Every 2-3 hours: Meal or snack. With a well distributed & regular intake throughout the day, you’ll manage to fill your glycogen stores easier than with three big main meals!
  • Supplement your meals with a liquid carbohydrate supply, e.g. juice spritzers or the special carbohydrate drink SLOW CARB.
  • Dried fruits such as dates, apricots, mango, etc. have a high carbohydrate density and are suitable as a snack or supplement to your meals such as in porridge.

Example day – carboloading

Breakfast: Porridge with rice or oat milk, 1 apple, 1 banana, dried fruit and a small amount of yogurt or cottage cheese + orange juice.

Lunch: Yellow curry with a large portion of basmati rice & steamed high carbohydrate vegetables (e.g. potato, sweet potato, bell pepper, carrot), some added fat and protein (1 tsp olive oil or some butter), a small portion of fish/meat/tofu + juice spritzer or SLOW CARB

Dinner: Beet, quinoa salad with sweet potatoes and feta (Beetroot contains a lot of nitrate and iron. These nutrients have a positive effect on the oxygen consumption and blood circulation. Regular intake can support the performance during long distance events!

Snack ideas: Rice pudding with apple & cinnamon, semolina porridge, banana bread, PORRIDGE BAR

Food during training: If you train on these days, you should consume about 60g of carbohydrates per hour (FAST CARB/POWER CARB/GEL 40) so that your glycogen stores are spared.

The last day before the tour/stage race

You should make breakfast, lunch & snacks high in carbohydrates again that day. Reach for well-tolerated carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, pasta, quinoa, porridge & rice pudding.

At dinner, it is recommended to reduce the carbohydrate intake back to a moderate intake, so that your gastrointestinal tract is relieved. Fat intake is increased in favor of carbohydrate intake.

A “low fiber diet” is ideal on the day before and on the day  of a very difficult stage, a “low fiber diet” should be followed. This means focusing on easily digestible and low-fiber foods and avoiding large amounts of raw foods and whole grains.

The time has come: nutrition & food for the individual stages

Make sure to schedule your breakfast 2-3 hours before start.

Breakfast approx. 3h before the start: For the nutrition around the stages, standardized breakfast variants are used by the professional teams of the Tour de France. Here is a specific selection for easy and difficult stages.

“easy” stage:
Smoothie or juice
Porridge cooked with almond milk and fruit
2 slices of bread with honey, jam or cheese or ham
Omelet from 2-3 eggs fried with olive oil
Choice of natural yogurt or kefir
+ coffee or tea

“heavy stage”:
Smoothie or juice
Porridge with rice milk and banana
2 slices of white bread with honey or jam
Omelet from 2-3 eggs fried with olive oil
+ coffee or tea

Do it like the pros: The detailed fueling strategy at the Tour de France

  1. When developing a fueling strategy, the first step is to create a requirements profile for the individual stage; the following points are taken into account here:

Start time, stage profile, weather/temperature, requirements of the next stages.

  • Tour de France 2023 stages characteristics:
    8 mountain stages
    4 mountain finishes
    6 hilly stages
    6 flat stages
    1 Individual time trial
  1. In the second step, software is used to calculate the individual energy and carbohydrate requirements. This software stores the rider’s individual metabolic profile, which simply means how much energy & carbohydrates the rider consumes at what power output. Individual performance data such as VO2max and VLamax are used here to determine the individual energy & carbohydrate consumption of the exercise metabolism.
  2. In addition, other influencing factors are taken into account:

In hot temperatures: Lower carbohydrate intake.

For difficult stages: Carbohydrate intake set higher.

Exponential carbohydrate intake: The carbohydrate intake is higher on the last kilometers than on the first kilometers of each stage.

Individual differences: Individual carbohydrate tolerance, energy efficiency values, heat tolerance, etc.

  1. From this, an individual fueling strategy is developed for the cyclists:
  • When how many units per hour? (1 unit equals 40g of carbohydrates)

The range here is about 2 – 3 units per hour.

  • Which drinks at which refreshment point?
  • When will the food bag be handed?

Liquid carbohydrate base: FAST CARB, POWER CARB & POWER CARB HEAT

Solid carbohydrates: GEL 40, PORRIDGE BAR, INTENSITY BAR

In the past this was often supplemented with rice cakes, crackers and so on. These products are used less and less. Here, the focus is on the well-tolerated sports nutrition products with a high dosage.

Important: Regular supply & not only when you run out of energy, to prevent a sudden drop in performance.

In addition to sufficient carbohydrate intake, the supply of fluids is crucial for constant power retrieval, but also for the absorption and tolerance of the ingested carbohydrates. 500 – 750ml per race hour will keep you well hydrated (recommended fluid intake obviously also depends on individual requirements and on the temperature).

On the track
“Easy” stage:
liquid carbohydrate base: – FAST CARB or POWER CARB HEAT
Approx. 2 units of 40g of carbs per hour means approx. 80g of carbs per hour.
Complemented by: PORRIDGE BARs and GEL 40

“Heavy” stage:
liquid carbohydrate base: – FAST CARB or POWER CARB HEAT
Approx. 2-3 units of 40g of carbs per hour means 80-120g of carbs per hour.
Complemented by: GEL 40 and INTENSITY BAR

After the stage is before the stage: The regeneration strategy

Regeneration is of particular importance with the short recovery times in a multi-day stage race. With an optimized regeneration strategy, you can actively support the body in the recovery process and give the body the best possible support.

Within 30min after the end:
Juice such as grape juice or sour cherry juice.
+ RECOVERY SHAKE with dates

In bus transfer:
Weighed amount of pasta or rice
+ Sandwich/Wraps

In sequence – within 2-3h after stage end:
Carbohydrate rich & balanced meal:
Pureed vegetable soup
Pasta, rice, potatoes
Fish or meat (turkey or chicken, red meat only on rest days).
Fresh herbs

When planning and composing the carbohydrate-rich meal in the bus transfer and at dinner, multiple factors are taken into consideration including the data of the cycled stage of the day, “files” of the individual cyclist, the actual energy & carbohydrate intake, as well as the following day’s stage requirement profile.

Night-Time Snack:
Kefir, plain yogurt, low-fat Greek yogurt with honey, dates and cornflakes.

You may know that melatonin is a hormone that the body produces every night to prepare for sleep. Selected foods can promote melatonin release and thus improve sleep/nightly regeneration!

With this strategy you are perfectly prepared for your stage race. We wish you the best of luck!

Discover the perfect energy sources for your top performances


Robert Gorgos

Robert Gorgos

Robert is a authority when it comes to sports nutrition science. As a nutritionist, he coaches many well-known top athletes, including the professional cyclists from BORA – hansgrohe. At the same time, he is a competitive athlete himself. And: Robert has developed the sports nutrition of MoN Sports.

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