Mostly Meat-Free Cyclist Racing in Tour de France

July 01, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Article, Culinary Tour de France Print This Post Print This Post

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Dave Zabriskie, from Team Garmin-Cervélo, will be racing in the Tour de France for the fifth time.  As a Tour veteran, you can be sure he’s honed a regular routine to get him through three weeks of grueling racing.  This year, though, one essential component of that plan is going to be a lot different. He will be fueled primarily through a vegan diet – a diet unheard of in a carnivorous sport focused on refueling the thousands of calories lost each day.

In case you are not familiar with it, the Tour de France is an incredibly demanding 21-day stage race that covers 3400+ miles. Cyclists are asked to ride these long miles, often up steep terrain, always sustaining fast speeds under their own propulsion. These athletes can burn over 8,000 calories a day during the race, which requires close attention to ensuring the racers are fueled appropriately. If you’ve ever sat at a table with a cyclist in training, they practically devour everything in sight in an effort to replenish the lost calories.

During the 2010 Tour de France, Zabriskie began weaning meat out of his diet. By October of last year, he was eating a primarily vegan diet eliminating all dairy (yet eating some fish on the advice of his trainer). So far, the mostly vegan diet has been treating him quite well. He has been motivated by the health benefits finding that some of his previous ailments have cleared up. Last month he decidedly won the US national time trial championship and he won a stage at the Tour of California.

Keep in mind, his role in Le Tour is to support another rider, so you probably won’t see him in the yellow jersey. Zabriskie’s job is to support the team leader. But, the amount of effort he’s going to be putting into the race is equal to the top performers.

Interested in what Zabriskie is going to be eating? The Wall Street Journal gives a pretty in-depth look at what Zabriskie typically eats including a menu for a typical race day:


Oatmeal with black strap molasses; whole food optimizer; cacao nibs; nuts; cinnamon; two tablespoons of coconut butter; an apple; hemp seeds and flax seeds

On-the-Bike Snacks:

Six Clif Bar Z bars (vegan); two Clif Bar shot blocks (vegan); two Clif Bar gels (vegan); dates; six to eight bottles of special team race drink

On the Bus, Post-Race:

White rice with maple syrup and cinnamon; vegan protein shake;

two bottles of special team recovery protein drink; goji berries

Before Dinner:

Vegan protein shake


White rice or pasta; salad with leafy greens; vegetables —including broccoli, spinach, carrots and beets.


Fresh fruit and a vegan protein shake before bed

Many news organizations are attempting to grab the headline by calling Zabriskie a “vegan” but then later in the story they then talk about how he still eats fish. One can argue that one is not a vegan if one eats fish. So, let’s cut this off right here: Rather than getting caught up in the labels, we should be focused on what he is doing by practically eliminating animal products from his diet and enjoying the benefits in both his health and performance

Photo by Mark Blacknell.

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