Fitness-Concept2Rowing-Calorie Consumption calculation

I have previously written about the Talisker Whisky Atlantic rowing challenge. I was impressed when I saw the Ocean5 rowing boat and wanted to know more. Looking at the challenge website I saw some interesting statistics.

One of these was that the teams will each have rowed more that 1,500,000 strokes. I feel that with such a large number it is worth writing it our in full so that the rest of us can fully appreciate what a feat completing the challenge is.

Also of interest is the race fact sheet which stated that each contestant is expected to burn more that 5000 calories per day and drink 10 litres of water.

I have no professional knowledge of these issue so please forgive my quick back of an envelope calculations. Despite that, these figures start to look be as much part of the challenge as the actual rowing.

With 5 people in a boat and using the race completion time in 2018 of between 34 and 70 days the total start to become very large figures indeed.

Per day this would mean 25,000 to perhaps 35,000 calories per day. I am not sure what rations they use or how they are packed.

I have a vivid memory of a speech from Dr Mike Stroud in 2005 who wrote “Survival of the Fittest” of his trips across the Arctic and Antarctic with Randolp Fiennes and their expedition in 1984-86 in the “Footsteps of Scott”. Their calorie requirement had been about 7000 calories and more per day. At one point they needed food and were so hungry that they happily consumed 1 kg of butter without stopping. As I recall this did not cause them any problems and in many ways this is not surprising as that quantity of butter has about 7,120 calories.

So returning to the back of the envelope calculations.

With 5 on board and a need for a total of 25000 to 35000 calories per day this at it simplest could mean 5 to 7 kg of butter. Other items more typical of our usual diet would require many more kilos and I have not begun to work out what weight that might be if they choose vegan- with its much lower calorie content.

As the journey could take up to 70 days this could mean 490 Kg of “butter”. This quantity of food is not without its own practical issues- how much space does that take up and how to keep it “fresh” as no refrigeration. What do you warp it in. How and with what would you eat it. One also assumes that each boat is expected to plan for the worst scenario- I mention this as one of the issues from Scots expedition to the Antarctic was said to be a shortage of supplies and logistical issues.

Then water- again the estimate of 10 per person per day rapidly ends up being quite a logistical challenge. Even if it is made by desalinating of the sea water that is again no small feat and would require quite a bit of energy- even if that can be through solar power.

And then finally, but by no means the least, each rower is anticipated to use 800 sheets of toilet paper- and they rely on a bucket. I will rapidly move on so as not to dwell on not that issue even if it is essential.

Taking my own figures from a recent Concept2rower showed that I was estimated to burn 745 calories per hour. Keeping going and food at that rate is a very simple issue of fitness, energy stores and mathematics (pardon the massive understatement). Rowing for 2 hours and then resting 2 hours ie a 12 hour day would equate to 8940 calories per 24 hour day. No wonder that the Talisker Challenge briefing states that most participants loose 12kg in weight. Dr Stroud’s book stated how after his expeditions he had a massive appetite for many weeks afterwards- even personally finishing a plate of sandwiches intended for 5.

So when that temptation of a doughnut calls then, remember that they are quoted by the NHS calorie website as being Approx 240 calories. In other words this at least 20 minutes of rowing at a rate of 2 mins 13 seconds per 500 metres.

I hope this has article, which is entirely written off the back of an envelope calculations, has encouraged you to look for other more expert comment.

I also hope it has inspired you to look with greater admiration at the outstanding achievements of what some of our species are capable of. Enjoy your fitness and retirement.

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