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Archive for the ‘expedition nutrition’ Category

Nutrition for Hillwalking

The sun is shining, the days are long. After a stressful week at work, fresh air, exercise and good food can restore your body and nourish your soul! What to take to eat for a day in the hills will depend on many factors. Do you like to take food which you never normally eat during the week, or your faithful sandwich or soup you enjoy every day? Do you want comfort food, which will give you a mental boost and help you make it to the summit, or endure a day of rain and wind? Everyone will have their own needs, likes and dislikes, but we need to start somewhere.

One thing is certain, you need energy. How much will depend mainly on how heavy you are, how much you are carrying, and how far you are walking – in deep snow, heather, or landrover track. Most people take enough food with them, but forget about the minor nutrients which are needed for energy metabolism. These include the B vitamins. There are several B vitamins, but read the side of a cornflake packet and you may recognise names such as riboflavin, thiamin and niacin. These have a vital role in the release of energy, fron the food you have eaten. Unlike a sturdy rucksack, these vitamins are quite fragile and are not stored in your body to any great extent. It is best to eat a supply every day. The more active you are, the more important a regular supply of B vitamins will be. Luckily they are found in a range of different foods – including wholemeal bread, nuts, leafy vegetables such as spinach, bananas, oats, eggs, cows milk, and good old Marmite. So, a perfect sandwich for the hills which will provide energy as well as the energy releasing B vitamins would be a wholemeal bagel with peanut butter and Marmite. Try almond butter, or tahini (sesame seed paste) as alternatives to peanut butter and mix with mashed banana and dates.

Experiment with different breads – sourdough, rye, pumpernickel, gluten free potato, or wholemeal pitta. Turkey slices with a splash of chilli sauce, or pesto, and raw spinach leaves is a good source of B vitamins. Mashed avocado, Marmite and tahini can be messy to carry and eat, but is also a good choice to take for an energising day in the hills.

Diet, Peformance and the Race to the South Pole

It is 100 years since the British and Norwegian teams, lead by Scott and Amundsen, battled against high winds, sub-zero temperatures in their journey to be the first to the South Pole. If you remember your history, Scott and his team came second. Not only were they beaten by the Norwegians but they were trapped in their tent, by a terrible blizzard, on the return journey. Here, exhausted and demoralised is where they died, having run out of food. However, what they ate in the previous months is one of the main reason why Amundsen was successful but Scott was not.

Nutrition has come a long way in 100 years, but in 1911 the value and importance of vitamins was not fully understood. In particular Scott’s team started the journey deficient in vitamin C and the B vitamins, whilst the wortleberry jam enjoyed by Amundsen’s team gave them a small amount at least. Daily rations during the walk to the Pole were pemmican, biscuits, cocoa, tea and 12 lumps of sugar. Pemmican is a mixture of fat and dried pieces of meat. It is mixed with water and heated to make a stew called “hoosh.” These rations did not provide enough energy, let alone variety.

Not surprisingly, after days on these rations, food was either talked about or dreamed about as the men were slowly starving. The most popular fantasty meal was well seasoned mince meat, wrapped in thick slices of bacon with plenty of fat and covered with buttery pastry layers, fried in lard and eaten piping hot. Vitamin C is not made by the body and so must be provided by foods. The well known deficiency disease is scurvy but long before this stage is reached muscles turn sore and weak, old wounds open and new ones don’t heal.

The B vitamins are involved with energy release, brain and nerve function. Amundsen’s rations included biscuits enriched with oatmeal and yeast – which would have provided a source of these vital nutrients. Scott and his team however suffered from the symptoms of B vitamin deficiency – anaemia, low energy, nerve damage, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, hellucinations and depression.

Constantly feeling exhausted, confused, with painful mouth ulcers and blisters that will not heal is bad enough at home but becomes intolerable whilst shivering in a tent in the Antarctic. Modern expedition food is now designed with a greater knowledge of nutrition and understanding of the power of food and performance. Food is vital to power the body and to keep the mind at peace. My role is to design the eating plan for the environment and challenge. However, the adventurers and explorers, I have worked with, also seem to have an extra dose of mental strength – which helps them to push their boundaries.

Adventure & Travel Show, London, Olympia


It is the New Year and thoughts turn to expanding waistlines and a resolve to eat less … or better. For others it is travel, and the yearning for adventure. Happily I can help with both.

I will be speaking at the Telegraph Adventure and Travel Show in London. It is a fabulous two day event, with a programme of speakers and plenty of outdoor gadgets and clothing to be tried, tested, or lovingly inspected. I will be speaking on Saturday 28th January (at 4pm, in Lecture Theatre 4).

My talk will take the audience on a journey … of my research findings and science facts about how altitude and different environments affect food habits. The Adventure Show programme is packed with stories about travels and incredible adventures around the globe. My story takes you behind the scenes to reveal some of the planning and preparation that goes on for a major expedition.

What you eat affect your performance, whether it is the mental performance of working effectively and coping with a stressful workload, or physical performance and having enough energy to get you where you want to be. I have worked with expeditions to Everest, and individuals who want to run a marathon … or walk to the North Pole.

If you would like some discount tickets for the Show (£6 per ticket, advance price, saving £4 on door price), please enter the code DRCHRISFENN when ordering online – www.adventureshow.com or phone 0871 230 7159 (calls cost 10p per minute + network extras) and quote code.

Looking forward to the Show, and giving my talk. If you come, and would like to discuss good food and the challenges of adventure, please come and say hello. If you can’t make it, please contact me to discuss presenting a talk to your group or company. This page  has more details about one of my presentations.

Fiona reaches her peak


Thanks very much to Fiona O’Neill, Faculty Head HE/PE at Brechin Academy and Duke of Edinburgh Award leader who has sent me this account of the changes she has made since coming to my Eat for Fitness seminar. The photo above shows Fiona on top of her last Munro Sgurr Mor.

“I am a keen hillwalker and supported my training with a well known brand of sports drink powder. I was prone to nausea and headaches with an acrid taste left in my mouth after a day in the hills. Following a workshop with Chris I stopped this supplement and chose a natural pure fresh juice drink diluted to taste, with a pinch of salt added to it. It’s so much  more refreshing and has no side effects. I also made some additional small changes such as changing to decaf coffee and from margarine to butter. All in all some small changes, but the effect has been tremendous.”

Fuelling the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

My latest adventure is a vicarious one as I’m currently engaged as nutrition advisor to the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital yacht crew. As we speak the crew are taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 which kicked off yesterday (31 July 2011).

My role is to give advice and practical suggestions about which foods should be part of the ration supply. Organising the food for a crew of 18 hungry people as they work hard to keep their yacht ahead in the race takes a lot of planning.

I’ll be keeping up with the crew as they sail and will keep you updated on their progress. In the meantime, here’s a post from the official website on the start of the race.

Climbing Kilimanjaro

At 17,342 feet hight, Kilimanjaro is the highest free standing mountain in the world. In 1995, inspired by Rebecca Stephens’s Everest expedition I decided to climb Africa’s highest peak.

Writing for Trail Walking magazine, I also took recording equipment and gathered interviews and kept an audio diary of my own experiences. With the skillful editing of Producer Mark Steven, these sounds were broadcast, as four nail biting episodes, on BBC Radio Scotland.

There is a large metal box on the summit – containing the highest visitors book in the world. Busy collecting interviews with my fellow trekkers on the summit, I forgot to sign the book. I therefore returned the next year, and climbed the mountain again just to sign the book. I wrote “Believe and Succeed!”

Cycling across America


In 1998 I decided on a new challenge: to cycle across the United States. It would be a journey of 3,500 miles, solo – just me, my bike and my tent, across America. I started at San Diego, and dipped my back tyre in the Pacific Ocean and kept going East – up and over four mountain ranges, one 8,000 foot pass, through eight states, and across four timezones. I finished at St Augustine and dipped my front tyre in the Atlantic waves in Florida.The simple question of “why?” has a simple answer: “to celebrate being able to see.”

A few years earlier, I very nearly lost my sight. Both retinas had detached and, thanks to an emergency operation, I can still drive to work, run for a bus, and enjoy the colours of nature’s changing seasons. Imagine being blind. Every day events such as crossing the road, choosing apples at a supermarket, finding clothes that match, watching a football game or film at the cinema – or riding a bike – would all be very different and take time to adapt to. Since I was not a cyclist, the challenge of cycling across America would parallel the challenges of adapting to a life without sight, learning to use my other senses and having a different vision on life. I also wanted to raise £ 10,000 for a local charity North East Sensory Services (formerly Grampian Society for the Blind). Their work cannot bring sight back, but can help individuals lead an active and independent lifestyle.

America is a BIG place! It took me three weeks to cycle across Texas, but first I had to get across the Arizona desert. You expect it to be hot in a desert, but the temperature rose to a scourching 16o degrees f. I tucked my head down against the glare and started pedalling. I stopped at the only water stop, a gas station, hinged between sand dunes, and guzzled fluid to fill my body with water. My aim was to store as much water in my stomach and then fill several large bottles. These would add to the weight of my bike, which was already laden with 65 pounds of tent, sleeping bag, portable office, food and cooking equipment.Extra weight means extra effort to cycle, which means extra sweating.Perhaps I could have taken less water, but didn’t want to risk it. My fears were confirmed when I heard of another cyclist who had collapsed from heat exhaustion. He lay on the boiling tarmac for 20 minutes before he was picked up by a passing truck. In that short time, the sun’s rays were so fierce that they had melted the lycra in his shorts. He was treated in hospital for heat sickness and first degree burns.

My coast to coast adventure took 61 days. I got through eight bottles of sunscreen, 305 litres of water, 153 blueberry muffins, two T-shirts, three bottles of green slime (to help prevent punctures), and five inner tubes. I had 11 punctures, burned 218,000 calories and raised £ 12,000 for charity.

Helping Rebecca Stephens conquer Everest


In 1993, a team of British climbers went out to Nepal, in the hope of climbing Everest 40 years after the first ascent by Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing. One of those climbers was Rebecca Stephens (pictured above, right) who, if she reached the top, would be the first British woman to climb Everest.

I was part of the support team. It was my job to meticulously plan the food that the team would eat before and during the expedition. It took six months of research, planning and procurement. I even found out what Hilary and Tenzing had eaten on their famous trip and included some of their choices in the mix.

As you can see from the picture, Rebecca made it to the top – an incredible achievement. I believe that it was something she ate, but I could be biased! Watching her achieve her goal and follow her passion for adventure, she inspired me to climb my own “Everest” – which was to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. I believe everyone has their own Everest to climb. For some it is the real thing, for others it is another challenge. I help individuals to choose the best foods to fuel their mind, body and soul – to get the most out of life and to reach their full potential.

I tell the story of this unique Himalayan expedition in one of my talks. You can find out how it was planned, which foods were taken, and why. It’s suitable for anyone fascinated by human endurance, adventure and travel. You can read more about it in Rebecca Stephens’s book On top of the world.

Chinese Tea—A Special Drink for You

China is the origin place of the tea which has a long history of five millenniums. There are six fundamental kinds of Chinese tea–White, Green, Yellow, Oolong, Black and Pu’er Tea. Among them one of the most popular teas is the China Green Tea and scented tea. In China different places produce different famous teas and China is well-known for perfuming their teas by way of flowers. Jasmine Tea is without any doubt the most well-known perfumed Green Tea.

The process of drying tea is very important, the duration and degree of heating can influence the quality of the China’s tea. Firstly, green teas should be dried up, and right after that pan fired / baked to detain oxidation. Right after that on the basis of the type of this tea, the tea subsequently is passed through a variety of baking / pan firing process at the same time as rolling / shaping measures prior to it getting graded, refined, and packed.

The process of making China Oolong Tea is quite different, leaves become dried up until they’ve lost a proportion of dampness. By this time, the oxidation procedure has begun. The tea leaves are subsequently manually rubbed / rolled for triggering the preferred intensity of oxidation. Green Oolongs do not need oxidized while Oolongs are usually oxidized. With the time that the tea master’s completed the preferred intensity of oxidation, the leaves occur to become fired /baked. This measure detains oxidation by counterbalancing the tea leaves’ innate enzymes. This Tea subsequently goes by means of more than a couple of firing/baking and rolling / shaping measures just before its getting graded, refined, and packed.

China White Tea should be dried up at low temperatures. The sluggish drying leads to this Tea becoming relatively oxidized. Maturing occurs to be a universal aspect connected with green Pu-erh Tea, particularly with youthful teas which holds vicious tannins leading to insensitive and unprocessed characters. Plenty of green Pu-erh tea should be matured to get a minimal of 5 to 10 years before being sold. The strong point of maturing helps remove the less unneeded flavors that comes across within a youthful tea concurrently brings in additionally sought-after aromas & mellowness. Maturing happens to be a lengthy method and one which is not able to be effortlessly speeded up. The aging of green Pu-erh is able to be intensify and entails widespread modifications to its flavors and aromas and to the tea’s body and texture. The time of selecting China White Tea, Oolong and green tea are frequently from tender sprouts or shoots as well as tender unfolded leaves for the period on the premature spring.