In the lead-up to the 350 mile polar speed-record attempt I'm making next month with team-mate Andrew Wilkinson, planning for our nutrition and rations is vital. The requirements are completely at odds with those of the 113 day unsupported expediton of 2008 and as such, the preparation needs a very new approach.
For an extremely long expedition of over 1350 miles, controlling weight loss, in particular loss of muscle, is key. When hauling sledges of around 200kg the physical exertion is brutal and can last for over twelve hours a day. As such, the calories burned per day will almost certainly be in excess of the calories that are eaten without making the sledge unhaulably heavy. This known deficit of energy needs to be controlled and made into a sustainable system to keep health and strength high until the end. This is no easy task and I lost over three stone (over 20kg) in 2008.
For the April 2011 expedition the key is high-speed skiing and so we aim to stand on the start-line with sledges only weighing 40kg or less. Despite this, days of hauling for more than 16 hours will require huge energy intake in order to complete our daily distance targets of approaching fifty miles. Weight loss is no longer the enemy which needs to be kept at bay since the expedition will be over in just over a week. However, we will be likely to be burning well in excess of 10,000 kcal per day.
Instead of the super calorie-dense high-fat diet of 2008, we will instead use a combination of slow and fast release carbohydrates (oats and sugars) to keep energy levels high and also protein supplementation to maintain muscle condition. Below is a sample of the supplies currently arriving at expedition HQ, ready for checking, weighing and packing:
Left: 800 kcal dinner meal. Middle: 77g high-content protein bar. Right: 110g flapjack bars for during the day.