Fuelling Competitive Cycling

Fuelling Competitive Cycling

My nutrition story by Tom Couzens

It all began on the 12th of July, 2018.

I was a junior cyclist on the Zappi Racing team, competing in UCI races all across Europe. The competition was fierce, with Remco Evenepoel and Biniam Girmay making regular appearances. Despite my training and racing going well, there was one thing that I hadn't quite mastered yet: proper nutrition.

Enter Veloforte — a game-changing discovery that forever reshaped my perspective on sports nutrition.


I'd previously struggled with nutrition products — from sickly sweet flavours to energy bars resembling cardboard — and convinced myself that sports nutrition exists to give me energy.


The worse it tastes, the better for me it must be, right? I was naive and didn't understand the science behind effective fuelling.

A cycling race
Photo: Ribble Cycles 

The Veloforte's Classico Energy Bar transformed everything for me. The zesty citrus fruits and crunchy almonds were something I hadn't experienced from an energy bar before. To this day, it remains my favourite. The juiciness from the fruits and sweetness from the honey is perfectly balanced with a rich blend of invigorating spices  — this is what sports nutrition should taste like.

I delved into the science behind Veloforte, discovering the benefits of dual-sourced carbohydrates for faster carbohydrate oxidation, for example. With this knowledge, I threw away all of the 'sports nutrition' filled with questionable ingredients left in my cupboard and embraced the real food revolution.


Training remained the same, but as I started to learn how to fuel my body properly with the right nutrition and natural ingredients, improvements came dramatically, and the results followed. Coincidence?

Over the next year, things just got better and better. I won my first National Series Road Race in 2019 by close to a minute and a half, picking up UCI podiums and wearing the yellow jersey, which signals leader of a multi-day race such as The Tour de France in both Aubel Thimister UCI 2.1 (Belgium) and the Junior Tour of the Basque Country (Spain).

Multiple cyclists racing

Everything was going well until the announcement of a national lockdown. With nearly all racing cancelled, it was time to knuckle down on training and focus all my efforts on trying to make it as a professional.

The subsequent year was a whirlwind. I relocated to Italy to race as a full-time cyclist, represented Great Britain at the European Championships and competed in several World Cups.


My achievements caught the attention of an elite UK team, although a different nutrition brand sponsored them — requiring me to use and promote their products, regardless of my personal preference for Veloforte (often, team sponsors contradict riders' preferences).

A cyclist at the top of a mountain with amazing views

Fast forward to today, and I find myself still racing at a national level while also working alongside Veloforte as their Social Content Creator.


Through my cycling journey, I've crossed paths with many athletes, from professional World Tour cyclists to people who just enjoy getting out in the fresh air. Interestingly, many athletes and influencers sponsored by certain brands privately admit their dissatisfaction with those products — digestive issues and adverse reactions to certain products are common complaints, and so many opt for alternatives like Veloforte, and nutrition frequently surfaces as a topic of discussion.


I wouldn't be far off retirement if I had a pound for every time someone told me they'd had digestive problems or even vomited after eating certain synthetic products. It's no surprise when you look at the contents.


I always ask people, "What ingredients does your energy drink, bar or gel contain?" Most don't recognise half of the ingredients on the back of the packet in their hand.


For me, an energy product has to tick three boxes:

1. It has to be beneficial to improving my performance


The Classico bar provides me with 40g of dual-sourced carbohydrates, keeping my glycogen levels topped up and preventing bonking. I know I need to keep my electrolyte levels topped up to prevent cramping. So I use a combination of Veloforte energy gels, chews and electrolyte powders such as Passo, which contains 175mg of potassium and 275mg of sodium.

A cyclist racing very fast
Photo: Cadence images on behalf of Ribble Cycles

If I am participating in an ultra event or a tough training session where I need an extra boost and to keep my mind sharp, I know that caffeine works really well for me, so I reach for Desto or Doppio.


Natural caffeine sources give a more sustainable and controlled release than synthetic sources. In my opinion, our range of caffeine products is far superior to any other on the market, which I have always found to crash my energy levels.

2. It must taste delicious


Over the past few months, I've dabbled into the world of ultra-distance events like the Sussex Mystery Tour, which took me close to 16 hours to complete and, in the process, led to me burning over 10,000 calories.


Ultra events require a vast amount of food. I was aiming to eat every 20 to 30 minutes to hit a target of 80g of carbohydrates an hour.

A cyclist eating an energy bar

The variety of flavours across the Veloforte range helped me to do just that; keeping things interesting and making me want to eat helped power me around to finish 4th.

3. The texture needs to be spot-on.


I referred earlier to most energy bars being not too dissimilar to cardboard, and when you're racing or training intensely, they can be impossible to eat. The same happens when you're standing on a start line, the nerves are starting to kick in, and the thought of eating makes you feel sick.

Close up of the Mocha energy bar

The Veloforte energy chews melt in your mouth and are my go-to when I need something quick and easy to eat, but the same can be said for the energy bars.

The Veloforte range is made from 100% natural ingredients, and I have never once struggled with digestive issues, even during my ultra-distance events.


As Veloforte's Social Content Creator, I've witnessed people's genuine passion for our products — coupled with 35 Gold Stars at the Great Taste Awards (the sole nutrition brand to achieve this!) speaks volumes.


My cycling journey has shown me the drastic impact proper nutrition has on performance. I urge anyone serious about their health and performance to start questioning the products they consume, just as I did five years ago.


If you want to learn more, Veloforte's website has tons of blogs and nutrition-related information.


If you're new to Veloforte, here are my top picks to get you started.