Tips & Recipes

Fueling for recovery at the Tour de France

EF Pro Cycling nutritionist Will Girling explains what our riders need to eat to repair their bodies during the world’s most grueling sporting event

July 4, 2024

What do athletes eat during the Tour de France?

To perform day in and day out during the three-week, 3498-km race, our riders’ diets have to be dialed. They’ll burn up to 10,000 calories on the hardest stages, shredding their muscles with all-out effort after all-out effort on high-mountain cols. Stages finish in the evenings and start the following morning.

EF Pro Cycling nutritionist Will Girling tailors each of our riders’ meal plans to make sure that they have the nutrients that they need to refuel well and rebuild their muscles so they can race the next stage at their best. Will’s main focus is to make sure that our athletes consume the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats at the right times, while remaining well hydrated, so their bodies don’t break down.

We asked Will to explain the fundamentals of our riders’ Tour de France nutrition strategy macronutrient by macronutrient to help you understand how our riders fuel for recovery during the hardest sports event on earth.


Carbohydrates are a bike racer’s most important source of fuel. Although riders spend much of their time pedaling at an aerobic pace, drawing primarily on their stores of fat for fuel, carbs are their main source of energy for harder efforts–the kinds of efforts that determine whether they get over a mountain at the front of the peloton or drop their rivals from a breakaway, so they can power away to victory. The human body can only store so much carbohydrate in its muscles in the form of muscle glycogen, about 2000 calories worth. As such, it is essential that riders keep their stores topped up. That is always a challenge, since Tour de France cyclists can burn up to and around 1000 calories per hour when they are racing. Will recommends a carb-centric breakfast, based around easy-to-digest sources like rice and pancakes.

On the bike, our riders are able to consume up to 120 grams of carbs per hour, thanks to Amacx’s specially formulated drink mixes and bars and gels, which contain a balance of glucose and fructose to ensure fast and easy absorption.

Post-race, you’ll often see riders shoveling gummy bears into their mouths, followed quickly by a bottle of cherry juice, which, besides being a source of carbs, is a concentrated source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Once they are back on the team bus, they will eat a plate of rice. That’s because there is a three- to four-hour window after intense exercise when their bodies are able to absorb any carbs that they consume much more efficiently.

Our riders’ suppers will be based around carbs as well. Our team chef always makes sure there are a variety of sources on the table, with rice, pasta, and potato-based dishes. In total, the riders aim to eat 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight, depending on the intensity of the day’s stage and how hard the team expects their effort to be in the coming days. Before important mountain stages, riders will try to limit their intake of fiber to avoid carrying around any extra bulk from the water that it absorbs. Their greatest priority, however, is just to make sure that they replenish all of the carbs that they have burned during the day so they start the next stage well fueled.

“Your total carbohydrate intake is always going to be the most important,” Will says. “Frequency and timing matter, but if the total amount is off, you're always going to be under and your fuel tank is never going to be full. If you go into deficit, you're going to see reduced muscle glycogen, which means your ability to perform high-intensity efforts will reduce and you’re going to under recover. You’ll then have increases in muscle inflammation, which will be a detriment to performance and total power output. And if it continually happens, you could expose yourself to sickness. It's always important to have sufficient glycogen stores and sufficient blood glucose levels from carbs to enable you to manage and deal with the efforts of racing.”


Protein provides the essential building blocks that muscles use to rebuild themselves. During a race like the Tour de France, Will recommends that our riders eat 2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight so that they are able to repair their damaged muscles. Their main sources of protein are eggs, which they eat at breakfast as well as in post-race omelets, and then lean meats at supper.

Timing for protein is less important than it is for carbs. What matters is the overall amount that our riders consume on a daily basis. Protein is more difficult to digest than carbohydrates, so it is best to eat it well before and after racing and focus on carbohydrate consumption immediately before, during, and after each stage. Will also says that our riders can include plant-based proteins from nuts, beans, and legumes in their diets to meet their daily needs. The latest science shows that they can be just as effective as meat for muscle repair.

“If you think of your muscles like a wall,” Will says, “proteins are the bricks that make up that wall. When you do exercise, some of that wall gets knocked down, and we need protein to rebuild it. If you eat an inadequate amount of protein, that means you've got an inadequate number of bricks to rebuild the wall. And that means that you're not going to have a complete wall by the next day. Once again, the total amount of protein that you consume is the most important. If you don't have enough bricks, it doesn’t matter when you put them back in the wall. We just want to get a nice spread across the day, so you have enough in your system when you go into an anabolic phase, which is where you're recovering and rebuilding and repairing.”


Even the leanest athletes’ fat stores contain far more calories worth of energy than they could ever burn during a day of racing. Since it is so difficult to consume enough protein and carbohydrate to fuel recovery during the Tour de France, fat makes up a relatively small proportion of our athletes’ daily diets. Adequate fat consumption is essential for basic human health however. Will recommends that our riders take in 1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight from healthy sources such as salmon and olive oil. Our riders will also take an Omega-three supplement to guarantee they have enough fat in their diets every day and benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties.

“Managing your diet at the Tour is a bit like managing your finances,” Will says. “If calories are money, you have to spend so much on protein and you have to spend so much on carbohydrate, and the remainder of the day is then left for fat because it's needed for certain health functions. It doesn't contribute to refilling the fuel tank and helping perform and maintain exercise it comes lowest on the list in terms of importance, but you do need to eat enough to maintain things like hormonal balance and nervous system recovery.”

@efprocycling the Italian Stallion knows the importance of good olive oil 😌🇮🇹 #oliveoil #italiancheck #efprocycling @giroditalia @GCN ♬ Feelin' Like - Bad Colours & Jarv Dee


Remaining well hydrated is crucial during the Tour de France. During a hot stage, riders will drink at least a liter of fluid per hour and still finish lighter than they were at the start due to sweat loss. Severe dehydration leads to very significant drops in performance and can be dangerous, so it is essential that our riders drink enough throughout each stage and consume electrolytes to maintain their fluid balance. All of our riders have undergone extensive sweat testing with Nix Biosensors, so they know how much they will need to drink on a given stage. Amacx energy drinks contain added sodium and magnesium to help them keep hydrated. They will weigh themselves immediately after a stage and replace fluids they’ve lost, so that their recovery isn’t hampered by dehydration.

“As a general rule of thumb, if you lose more than two percent of your body weight to dehydration, you're going to see a real drop off in performance,” Will says. “So, if you finish a stage and you don't adequately rehydrate and then you come into the next day still dehydrated, you're going to underperform. Dehydration will impair all of your other recovery processes too, because your body depends on water to function.”

To learn more about what our riders eat during the Tour de France watch 'A Day in the Life of a WorldTour team chef' on RaceTV

Share this story

More from Tour de France