“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!