Nutrition Ideas and Implementation

Nutrition and Hydration Preparation and Implementation for the Rachel Carson 34 mile hike

(PRELIMINARY 8:15 PM 9/1/2003) Nutrition and Hydration Preparation and Implementation for the Rachel Carson 34 mile hike or run event. This event generally takes 8 - 15 hours to complete. This document was originally prepared with observation and testing by Don Erdeljac on 6/19/1997; it's theory was used extensively throughout 6 years of marathon and ultra distance hiking and running, mountaineering and desert exploring, and biking. For questions or comments call Don Erdeljac at 412 486 9292 or email

This information was checked over by Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D. She gave some suggestions and in general agreed with the theory. Leslie is nationally known for her work in this area, she completed a marathon and has given advice to private individuals and the Pittsburgh Steelers as well.

1. Total Calorie Requirement

Estimates based on 200 lbs body weight; if you weight 130 lbs. then you must correct the figures as such: 130/200 x (requirement) = your requirement. Estimate is + or - 10% accurate. 100 cal/mile x 34 miles = 3400 calories used (BW ~ 200 lbs, T = 80 deg F, up/down profile.)

a. Suggested consumption is 70% - 80% of above 3400 calorie estimate (principle: use own body fat and stored glycogen) 3400 x .75 = 2550 calories to eat while on the Rachel Carson 34 mile Challenge.

b. Food composition ideally 70% - 75% carbs, 10% - 15% Protein; practical: 70% carbs, 10% protein, 20% fat.

c. Food form: I suggest Peanut butter crackers, Trail mix, Pretzels, Bread, Crackers, Cereal bars, Pop-Tarts, Power Bars, Gu, Power Gel, Carbodrink (Twinlabs Ultra Fuel or Carbo Fuel from GNC), Fig Newtons, PB&J sandwich, gorp or trail mix mentioned earlier is salted peanuts, M&M's and raisins mixed together or make your own trail mix with any combination of any or all of the above foods. A protein food sometime during the middle of the event. Some protein is needed on an event of such duration for optimal performance. If you choose to bring a pre-digested whey protein powder, remember to mix and drink it on the spot; rinse bottle well - protein will spoil in the heat. A small amount of bananas or orange slices are okay, but fruit sugar (fructose) is slow to digest and will sit in your stomach. Don't drink pure fruit juices to any extent. Stay away from other fresh fruits and vegetables with the exception of cooked/salted potatoes or not very popular, cooked carrots. Don't eat apples or tomatoes, lettuce, onions or ANY raw vegetables. If you decide to eat a combination sandwich for lunch leave out the raw vegetables and go easy on the fat. Fat is slow to digest, the body's first reaction is to store fat as fat, the process to convert it to glycogen muscle fuel is complex and slow.

d. Rule of thumb: "If it's cooler or hotter, eat more". Cooler needs calories, hotter needs food with sodium and electrolytes to prevent hyponatremia (serious depletion of body electrolytes - more discussion below).

2. Nutrition System Implementation

a. Sip high carbodrink such as Ultra Fuel or Carbo Fuel every hour. This isn't for hydration but for energy and much more.

b. Start eating 1 hour into the event.

c. Eat some high protein foods between mile 11 - 22, in the middle of the event (longest to digest).

d. Eat on flats or slight downhill or while others stop, take small bites.

e. Wash down solid food with some water each time.

f. Prepackage carbo powder in 150 g packs (3 or 4).

g. Try to eat while moving, but not while climbing or running when heavy breathing is required.

3. Total Hydration Requirement

In expected conditions it is MORE IMPORTANT than calories!! Based on my own observations, I am 200 lbs with a high sweat rate:

60 deg f - 6.5 oz/mi (46 oz every 7 miles) = 1.7 gallons total for 34 miles
70 deg f - 7.5 oz/mi (53 oz every 7 miles) = 2.0 gallons total for 34 miles
80 deg f - 10.5 oz/mi (74 oz every 7 miles) = 2.8 gallons total for 34 miles

(to correct these figures for your bodyweight and assuming you have a similar high sweat rate: your weight/200 x amount = your amount.)

Good ways to insure you are drinking enough:

a. You should be peeing often (during the event) and it should be clear, not yellow.

b. You should be drinking on schedule, not according to thirst.

c. (More complex) each pint lost represents 1 lb of body weight lost. 2% dehydration causes significant loss of performance; higher is dangerous to your health.

d. Best absorbed liquid is cold, 7.5% carbs, with a small amount of electrolytes. Most sports drinks meet this requirement; not soda, water, fruit juices or beer. Find out what you like and drink it.

e. HYPONATREMIA is a serious condition brought on by drinking too much water while exercising longer than several hours. It is an electrolyte imbalance within the body fluids. Risk factors may be: high water intake beginning several days prior to the event to "super-hydrate", taking ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, possibly other medications, low salt diets, high temperatures, long duration events, sweating and consuming large amounts of water all day with little or no food. Ladies are at higher risk than men. For those of you who may be salt losers increase the use of salt in your diet in the weeks prior to the event. Add salt to food, use soy sauce, drink bullion, eat pickles and pretzels. Possibly fresh fruits and vegetables high in absorbable minerals may help. Remember it may be too late on the day of the event to play make - up. Salt tablets don't work here, they are too high in concentration. Drink sports drinks and eat electrolyte balanced sports bars or foods prior to and during the event. Be in good physical condition and trained for/in heat. This takes several weeks of training in the heat for the body to adapt. Know how you feel after a long hike in the middle of a hot day and note what you ate and drank and how well it worked for you. Symptoms of HYPONATREMIA are similar to heat injury and include nausea, weakness, headache, cramping, strange behavior, seizures, coma and death. If you don't feel right and it's not a passing condition, stop and get medical attention. Be sure there is next year.

4. Hydration System Implementation

a. Use Camel Back (I like the back mounted backpack version)

b. CONCENTRATE on drinking at least 7 oz or more every 20 minutes.

c. Wet the Camel Back in creek and use it to cool your spine; use a sprayer bottle if needed to cool your head.

d. Increase liquid consumption via sports drinks and melons the days prior to the event, not by simply consuming more water which may dilute electrolyte balance.

e. Drink 12 oz 10 minutes prior to the event.

f. Use ice whenever available in Camel Back.

g. Use ice under hat, in shorts and on neck if hot (above 80 deg f).

5. Packaging

a. Camel Back - water and maybe room for not too often needed emergency items.

b. Fanny Pack - single or double bottle (High Carbohydrate liquid food, sprayer bottle, miscellaneous easy to reach items).

c. Shirt with front or rear pockets for storing started food if hands are needed while moving.

Don Erdeljac

112 Scott Ave. Glenshaw PA 15116
Home (412) 486 9292 Cell (412) 969 8819