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Friday 11 April 2014

Solent aids Hampshire Scouts 2018 expedition

Scientists from Southampton Solent University are providing nutritional advice and support to a Hampshire Scout Expeditions team who are preparing to trek to the South Pole in 2018.

It will be the first time a Scout group has attempted a polar expedition of this kind. Starting from the coast of Antarctica, they aim to complete the 1000km trek to the pole and kite-ski back in 80 days.

‘Man hauling’ 100kg of food, fuel and equipment across the world’s highest, coldest and windiest continent will require massive energy requirements, and nutrition will be a major challenge for the seven-man group.

“Each person will need to consume up to 10,000 calories a day, four times the recommended daily amount,” says Dr Ali Hill, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at Southampton Solent University. “Fitting that into as small and light a weight as possible is going to be no easy job.”

Despite getting to eat four times the recommended daily allowance, they will still lose weight, much of it body fat. While this may sound a great way to lose weight, Dr Hill explains the harsh realities:

“Losing fat means they will have less insulation against the cold, and are more likely to get hypothermia. They will also slow down, which means the trip will take longer. The longer the trip, the more problems they can encounter and the more weight they can lose.”

The group – many of whom have taken part in previous Scout-led expeditions to Malawi, Peru and the summit of Everest – have already begun preparations for the trek and have been busy getting their body composition measured in the state-of-the-art BOD POD* and diet analysed at the University’s sport science labs.

“Working out body composition and optimal nutrition is vital for the trek ahead of us,” says expedition leader Tom Robinson, who is currently serving in the British Army. “It might be four years away, but we need to start now, to make sure that we are well prepared and to increase the likelihood of survival for a trip that is on the edge of man’s ability.”

As well as assisting the team achieve their goal, Dr Hill is keen to gain a better understanding of the effects that such an extreme challenge can have on the body and its nutrition needs:

“It’s an area that we don’t understand fully. But with the increase in popularity of tough events like the marathon and extreme expeditions, it’s an area we need to increase our knowledge of.”

You can find out more about Antarctica 2018, meet the team and follow the group’s preparations at http://hsx.org.uk

If you want to learn more about the science of sport, it’s not too late to apply for one of Southampton Solent University’s specialist courses. Visit  www.solent.ac.uk/courses to find out more.

*BOD POD
Body composition is measured using a machine called a BOD POD, a piece of kit that works out body fat levels. As the individual sits inside the machine, it makes tiny changes in volume and then measures the differences in pressure this causes. From this, it can work out how much space the person takes up, which is known as their volume. This, together with the body mass (weight) of a person, can be used to work out their body composition, ie. how much of them is fat and how much is muscle.