Polar diet and nutrition

There are so many details to think about with any polar expedition, and a lot of planning is required. One of the most important aspects is the diet. For the expedition to the South Pole, I will be burning around 7,000-8,000 calories a day and the body will need a massive amount of food and energy to make sure that it is able to cope. To manage, you have to have a substantial breakfast, then regular breaks during the day: in Greenland we would ski for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break to eat snacks and drink water. This would be over (on average) nine sessions a day, occasionally increasing to 10 or 11 sessions when needed to make extra distance. In the middle of all of that we would take a half hour break to have lunch. On previous expeditions, I have not had the lunches: I just had snacks every hour or 90 minutes… It was fine and both Natalia and I never felt fatigued doing that, but I felt in Greenland, having an actual lunch helped break up the day and gave an extra boost. Ultimately, you get into a routine, and need to find one that suits you and plan accordingly. You have to eat, as while you might feel good, your body demands it.

You can’t just eat energy bars and chocolate and you need variation, especially considering the endless routines being repeated over, in the case of the South Pole, around 45-50 days. It would be a good high energy breakfast such as porridge or granola. During the day, the snacks would consist of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, granola and protein bars, cookies, a bit of meat and cheese (though smaller proportion as the body will need much more carbs than protein). This all has to be carefully weighed out for every single day, so you have your snack bags for each day ready to pack up. Then a nice dehydrated meal in the evening when camping. You can also add butter to the meals and breakfast for the extra calories and fats, and energy drinks and protein recovery drinks will also help.

I have tried various brands and types of camping foods on my different expeditions, and it really is important to have food that you like and a good range of flavours to have the variation. You don’t want to be dreading your evening meal or your breakfasts, and variation to the daily snacks also helps to enjoy everything, so you can add little treats into your bag. You want to plan out each week to know what you will eat, and have everything in the weekly stuff sacks. For South Pole, I will have stuff sacks for every 10 days… which week days won’t really mean anything down there!

My favourite dehydrated food over the different journeys I have been on has been the meals made by Expedition Foods. They really do make a great range of different meals (Fish and potato with parsley sauce, and their spaghetti bolognese are among my favourites, but there are many others!) and I was really delighted when they agreed to support the coming South Pole journey. 50x 1,000kcal evening meals, 50x 450kcal lunches, 11x 1,000kcal breakfasts (I have a standard maple syrup flavour porridge that I came to love in Canada!)–the Expedition Foods breakfasts will make a really nice treat between the standard ones!–and 10x 450kcal dessert… again, to make for occasional treats to help the motivation and enjoyment.