If you were heading out for a leisurely bike ride, you might pack a snack before you go, to keep your energy up. But what about a spin that covers about 2,200 miles (3,540 km) over three weeks, with just two days for resting?

To keep up with the Tour de France, you’d need to cruise at about 25-30 mph (40-48 kph). And, there will be a few mountains along the way – the total distance you'd climb would be equal to climbing Mount Everest a few times.

That stale energy bar kicking around in your bag may not quite get the job done.

What riders eat

Guys like Lance Armstrong actually eat about six times during a race day. They eat breakfast, a pre-race meal, during the race, a post-race meal, dinner and a bedtime snack. Add it all up, and it's about 9,000 calories, washed down with at least a gallon of water and more than a gallon of energy drink.

To get the same number of calories at McDonald’s (but without the same nutritional content), you’d need to eat about six Big Macs, six large fries, 40 McNuggets, and three hot fudge sundaes. That kind of food, especially in your body, might make those biking shorts just a little tighter.

Here’s a typical cyclist’s menu for one of those exhausting Tour de France mountain-climbing days:

Breakfast includes a banana, a third of a pound of pasta (weight is uncooked), a third of a
pound of muesli (a carbohydrate-rich cereal), a croissant, a half-pound of mixed fruit, 10 ounces of orange juice, eight ounces of coffee, and eight ounces of water.

The pre-race meal might consist of another third of a pound of pasta and 16 ounces of water.

During the three to five hours of the race, a cyclist might devour four energy bars and four energy gel packs, 128 ounces of energy drink, 32 ounces of water, two meat sandwiches and two servings of sweet cake.

After the race, the menu includes 32 ounces of a recovery drink, 32 ounces of water, one meat sandwich, one energy bar and two sweets.

At dinner, a rider might feast on a half-pound of pasta, a half-pound mixed vegetables, a half-pound chicken breast with sauce, 12 ounces of yogurt, 5 ounces of fresh fruit and 32 ounces of water.

And lastly, for a bedtime snack, he might savor a third of a pound of chocolate or sweets and 16 ounces of water.

This article was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.