There are probably as many ways to plan for the food to be brought along a ski expedition as there are skiers. As a certified geek, using spreadsheets and calculating the macronutrients is what I use. This might seem like an alien approach to some; many people just use a rule of thumb of bringing along about one kilogram (approx. 2.2 pounds) of food per day. The results will probably work just as well, but using spreadsheet it is easier to evaluate the diet along the macronutrients (and calorie consumption) axis, and not only subjectively, based on feelings (which are just as important, if not more important than exact calories or macronutrient distributions).

Below is the spreadsheet I used for my trip to Sarek in 2015. Click on the picture to open the actual sheet that you can copy for your own use.
I started with estimating my calorie consumption (upper right corner of the sheet). About 1800kcal is my rough estimate for my base consumption, which is a bit on the low side for many people. I added about 300kcal per leg (7 legs per day) to account for the cold an exercise, arriving into a total of 4100kcal per day.

I then started listing food items I wanted to have along with their macronutrients and total calories (calculated from macronutrients, using 4kcal/gram of carbohydrates and proteins and 9kcal/gram for fat). In the end I had a list of items that totaled about 1000kcal over the theoretical need I had calculated.

Crafting the list of food items

The selection process for food items on my diet was anything but scientific. I knew rye bread and butter was the basis for my diet, so I added those. I knew I wanted coffee for the morning, so I chose a chocolate cappucino to add some calories. Beef jerky, of course. Porridge for the morning (that I ended up skipping many mornings).

What about real food? Freeze dried meals for lunch. Mashed potato powed and dried minced meat or bacon for dinner. Throw in cheese with the bread. Still out of a lot of calories? Throw in chocolate for evenings and Snickers bars to eat during ski breaks. Need. More. Calories. Ok, pringles? Still need more calories, AND I’m very heavily weighted into carbohydrates. How about nuts? Cashews, chili nuts, nuts, nuts and dried fruits.

Ok. Now I’m about there. Have a distribution with suitable amount of fats and protein. I could just throw items at the plan and watch my pie graph change and my calorie counter grow. Once I had enough, I knew to stop. An approach that mixes an intuitive approach into selecting foods with scientific and calculated framework that tells me when I’m done.

Evaluating the diet

I tried to balance the items towards fats and proteins, but as you can see, carbohydrates still dominate the distribution. A week can probably be managed with just about any diet.

Nutritional Needs In Cold And In High-Altitude Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations tells us that troops stationed at Fort Greely, Alaska during winter consumed about 16 percent protein, 37 percent fat, and 48 percent carbohydrate. My distribution 21% protein, 33,4% fat and 44,9% carbohydrates comes pretty close.

For longer trips it becomes necessary to favor fats over protein and carbs just to limit the amount of food you need to haul. Some expeditions go up to 60% fat, which needs additional enzymes to be consumed that can break the lipids, to be able to utilize the fats.

I ended up not losing or gaining a lot of weight so the calories were quite accurately calculated. I think I could have managed well with a range of calories from 3000 to 4500kcal per day as long as I timed the calories right (have enough available when needed). In the end this should be as much a subjective evaluation as based on any theoretical models of consumption. You should have an idea of how much you consume during exercise and as base consumption.

So theoretically, my impromptu diet seemed to be ok. But does it provide enjoyment and boost to the spirits is just as important of a question as can it fuel you. During the trip I discovered that I had too much nuts in the diet for my liking. They were stressing my digestion a bit and became boring. So in the future, nuts will be a part of my diet, but not the go-to element for fats.

Slow carbs in the form of rye bread worked extremely well, but also fast carbs (Pringles) were essential to replenish reserves after a hard leg of skiing. I loved the Snickers bars. I loved the mashed potato powder I used (Mummon muusi, several flavors incl. bacon and herbs).

I ended up missing real coffee, even though I loved the ease of just mixing in a powder. I have since developed a combination of milk powder and instant coffee that I now use for this kind of occasions that I will use for all upcoming expeditions and treks.

And I absolutely loathed the freeze dried food. I hear there are good brands of food, but messing with pouring boiling water into the bag is not fun in high winds, no matter how good the food. As I mentioned in My Favorite Trail Recipe, I don’t mind eating the same thing over and over as long as I like it. Instead I will go for foods I can prepare in a food thermos like noodles or the smashed potatoes and bacon / minced meat.


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