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Fueling the Tank: Nutrition

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – La Rochefoucald

In my last blog, I gave a concise overview of the extensive training regimen I plan to

undergo in preparation for the South Pole trek: building my baseline strength and

developing my cardiovascular fitness. If I am to make progress in these two endeavours,

I must ensure I am adequately fuelled for performance and have the sustenance I need

for recovery. This will involve substantially increasing my consumption of

carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

My training volume will require a significant expenditure of energy; therefore, I need to

be sufficiently nourished to be able to see the training sessions out. This will involve

increasing my carbohydrate intake, as my body will use glucose from carbohydrates (in

the form of glycogen) as fuel. Glycogen is stored primarily in the liver and muscles and

will be my muscles main energy source when performing short and high-intensity

exercise (e.g., weight training). In addition, I am required to consume an adequate

amount of healthy fats, as they will not only act as an energy source but will play vital

roles in aspects such as hormone production (e.g., testosterone, a crucial element in

gaining muscle) and nutrient absorption (e.g., vitamins A, D, E, and K).

Weight training in the gym is the catalyst my body needs to stimulate growth. I will be

effectively causing what is known as exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) which

requires recovery. It is in this recovery phase that I will experience growth and to do so,

I must significantly increase my protein intake. Protein is crucial for muscle growth

because it helps repair and maintain muscle tissue. Muscle proteins are continuously

broken down and rebuilt and so to build muscle and get stronger, I must consume more

protein than what is broken down. However, being a pescatarian, this will be a

challenge as my options will be limited to plant-based protein sources and fish.

However, there is also one giant hurdle I must overcome: significantly increasing my

caloric intake. This is important for several reasons. Firstly, trekking in extremely low

temperatures, such as those in the South Pole, means I will require a vast amount of

energy, as I will be burning up to 8,000 calories a day. To put this into perspective, the

average male requires 2000-3000 calories a day for normal functioning. Burning so

much energy means that I will inevitably experience weight loss to some degree. To

compensate, I will need to add some bulk. However, in conjunction with the volume of

training I am doing, this means increasing my caloric intake to almost 3 times to what it

currently is, as my energy consumption must be greater than my energy expenditure.

Working closely with a nutritionist, I will have a strict diet that will not only fulfil my

energy requirements but provide me with all the macro- and micronutrients I need to

perform, recover, and add bulk. I am confident that I will be able to meet my nutritional

needs and lay the foundations required to complete the expedition!

In my next blog, I will take a deeper dive into some of the more specific aspects of my

training, from adventure sessions where I must learn how to cross-country ski, pull a

sled, and put up a tent; to ensuring I am familiar with the gear that is required for the

expedition. Stay tuned!

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