I thought it would be useful to have a further look at the macro nutritional balance of the PLCE side pocket menu, outlined in a previous article and video.
In particular I thought it worthwhile to lay out an analysis of the amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein in this diet – both proportionate and absolute – as well as the amounts of dietary fibre and sodium it contains.
How Much Energy Do We Need?
An average person weighing 60-80kg needs around 2,000-3,000 calories per day.
This is a combination of basal metabolic functions using 1,500-1,700 calories per day plus everyday activities of a lifestyle with little or no exercise using a further 500-1,000 calories per day.
How Many Calories Do Different Outdoor Activites Burn?
Walking unburdened burns around 250-350 calories per hour, depending on your weight. Hiking with a backpack will burn more. Steep hills will consume more still.
Indeed, sports scientists will tell you that exercising at a moderate rate uses 500-700 calories per hour.
Energy consumption of top marathon runners is 1,300 calories per hour.
A Tour De France cyclist will typically consume 6,500 calories per day.
Three-season backpacking typically requires energy consumption of 3,000-4,000 calories per day.
What Balance Of Nutrition Do We Actually Need?
How should we obtain the calories we need? Should it be more from fats or carbohydrates? What about proteins? How much should we consume to maintain good body function and repair sore muscles on a hike?
General nutrition advice for adults recommends 45-65% of the diet is made up of carbohydrates, 10-35% of protein and 20-35% of fats.
Neuman, Pfutzner and Berbalk state that for normal physical training – as opposed to specific strength or endurance training – carbohydrate should make up 50% of the diet, protein 15% and fat 35%.
This forms the basis of a good model for hiking.
Further, even moderately active people need no more than 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. Research suggests that even elite endurance athletes need only 1.6g/kg/d.
How Much Fibre Do We Need?
A few people have looked at the PLCE side-pocket menu and concluded there isn’t enough fibre. To start with, we have to know how much dietary fibre nutritionists recommend we eat.
The recommended intake of fibre for adults is 18g a day.
How Much Salt Do We Need?
There are a lot of misconceptions and partial evidence about salt and its effect on the body, particularly in the context of exercise.
That said, it’s generally recommended that you eat no more than 6g of salt per day. This translates to 2.3g of sodium per day.
The PLCE Side Pocket Menu Analysed
In the following table is a breakdown of the macro nutritional value of the individual items, in the order they appear in the video.
These values are manufacturer’s values, taken from the product packaging or the manufacturer’s website.
I’ve also made some calculations of my own, summing the total weight, total calories as well as working out the calories per 100g of each product for comparison. I’ve taken the manufacturer’s percentage figures for carbohydrates (and contribution from simple sugars), fat, protein, fibre and sodium and multiplied them by the weight of each respective product packed into the side pocket so to give absolute amounts of each of these categories of macro nutrients.
I’ve then summed these contributions to get total amounts of carbohydrate, fat, protein, fibre and sodium in the pack.
I’ve also taken the total weights of carbohydrate, fat, protein, fibre and sodium in the menu, added them up and then calculated a percentage contribution from each.
|Food Item||Packed Weight (g)||Kcal /100g||Kcal Packed||Carbs (g)||of which sugars (g)||Fat (g)||Protein (g)||Fibre (g)||Sodium (g)|
|Nature Valley Cereal Bar||168.0||456.0||766.1||108.4||47.5||28.9||13.6||9.4||1.3|
|Eat Natural Almond & Apricot Bar||150.0||462.0||693.0||58.2||26.4||38.4||10.5||7.5||0.1|
|Red Leicester Cheese||250.0||390.0||975.0||0.3||0.3||80.0||63.8||–||0.9|
|Swiss Gruyere Cheese||200.0||413.0||826.0||2.0||–||66.0||56.0||–||3.0|
|Tuna With A Twist||425.0||151.8||645.2||12.3||9.4||38.3||76.5||–||2.1|
|Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce Mix||80.0||308.0||246.4||49.2||6.2||1.3||7.3||4.3||3.2|
|Garlic Mushroom & Cream Sauce Mix||52.0||395.0||205.4||29.0||0.6||5.3||4.9||1.7||2.9|
|Tuna Napolitana Sauce Mix||60.0||377.0||226.2||27.1||4.1||9.2||6.5||4.3||2.9|
1/ As mentioned in the video, the average calories per day this menu provides is approximately 3,000. This was the aim. Any less would have been too little, certainly for me. For a hard three-season hiking trip, where I was burning 3,500-4,000 calories per day, I would expect to lose some weight on this diet.
2/ The percentage contribution from carbohydrates was 55.2% (of which sugars contributed 18.1% to the total); fat contributed 20.5% and protein 19.0%. This diet is very much in line with general health guidelines on the recommended contributions from each food group. It’s a proportionate split which is also pretty close to the recommendations of the sports scientists. In fact fat is a little on the low side.
3/ With respect to protein specifically, this menu provides 795g of protein in total, averaging at 113.5g/day. I weight just under 100kg, so this diet easily provides me with the 1g/kg/day recommended for an active person.
4/ The fibre provided by this diet is 24.5g per day on average. This is 150% of the recommended daily minimum. Big contributors are the granola, cous cous and pasta. If you substituted wholemeal pasta for the plain, white pasta in the video, you’d have even more fibre. As an aside, wholemeal pasta would provide a few less calories per 100g but an increased amount of the B-vitamins you need to properly process carbohydrates.
5/ Sodium levels are higher than recommended. The big contributor here is the chorizo, contributing nearly 17g out of the 49g total. The packet pasta sauces also contain a significant amount of salt/sodium.
By my calculations, the PLCE side pocket menu I propose in my video (and use from time-to-time myself) provides a balance of macro nutrients in line with both general health guidelines and with the recommendations of sports nutritionists. It provides a good amount of protein to enable repair while exercising as well as significantly more than the recommended daily minimum of dietary fibre.
The one red flag is the amount of salt vs general health guidelines, although not all active/sports people agree with the general health guidelines (see the link above within the section on salt for more details on this). Unless I was hypertensive and sensitive to salt, however, I would not worry about this increased salt intake for a week, particularly if my levels of perspiration were higher than I was accustomed to.
What I have not analysed here are the micro nutrients available in these foods. I think it would be reasonable to expect them to provide a lower level of essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements than a balanced diet of fresh foods. One solution to this would be a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement while using the above menu.
As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below…
Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:
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- Nutritional Breakdown of the PLCE Side Pocket Menu - July 2, 2014
- How To Pack Enough Food For A Week In A PLCE Side Pocket - June 25, 2014
- Integrating Bushcraft With Modern Outdoor Life: Bushcraft Show 2014 Presentation - May 28, 2014