As some of you
, I'm fascinated by the food elite sports people eat. At the moment the Tour
de France is underway. This gruelling cycle race covers 3,500km over three weeks.
Participants are riding for four to six hours per day, reaching speeds of 75 - 80km per
hour at the end of some stages, and climbing up mountains which would make the rest of
you and I weep. Then they get up the next day and do the same thing over again.
Each day the cyclists go through at least one feeding station, a
section of the race where they are handed bags called musettes, full of food and drink.
There's no stopping at the feeding station, instead the cyclists have to grab a bag in
mid flight, and organise their food and drink on the go. Different teams include
different food in their musettes, but there may be sandwiches, bananas, energy bars and
drinks, little cakes and gels.
However it's the sheer
quantity of food Tour de France riders have to eat which always stuns me. The intensity
and hardness of the race means cyclists need to eat 23,000 - 25,000kJ (5,500 - 6,000 cal)
per day. This is more than twice the energy requirement of you and I. The sheer logistics
of eating this much food each day is difficult, especially given they're spending a large
proportion of it on a bike. However, if the cyclists don't eat enough kilojoules and
don't eat frequently, it can drastically affect their performance. And even when Tour de
France participants do eat enough, they will still lose weight and muscle mass during the
There's a great piece on the effort required to ride Le