We're likely all familiar with the grueling nature of the 2,200-mile Tour de France — the dense packs of riders traveling at high speed, the tight, twisty, turns, and the dreaded mountain climbs. It takes a unique kind of competitor to take on the 23-day race — and, not surprisingly, it also takes a special kind of diet. 

I've written many times about actors consuming anywhere from 3,000-5,000 calories per day to bulk up for a role, a feat of eating that involves several small meals over the course of a day. The average Tour de France athlete, however, must consumer anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 calories per day in order to keep pace with a racing burn of 700 calories per hour. According to NPR's Alastair Bland, this means a nearly non-stop barrage of eating. In the morning, there's a giant buffet heavy on carbs and sugar, while during the race, riders are handed energy gel packets, sandwiches, fruit and rice cakes. Dinner is loaded with high protein sources such as meat and fish with a fruit-based desert. 

So great is the internal furnace that powers each competitor that cyclists have been known to lose weight during the race, despite the amazing consumption of calories.

Pulling back the curtain on the Tour de France's meal plan is Sean Fowler, the official chef of the Garmin Sharp cycling team. Throughout the competition, he's been tweeting photos of the dishes he's serving the team, with everything from baked stuffed zucchini with caramelized onions and cabbage topped with goat cheese to baked salmon with avocado mousse and lemon peppers. Below are some of his more unusual (but delicious-sounding), calorie-rich meals. 

You can check out a video of Fowler talking during last year's tour below. This year's 101st Tour de France concludes on Sunday.

Related on MNN: 

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.