During the first Tour de France in 1903 sports nutrition didn’t really play an important role in the race. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for a cyclist to carry a baguette and a bottle of wine aboard their bike. But those days are long gone. The extreme physical demands of the modern Tour de France put a burden on a cyclist’s body. That’s why they need the right nutritional strategies to survive it.
Small wonder then, PowerBar is official sports nutrition partner of the Tour de France for more than a decade. During the Tour de France, the 198 cyclists will burn a total of nearly twenty-five million calories. How they get them back? With the right nutrition strategy before, during and after the stages – and through specially developed PowerBar products.
The numbers are impressive: In total, the riders competing in the Tour de France will use 13,700 Energize Bars, 15,400 PowerGels, thousands of litres of Isoactive Isotonic Sports Drink and about 530 servings of Recovery Shakes.
The majority of products consumed during the Tour de France contain carbohydrates. The body stores energy from carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in muscles and the liver. Once these glycogen stores become depleted, racing at maximal intensities cannot be maintained. That’s why the body must be supplied periodically with carbohydrates in the right form during a prolonged intense cycling. A mixture of sugars (glucose and fructose), as for example contained in C2MAX products, ensures muscles are able to obtain the maximum amount of energy from carbohydrate per time unit during exercise. On average cyclists will consume up to four Energize bars and up to six PowerGels during each stage of the race.
Of course, also hydration plays an important role in the Tour de France. Correct hydration before, during and after each stage is critical and is influenced by factors such as climate, sweat rate, and duration and intensity of exertion. The riders drink approx. 0.75L of fluid per hour. Fluid lost through sweating is also associated with a loss of electrolytes. These play a key role in the body’s fluid balance. Sodium, for example, is essential in regulating fluid balance and to ensure proper muscle and nerve function. That’s why special carbohydrate electrolyte solutions, such as PowerBar Isoactive Sports Drinks, contain 5 main electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium) in the ratio typically lost through sweating.
Rapid recovery is essential for Tour de France cyclists, in particular those riders targeting the overall race win as they have to perform consistently well on every stage. It’s important to provide the body with the right nutrients in the correct amounts after each stage. A cyclist’s body needs carbohydrates to replenish depleted glycogen stores, high-quality protein for repairing the damaged muscle tissue and fluid plus electrolytes for effective rehydration.