Feeding professional cyclists: the challenge for Elior’s Director of Nutrition, Véronique Mourier

From August 29 to September 20, Elior teams will be cooking meals for the 8 professional racing cyclists of the Total Direct Energie team competing in the global Reine du Cyclisme event.

The champions competing in the race will benefit from nutritional expertise and culinary savoir faire to help them be the best performers in each leg of the race. Interview with Véronique Mourier, in charge of developing the menus with the chefs.

As a dietitian nutritionist, what is your role for the Total Direct Energie Team?

Véronique Mourier Together with Elior’s chefs, I am developing the nutritional offer for Team Total Direct Energie’s 8 racing cyclists during the three-week racing event. My goal is to provide them with meals that enable them to perform to the best of their ability during the race. To give you an idea, every day, a professional cyclist exerts the equivalent amount of energy as that of a marathon athlete. It is therefore essential to prepare meals for them that are adapted to this intense physical effort.

The menu plan is prepared in advance for the entire duration of the race and takes into account the caloric expenditure of the cyclists, which varies from day to day depending on the specific leg of the race. However, I am also available during the race as I sometimes have to adapt the menu to meet any changes in the cyclists’ needs.

Together, with the team’s doctors and the sports nutritionist on one hand and the Elior chefs on the other, we have developed a menu plan that meets very specific nutritional needs. A good diet affects the cyclists’ performance. As such, everything is thought out according to nutritional choices and a very precise grammage. Nothing should be left to chance.

Every day, a professional cyclist exerts the equivalent amount of energy as that of a marathon athlete. It is therefore essential to prepare meals for them that are adapted to this intense physical effort.

Véronique Mourier - Elior dietitian nutritionist

What are these specific needs?

VM From a nutritional point of view, a racing cyclist’s day is divided into four meals: breakfast, a snack during the race, a post-race recovery snack, and then dinner.

For breakfast, it is essential to provide a substantial and balanced meal and to take into account the physical effort required in the day ahead, for example by offering compotes that facilitate the digestion of fruit. For the race, the cyclists carry a snack, prepared by the chefs, in their back pocket. These snacks are very energizing and meet the cyclists’ very specific needs: they must be sufficiently compact, encourage the cyclists to hydrate themselves and help them to keep up the pace. After the race, the cyclists grab a recovery snack, generally a large salad made up of vegetables, starches, proteins, cheeses, seeds and berries, etc. Finally, the evening meal is planned out with the next day’s circuit in mind. For a mountain circuit for example, we would prioritize whole pasta with a low glycemic index.

For all of these meals, special attention is paid to the grammage, nutritional balance and variety of products (pasta, bulgur, quinoa, etc. so as to vary the starches / olive oil, hazelnut oil etc. to bring the quality of fats into play). I also take into account fiber digestibility so as to avoid digestive disorders by privileging vegetables in puree form (rather than in whole form) that are rich in fibers. I also asked the chefs to buy sourdough country bread to aid digestion when making intense, strenuous efforts.

What other specific factors do you take into account?

VM While the strict specifications of the recipes are respected, we also take into account the pleasure element of each meal.  In particular, we choose recipes and products according to the regions included the race’s itinerary: Puy lentils, regional cheeses, and specialties that can be adapted to meet the needs of high-level athletes, since everything is homemade!  

Another specificity is the size of the kitchen which is mobile and located in a truck that follows the cyclists. Because the material, the way of working and the space constraints are different from usual, this is a real challenge for our chefs!


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