How do Tour De France athletes recover so fast? Performance coach reveals the secret

The Tour de France, aside from being the world’s most distinguished cycling event, is also its most challenging. Comprising both time-trial racing and racing stages, the Tour takes place over expansive stretches of mountainous terrain and tortuous inclines. It’s one of the greatest tests of athletic endurance and requires cyclists to be at the top of their game.

But how do participating athletes recover post-race?

Tour de France 2022: let the race begin

This year, the race’s first location is in Denmark – a country of around 5.8 million people. It’s also considered one of the greenest and happiest in the world.

Other countries continually look to Denmark for inspiration when it comes to making cycling an essential part of a sustainable, beneficial and happy way of life. Denmark is a country of cyclists and has an extensive background in hosting major international sporting and cycling events – including the 2011 World Road Race Championships and the start of the 2012 Giro d’Italia [1].

David Bailey on preparations and recovery for a cycling tournament

So how do athletes prepare for this gruelling event? Performance consultant in World Tour cycling and sports scientist David Bailey, PhD, is an expert in sports nutrition and sports science. With over 20 years of experience, he manages performance projects focused on athlete physical preparation, equipment development, sports nutrition and corresponding performance interventions that target triumph at the World Tour level.

We were able to catch up with Dr Bailey and learn more about his techniques for cycling success and the innovations he expects to showcase during the event. The Tour de France comprises 21 days of actual racing. Now on his 8th Tour, Dr Bailey shares in the video below how he focuses on race preparation while highlighting how integral it is and goes hand in hand with recovery [2].

Is there a way to measure recovery?

First, we look into the possibility of quantifying recovery. Ongoing research attempts to discover the most optimal approaches for it. 

Studies are constantly finding ways to reduce the fatigue, damage and soreness resulting from training. However, the information available can often be contradictory, leaving you more confused about the best way to recover than when you started.

Recovery is unlike Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is the highest average power you can maintain for approximately an hour, calculated in watts and can’t be precisely quantified. So how do you tell if you’re recovering well [3]? 

The necessity of cellular energy

As Dr Bailey mentions, fueling is essential, as cyclists spend a lot of energy during four to six hours of racing, with over 5,000 kilojoules on a hard day – followed by recovery, which they have to accomplish day-in, day out. A plunge in performance could reasonably be driven by mitochondrial health. 

While mitochondria are concerned with multiple cellular functions, their most important process is in bioenergetics – producing energy using ATP. The the first demonstration of how ATP functioned back in 1997 earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry [4].

Mitochondria oxidise fats, proteins and sugars to build chemical energy stored in ATP. The consequent ATP is an energy-carrying molecule that hauls the chemical energy from the disintegration of food to fuel other cellular processes. It is regarded as the ‘energy currency of life’.

Urolithin A with Mitopure from Amazentis

Mitochondria wear out over time. This descent in function is one of the attributes of aging and connects to other hallmarks of aging processes, together with genomic instability, telomere dysfunction and cellular senescence. Scientists at Swiss company, Amazentis took on this challenge.

Sensibly, our bodies partake in a continual upkeep programme called mitophagy – the breaking down of tired and sub-par mitochondria and then reusing their molecules. As we grow older, our mitochondrial dysfunction increases, but the rate of mitophagy drops.

Research indicates that exposing nematodes (roundworms) to Urolithin A extends their lifespan and mitophagy [5]. Their mobility also improved with age and increased activity. Urolithin A also enhanced exercise capability in mice suffering age-related muscle decline.

Using urolithin A in human trials suggests that a precise dose is mandatory. Amazentis introduced Mitopure, a proprietary urolithin A supplement, which includes powder and soft-gel forms. 

More than fueling competitive sports

Aside from being a supplement helping elite athletes, aging is another factor that Mitopure is known to address. As aging is linked to associated decline in mitochondrial function – Mitopure can have application in older populations.

A further study in JAMA Network Open uncovered that the urolithin A supplement can aid with the improvement or prolonging of muscle activity in older people or those with conditions that make exercise difficult [6]. 

The trials thrived statistically, with two measures of improved muscle steadiness in the supplemented group, compared with a placebo group. Exercises involving the hand and leg estimated muscle endurance, with researchers calculating the gain in the number of muscle contractions until such time that fatigue settles in, between a baseline and the final test after four months.

An effortless and practical method to boost muscle recovery is available to everyone. A daily dose of Mitopure is equal to drinking six glasses of pomegranate juice, all without worrying about if you can convert it and even without the excess sugar.

Per Dr Bailey, there is excitement about the Mitopure trials. For the Tour, athletes have to be responsible, consistent and careful with what they take. Urolithin A is a natural molecule, and the rigorously batch-tested Mitopure supplement is guaranteed NSF-for-sports.

Delivering the needed performance boost

Much analysis into urolithin A has been performed on the general population, but recent studies, especially regarding aging, presented at a conference on sports medicine detailed nice improvements in muscle function and endurance – the first to exhibit beneficial effects in a healthy middle-aged population.

Along with exercise, supplements can be utilised to help energy production and mitochondrial health. Manufactured by gut bacteria, urolithin A is a dynamic postbiotic synthesised after eating certain foods high in polyphenols like berries, pomegranates and nuts.

Postbiotics are health-promoting compounds produced as metabolic by-products by microorganisms living in the gut. Considering that our gut microbiome differ by factors like age, diet and genetics; people produce urolithin A at different rates. Individuals with more bacteria from the Clostridiales and Ruminococcaceae families living in their gut can make urolithin A.

Ideal dosage for urolithin A

The Mitopure supplement carries 500mg of highly pure urolithin A, providing six times the amount of urolithin A available from diet alone [7]. While not planned to work alone without regular exercise or fruit intake, it’s safe to say that urolithin A supplements like Mitopure are a practical and accessible way to boost energy, mitochondrial health and muscular strength in older people.

As with athletes, preparation (diet, supplements and training) plus recovery are a vital part of their plan. If you don’t give yourself recuperation time to rest and repair post-ride, then you won’t advance – and you’re also putting yourself at risk of disease, injury and over-training.

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Dr David Bailey is a paid consultant of Amazentis





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