The Col Collective


Mike, Any tips for vegans looking to experience the fine riding and cuisine that France and Italy are known for? I would love to do a trip with a cycling tour group and I also love to eat. I wonder if the tour groups cater to those of us who are strictly plant based. I also thought about doing something self guided but I am intimidated by the prospect of overcoming the language barrier enough so to ask for a vegan bite to eat in some unknown alpine village. Any advice as to how I can overcome this hurdle? Tim

Hi Tim,

Thanks for contacting us, it’s a really good point you raise and something we always have to consider when we’re travelling.

When we film The Col Collective all three of us are vegan so where possible we tend to try and stay in apartments and cater ourselves making use of the local supermarkets to get supplies both for evening meals and food throughout the day, however this is not always practical.

As far as eating out in the restaurants go, almost everywhere we eat will cater for us in some way, more and more places especially in the tourist towns have vegetarian choices which you can have the cheese removed. In Italy we usually resort to cheese free pizzas and tomato pasta (if it’s made without egg) or roasted vegetable salads. France can be a little more tricky but in most cases they will happily prepare you a vegetable dish with potatoes, rice or pasta. If you can learn a couple of basic lines in French and Italian to help with the ordering it will go a little way to helping ensure they understand your needs.

For travelling with a tour operator, we can’t speak for everyone so we contacted our travel partners at La Fuga asking how they cater for a vegan diet, they offer tours all over Europe - here is the response from Wei-Ho the Operations Manager:

“We definitely cater for vegans and will accommodate any dietary requirements specified as far as possible. In fact one of our lead tour managers, Fabrizio, is a vegan. He is also Italian which boggles the mind as being Italian and vegan traditionally seems like two conflicting ideologies!

So if in Italy or France (Fabo speaks fluent french too - is a ski guide in winter) and vegan - travel with Fabrizio wink

Here’s a nice little write up from Paris-Roubaix from one of our customers who was vegetarian. She was pleasantly surprised to find Fabo being vegan.

Worth noting we don’t currently have any specific routes based on vegan restaurants - we normally base our trips around routes first then we can find the right accommodation / catering to fit.

However we’re open to any inquiry and can offer a fully bespoke trip if required. “

I really hope this helps with your trip!

Ride safe,


Topic: Nutrition, Travel

Hi Mike, loving your videos and you are an inspiration - I am keen to know....How do you find which foods fuel you best on your long rides. Is it a nutrient / calorie based scientific approach or do you mainly work on "what feels best" and just experiment. Thanks, Alex

Hi Alex, thanks so much for the support! The main thing I’ve found is through trial with certain foods and bars. For my training rides mid-week and weekends which can be from 2-7 hours I only use energy bars, I use Torq bars which work really well for me, they are more natural and fruit based they digest really well and don’t have a overly sweet taste. For the really long rides 30+ hours, I use a combination of real food (potatoes, dried fruit, cereal, rice cakes) and energy bars. I tend to look at the quality of the food before the calories, as it’s more important for me to use as natural and organic a food as possible with very little processing. Over the years I have come to understand what my body needs with regards to quantity on longer rides, if I’m well recovered I eat less, but after a long week and if I’m fatigued, I can eat almost twice as much on the bike. It is pretty much all on feel rather than a scientific approach, your body is a clever machine when it comes to demanding what it needs, so I highly recommend listening out when it’s calling for nutrition, I’ve found it’s always best to eat and drink way before you feel really hungry, I’ve had far less blow ups this way. Ride safe! Mike.

Topic: Nutrition

Simple question, what do you recommend for hydration on a Col ride, water or something else? - Ronald

Hi Ronald,

For hydration, we would recommend a drink with all 5 electrolytes presents, because you’ll need both fluid and electrolytes to hydrate properly.

Remember that hydration is only part of the equation and much greater performance losses will result from running out of fuel, so make sure that your drink also contains carbohydrate!

Isotonic (usually around 6% carbs) provides a very good balance between fluid and carb delivery. If perspiration losses are very high, you could look at going ‘hypotonic’ to prioritise fluid delivery over carbs, but this would be an unusual set of circumstances.

TORQ energy is actually hypotonic at 6% carbs (and the carbs are 2:1 Maltodextrin:Fructose), so if necessary, you could consume up to 1.5 litres per hour of this and still not exceed your carb tolerance levels and take on board a lot of hydration.

Remember in cooler conditions when you’re not drinking so much, you MUST eat.

For further information, take a look here.

Matt Hart - Founder Torq Fitness

Topic: Nutrition

Hi Mike, firstly I wanted to say thanks for the inspiration over the years, and your Etape route recons have been an invaluable help. Secondly I'm hoping you might be able to give me some advice on nutrition. I've ridden a few Etape Du Tours now, and am doing it again this year. On all my previous ones, I've got to 70% of the way round and then been really sick, making the last stretch awful. All the food/drink I've used is the same as on sportives in the UK with no ill effects. I think it might be the heat, or that my stomach is struggling to process solid food whilst climbing (I was eating Clif bars). Any help or tips you can give me would be gratefully received. I'm training hard this year, so would love to get this side of things nailed too. Do you normally stick to liquids on the climbs and eat at the top for example? Many thanks, John

Very happy to hear you’ve enjoyed some of my antics of the years and it has been helpful grin

When it comes to nutrition there are a few things to consider. It sounds like you’re sticking to the same things in training as you are on the day so that’s definitely a good start. Some more points that may be worth thinking about are:

1) Are you consuming more than you normally would over the same duration?

2) Is your exertion level higher than it otherwise would be in training when you didn’t have a problem? Working harder will mean more blood will be directed to your muscles as opposed to your stomach which will make digestion harder for anything you do consume.

3) Personally I tend to favour bars and fluid on mid length events (like a sportive) and real food and fluid on ultra endurance rides. I’ve found too much of the high concentration energy products can become sickly and hard to consume / digest.

4) I normally look to refuel at any given opportunity and keep it frequent. Little and often. Valleys between climbs or in the final kilometre of an ascent so that you can get some energy back in you before the descent is good. Nothing worse than flying down a mountain trying to undo a wrapper.

5) I’ve got on well with the Torq range. The vanilla energy drink is very mellow and I like the fact that the bars are more natural and fruit based. A lot of the folk I ride with have switched to Torq as they had digestive issues in the past and have now got on well with it. We’re all different though so best to experiment.

6) I’m not a huge gel taker. I prefer to stick to fluid (energy drink mixed up weaker than recommended normally) fruit based energy bars, dried fruit and real food wherever possible.

7) If it’s a lot hotter than you are used to riding in then this can play a big factor. In the heat it’s essential to drink more water to say hydrated and allow your body to stay in balance. It could be something as simple as consuming more water on the very hot days.

I hope that gives an insight into some areas to consider. Keep the training going and good luck in the future!


Topic: Nutrition

I am 66 and will be riding the cols in July. What protein drink should I use. Pre and post? Cheers Derek

Hi Derek,

Prior to exercise there is little need for a protein drink as you can easily get a good serving of protein in through your normal diet. A good breakfast before a ride, say beans on toast (without the butter), or a bowl of porridge with skimmed milk, will provide sufficient amounts of protein and some good fuel too. You want to aim to consume around 20grams of lean protein 3-4 times a day to cover your needs. The most important nutrient to get in before a big ride is carbohydrate, as this is the main fuel you will use during exercise of any sort of intensity, i.e. riding up a col, so it is important to ensure your bodies Glycogen (the name for carbohydrate when it is stored in the muscle and liver) stores are fully topped up. You only really ever break down significant amounts of protein in the absence of carbohydrate, so ensuring you have enough carbohydrate available will reduce your needs for protein. Aim to have a good sized breakfast around 3-4hours before riding if possible to allow sufficient time for digestion.

During exercise protein is best avoided as there is little performance benefit to taking it on and it can take the stomach a long time to break down. This can cause stomach issues, particularly when exercising hard and compromise carbohydrate delivery. If you are aiming for a big day in the saddle (6 hours plus) then by all means include a bit of lean protein in a meal at your lunch stop, but there is little need for this to be in drink form.

Immediately after exercise (within 15-30minutes), it is best to consume a carbohydrate and protein drink, particularly if you are aiming to try and ride the next day or complete another ride later in the day. This should then be followed up with regular meals depending on how big the ride was. There is a short window after exercise where your body can very rapidly replenish its glycogen stores so consuming a drink with rapidly absorbing nutrients in will help kick start the recovery process. Here at TORQ we produce a recovery drink which contains a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein mix which is designed for exactly this purpose. After a big day in the saddle carbohydrate is the main thing that you want to replace, but including some protein as well will provide substrate for muscle repair and generally help with the recovery process.


Ben at Torq Fitness.

Topic: Nutrition

I have decided to take upon myself a real challenge of doing a 500km ride in my home country of Israel from the south all the way to the north with a lot of climbing and descending. But my problem is that I don't know where to start when it comes to technique, training, nutrition, and proper tools for this sort of thing. I have never done anything like this before. I have done mostly organized sportive events and for this year after seeing your two videos (the journey from Evian to Nice and your 1000 km journey to Mont Blanc) I was inspired to try something similar myself, but I will need your advice where to start? Thank you! Raz

That’s great to hear Raz!

The main thing that you will need to work on is your endurance (lots of kilometres and hours on the bike) so that you can improve your efficiency. I’ve spent years training this area. Keep it simple, if you plan to ride a long way then you’ll need to train to be able to ride a long way. Gradually build this up over the weeks / months and don’t forget to listen to your body and take regular easy or rest days so that your body recovers from the training load. I’ve always found that consistency is better e.g. lots of good quality rides building up to around 250km. If you can ride this far then a great deal after that will come down to three areas (1) Pacing: Don’t push too hard too soon (2) Nutrition: Make sure you take on regular fuel and fluid throughout (3) Mental Strength: I’ve found this is the most important element. How bad you really want it.

Further to your nutrition, everyone is different. I try to eat organic whole foods wherever possible in every day life (no processed foods). I also don’t eat any animal products. Personally I’ve found this clean way of fuelling has worked really well for me but again we are all different. Concentrate on good quality food that isn’t precessed and you will start in the right way. On the bike I also like to eat proper food (gels and energy bars are ok for shorter more intense activities but are too much for the stomach to handle during long rides like this). I make up things like organic rice wraps, sweet potato slices and cereal, along with coconut water for natural electrolyte replacement. Again, we’re all different so experiment in training to see what works best for you.

Hopefully that helps to get you going. Best of luck!


What's best to eat and drink before a ride and how much time do I give after eating before I hit the road? Also while out on a long ride what sort of food (if any) and drink would you recommend while having a break?

Hi Paul, as a rule of thumb it’s best to try and eat 3 hours before you ride to allow time for digestion. Having said that you also have to be realistic and if you’re an early bird that wants to hit the road at dawn at the weekend then getting up at 4.00am is a bit excessive! If you’re going for a long ride of lower intensity then you’ll be able to eat breakfast later. Try to have something that will give you a sustained release of energy. I personally start the day with porridge topped with fruit. When out on the bike I’ve found that Torq’s fuelling system works well for me (we’re all different so you’ll need to experiment). Little and often is the key. Overall aim to keep your diet as whole and natural as possible, refrain from processed foods if possible and you can’t go far wrong!

Topic: Nutrition

Ask a question