Written by: Martijn Redegeld
Three weeks, 21 stages, 3,404 kilometers and just under 150,000 calories are needed to successfully complete the Tour de France. That a balanced nutrition plan plays a crucial role during one of the world's toughest sporting events should no longer be a secret. Individually tailored nutrition plans are therefore playing an increasingly important role in the pro peloton. You can read in this blog what the riders of Team Jumbo-Visma literally have to put up with during the three weeks of Tour.
Feeding 8 riders during the Tour de France requires a great deal of preparation, involving many links within the team. Not only is it important to ensure that the riders take in the individually required energy on a daily basis; also the distribution of this energy over the different meals, and the specific distribution of carbohydrates, proteins and fats over these meals is carefully tailored to individual needs, courses and the different roles a rider has within the team strategy. This process of analysis and calculation starts about 6 weeks before the start of the Tour. Afterwards, the team's chefs set to work to develop tasty recipes that match the established guidelines in all areas.
For more than three weeks, two chefs from the team prepare 5 personalized meals daily for each rider. They prepare these in their own fully equipped cooking truck using only fresh groceries from Jumbo. This ensures optimal hygiene at all times, and the exact composition of each dish remains known. Because 'taste fatigue' is a serious danger during an exhausting race like the Tour de France, the chefs ensure that the riders are never served the same meal twice. This way, the riders look forward to the next meal every time, and it is ensured that they can keep eating. What exactly does a day look like for a rider?
8:30 - breakfast
A hard day begins with a hearty breakfast for the riders. About 3.5 to 4 hours before the start of the stage, various carbohydrate-rich products are waiting for the riders. The main purpose of breakfast is to replenish energy stores, especially in the form of carbohydrates. The body can store this in the form of glycogen, which is found in both muscle and liver. Favorite carbohydrate-rich breakfast foods are oatmeal, pancakes, cereal and/or bread with sweet toppings. If a light-digestible breakfast is preferred, for example to take the large portion easily and without complaints, rice pudding or white bread is chosen.
In addition to supplementing carbohydrates, breakfast always contains a source of protein. This provides the body with the building blocks to repair muscle damage. The protein sources at breakfast are also varied: from a fried egg to a bowl of cottage cheese, but also a smoothie or savory spreads can provide enough building blocks to continue recovery in the morning. Depending on the exact plan for the day, riders also regularly take a serving of fruit, and, of course, adequate fluids should not be missing either. Coffee, tea, various juices or smoothies should ensure that the riders also fully compensate for their sweat losses.
12:00 - pre-race snack
On the way to the start of the stage, the riders have the last chance to replenish their carbohydrate stores. Over a cup of coffee, the riders take a specially developed granola bar, sandwich or small cake an hour before the start to get the last fuel into the body.
13:00 - race
Depending on the stage and the intended role of and rider that day, everyone leaves with an individual carbohydrate and fluid target. For example, through a mix of various Amacx products, riders aim for a carbohydrate intake of 90 grams per hour. On relatively quiet days, many riders prefer the Amacx Energy Drink in combination with various bars. When stages, or parts of them, become more intense (such as a tough finale or tough climb) the bars are more often exchanged for a Drink Gel. During the toughest stages during the Tour, Team Jumbo-Visma uses products from the Turbo Line in order to aim for even higher carbohydrate intakes.
In addition to carbohydrate intake, adequate fluid intake is also crucial, especially when it is hot during the day. Sweat loss can quickly reach 6 to 8 liters per day. Besides drinking enough fluids during the stages, the electrolytes (especially sodium) in the various Amacx products also help maintain a better fluid balance. To make all this practically possible for the riders, a sophisticated plan will be drawn up for each stage where various staff members will be at strategic places along the route, to hand out the right products at the right time.
17:30 - recovery drinks
Recovery begins immediately after the finish, in order to be as prepared as possible for the following day. After all, the recovery time between two stages is often limited to 18 to 20 hours. Directly at the finish the riders of Team Jumbo-Visma take two recovery drinks: a bottle of cherry juice and a recovery shake. Both drinks contain fast-absorbable sugars (especially maltodextrin) to replenish the fuel stores (glycogen) in the body. The faster this is started after heavy exercise, the more efficient this process is. In addition to maltodextrin, the recovery shake also contains Protein Delux, which provides high-quality proteins for optimal muscle recovery. Finally, because the shake also contains about 300 to 500ml of water, this also promotes replenishing the fluid balance. This combination of nutrients provides riders with a "kick-start" in their recovery immediately after the stage.
18:30 - recovery meals
Although recovery drinks do a good job of kick-starting the recovery process, they do not provide sufficient nutrients for full recovery. Therefore, two personalized recovery meals await on the bus after a stage to provide the next steps in the recovery process. Like the recovery drinks, these meals are rich in carbohydrates to replenish fuel reserves, and always include a source of protein to provide the necessary building blocks for muscle recovery. Again, to avoid "taste-fatigue," there is always a savory (e.g., pasta, rice or a sandwich) and a sweet (e.g., fruitcake) recovery meal available to riders.
21:00 - dinner
After the bus ride to the hotel and a well-deserved massage, dinner is ready for the riders. Prior to this, the team's nutritionist has adjusted all pre-planned nutrition plans based on current data from the race. This ensures that the riders always get exactly what they need, tailored to a rider's actual consumption. Thus, if a stage was considerably heavier than previously planned, a rider will also have to scoop up some extra at his dinner in the evening.
Again, carbohydrates are usually the main focus at dinner, to further replenish fuel stores towards the day ahead. This can be in the form of a 'classic' pasta or rice dish with bread, but also in the form of personalized sushi, pizza or burgers. The chefs of Team Jumbo-Visma are very creative to make the functional food yet as tasty and appealing as possible. In addition, this meal again contains a protein source, for example in the form of a piece of meat or fish, but vegetable protein sources are certainly also regularly used. Finally, the dinner always contains a portion of vegetables, to promote overall health, good intestinal function and specific muscle recovery.