The courier needs, in general, and to get results, to eat and drink appropriately. The same is true, albeit in different proportions, for cyclists and cyclists. This is the case for the latter, during his long outings in hilly terrain (130 km and more), and even more so when he embarks on major energy-intensive events such as mountain bikes (type BRA), the Ardéchoise in one or more days, or even cyclosportives.

Assuming that this cyclist is well trained at the base and that he rather properly integrates the needs inherent in his sporting activity in terms of nutrition, we will focus in this article on the short period surrounding the programmed objective, i.e. the days preceding the post-race recovery.

Before the event

Two to three days before

Training at the load level will be reduced by focusing on low-intensity efforts.

At the same time, the meals following the last major outing should be loaded with long carbohydrates.

For the last 3 meals (excluding breakfast), proteins and starchy foods should not be mixed during the same meal, to facilitate digestion. Starchy foods can be eaten at lunchtime and protein in the evening. And the day before, we’ll reverse that choice.

Drink enough, but not diuretic waters such as Vittel and Contrex.

The day before

It is advisable to eat light and drink plenty. These include cereals, chicken breast, white fish, and fats: raw butter, olive oil, yoghurts.

Red meat is long to digest (the waste in the blood, which slows down the elimination of lactic acid), so it should be banned, as should delicatessen products, eggs, potatoes and legumes, citrus fruits and soft drinks. You can eat pasta and rice but in very reasonable quantities.

The morning of the event

The principle is to finish the last meal about 3 hours before departure. Depending on the time of day, it may be difficult to comply with this advice.

In any case, the objective is to provide slow sugars to stabilize blood sugar levels during exercise. Avoid fast sugars in favour of slow carbohydrates: pasta, cereals, bread, yoghurt, rice cake, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, apples, lemon juice.

For cyclosporine – and a fortiori for couriers – we often speak of a waiting ration: a fructose drink until the warm-up, to compensate for the effects of stress. During the warm-up, the competitor will have an exercise drink and an energy bar. But in this case, we will leave that aspect of things aside.

During the effort

The purpose of feeding during exercise is to maintain blood glucose levels (blood sugar), the availability of lipid and carbohydrate fuels for active muscles.

Liquid supply

Sweating is important, especially if the exit is intense and/or if it is hot. Sweating helps to maintain acceptable internal body temperature. In the case of dehydration, sweating will be reduced, which will lead to a significant increase in internal temperature.

It is therefore essential to drink a carbohydrate drink regularly (about every 10 to 15 minutes) in small sips, according to the principle: drink before you feel thirsty. Authors of sports dietetics applied to cycle always mention the intake of at least 0.5 litres of drink per hour. The same authors estimate that it would take twice as much. Hence the need to supplement with solid food, especially during long-duration events.

The ideal temperature for the drink is 12/15°.

In summer, over long distances, it is advisable to add 1 to 2 grams of salt/litre to your preparations. For example, 4 to 5 pieces of white sugar will be used for a large can. Fructose reduces insulin secretion, limits the return to Hypoglycemia. But it can be poorly supported at the digestive level. We can also turn to sucrose, dextrose, maltodextrins.

For commercial energy drinks, the dosages must be respected. However, it is better to test them beforehand to be sure that they are suitable, especially in terms of digestibility. If you dose too much, it will not result in more energy, and the stomach will be disturbed. If the prescribed dose is halved, hydration will be allowed; however, the resulting drink will not provide the expected energy.

We’ll also drink in cold weather, but less.

Solid food

The more time we spend on the bike, the more we have to eat: energy bars, fruit pastes, bananas, dried fruit, figs, gingerbread, mini-tarts, rice semolina cake. It should be noted that chocolate bars are not effective during the test, their effect occurs rather 6 to 8 hours after their absorption.

The energy food market offers a wide range of products. Test in training, and check for energy and digestibility inputs.

Consumption proposal during an important test:

  • 0.5 to 0.75 litres of energy drink per hour
  • 1 to 2 fruit jellies or cereal bars per hour
  • 1 portion of rice cake every 2 hours
  • energy gels can be used instead of some of these solids.


Recovery is important after such an effort. It is indeed not to neglect it because it has 3 objectives: to rehydrate, detoxify and replenish energy reserves.

Hydration is essential to restore the quantity of physiological body water and facilitate the elimination of waste products produced throughout the test. The purpose of hydration is to restore the acid-base balance, recover lost mineral salts and boost glycogen synthesis.

At first (within 15′), drink a quarter of a litre, preferably sodium bicarbonate sparkling water (Vichy, Perrier, Vals, Badoit…). We’ll avoid sodas, cola.

Then, and in half an hour, it’s time to recharge your muscles and liver with glycogen. Indeed, the muscles continue to consume glucose after exercise for the work of rehydrating the cells, eliminating the kidneys, repairing the fibres damaged by exercise.

Recovery energy drinks do a very good job of meeting this objective.

A diluted fruit juice, a hot tea with honey, a yoghurt to drink also have their virtues.

Also, some solid foods, such as gingerbread and dried fruit, will be used. At this stage, there is no difference between slow and fast sugars, unlike eating on a “normal” day.

Then continue to drink a lot until the meal, non-carbonated mineral water (Vittel, Hépar…), until the urine becomes clear again.

The first meal after that is very important, whether or not you get back on the bike the next day for another strenuous day of sports. It will be consistent while being lightweight. It must be rich in carbohydrates: rice, pasta, semolina, potatoes (no mashed potatoes), bread. Avoid fats, meats and fish. For potassium recovery: vegetables in soup, fresh fruits (banana, pear, apricots, citrus fruits…) or dried fruits (raisins…). For vegetables, choose alkalinizing foods: tomatoes, carrots, beans, salads (possibly with wheat germ or brewer’s yeast). We will leave aside beets, chard, spinach, rhubarb, parsley too rich in oxalic acid. To finish the meal, cottage cheese and a fruit tartlet can be great.

Thus, a balanced and varied diet will suffice to restore the day’s losses.

Applying these feeding and hydration tips means providing a qualitative help to your level of performance on the bike (I am not talking here about results in terms of ranking) and to post-effort recovery, as well as an intact pleasure without (or by limiting) the difficulties.