Getting fat(ter) - December 16th 2012
16th December 2012
This training thing really isn't that hard... I am not fat enough and I need to put on 15kgs... I recently went out for dinner with Jock Wishart - the Polar Race organiser and world leading polar explorer. We discussed my progress... whilst I was probably fit and strong enough, one thing was clear from Jock. I am definitely not fat enough. I have worked out I need to put on another 15kgs (2 stone 5 lbs, or 33lbs) in just three months.
Whilst many people seem to think I need to be completely ripped and as lean as humanly possible for this race, the truth is very far from that. Whilst I definitely need to be stronger and fitter than I have ever been, I will also need to have more body fat than I have ever had as well.
There are two reasons why I need to be a fatty before I go, one is warmth, the other is energy storage:
Having body fat is a little like wearing a blanket. Like almost all mammals in cold environments (think whales, bears, walruses etc), body fat acts to protect the organs from the elements. As fat deposits do not have many blood vessels, they act effectively to keep the blood away from the skin where it can quickly lose heat. At -50c, being a real tubber will certainly help keep you alive.
The reason a lot of fat will be useful is simply one of maths. Whilst I am racing to the pole, it is estimated I will be using 10,000 calories a day (that is 4 times a normal day for a male) - although there are a huge numbers of factors that influence calorie consumption (efficiency, temperature, heat retention, weight of sled etc). Despite eating as much fatty food as humanly possible whilst I am there, I will only be consuming about 6,000 calories. This leaves a calorie deficit of about 4,000 calories - the equivalent of running 1.5 marathons every single day without eating any food at all. I need a significant amount of extra calories to call upon to make up the deficit. Fat will be my friend.
If you do the maths on the above, I will have a total estimated calorie deficit of approximately 120,000 calories. Given 1kg of fat represents 7,700 calories - I will likely lose about 15.5kgs of extra body fat during my time in the arctic... clearly when I get back I will (hopefully) be only just under my normal body weight!
Getting fat - the journey has begun
I have been a little concerned about putting this weight on - I will be heavier than I have ever been. When I started my training in anger back in Februrary, I was 93kgs and comparatively unfit. My daily weigh 3 weeks ago showed I was down to 81kgs and just 11% body fat (and apparently the 'body age' of a 17 year old!). To put on another 15kgs, I need to eat the equivalent of 500 Cadbury Dairy Milk bars on top of my normal daily intake of 3,500 calories! That would work out as 5 bars per day between now and when I go.
I have started... by cutting down on the long runs, eating more than usual (anything I can get my hands on) and heading over to the US for a week, I have managed to put on 4kgs in just 3 weeks. It does feel very wrong... after all the effort and training to be getting fatter! The lowest, Alan Partridgeseque, moment was eating a quarter of a kilo of Smarties in one sitting.
I will definitely be enjoying my Christmas and trying not to feel to guilty...
Maps & Tracking
You can explore the full route to the North Pole and follow Paul’s progress with live maps that will plot his position each day as he progresses towards the pole more >
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