While the world's rowing greats are out on the waters of Lake Karapiro striving for gold, a chef and her crew back in the mess tent are worth their weight in the stuff.

Head chef Lea Chidley and her seven staff are kept busy preparing a seemingly endless line of meals for the athletes, some of whom consume up to 8000 calories a day.

When the competition ends on Sunday, Ms Chidley and her team expect to have used 4.5 tonnes of potatoes, 10,000 boiled eggs, two tonnes of rice and two tonnes of pasta in the 17,000 meals they will have prepared.

On average, the athletes have eaten about 250kg of red meat or chicken for each day of competition.

"These guys can eat, I don't think I've seen anything like it," Ms Chidley said.

The lead nutritionist with Britain's rowing team, Wendy Martinson, said calorie requirements usually tapered off during racing events but most of her rowers would still eat five considerable meals a day.

"That's going to be lots of pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. The carb intake has to be really high to make sure they're well fuelled and get the glycogen stores up so they're ready to race."

Ms Martinson said a typical "first breakfast" would be fruit juice, cereal and toast. "Second breakfast" about two hours later includes bacon or sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and meat platters, cereal and toast.

"At lunch they'll have a couple of plates of vegetables with some chicken, fruit, yoghurt, cakes and more bread."

"For dinner it could be fish, lamb or steak. Always lots of carbs, like risotto or kumara which they like - we try to vary the protein," Ms Martinson said. "

At 1.6m tall and weighing 55kg, it would be fair to say that coxswain Ivan Pavich could put a bit more meat on his bones.

But despite his diminutive proportions, Pavich reckons he still gets a hard time from people about how much he eats.

This week, he in the New Zealand eights crew that came a gutsy second in their heat against Germany.

Born and bred in nearby Te Pahu, Pavich said people often noticed how much he seemed to eat without putting on weight.

"You wouldn't think it but I do eat quite a lot ... I get quite a few people commenting on it, they just can't believe it."

His day starts around 6am with a bowl of berries, weetbix and yoghurt before he and his crew go out for a pre-row and training.

After this, his teammates, some of whom are 1.9m tall and weigh more than 100kg, return to their base where they plough through their second and even third breakfasts.

Not Pavich, though. He makes do with a "couple of pieces of toast".

"You probably won't find coxes having too many second breakfasts," he said.

"I'm pretty small. Coxes they've had in the past have been too tall and haven't been able to manage their weight well. A big part of their role is being on their weight - the bigger you are the bigger the disadvantage for your crew."

Pavich's meals don't reach the gargantuan intake of Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, who during training takes in 12,000 calories a day, but they're still four times the daily intake for the average man.