Nutritional Breakdown of the PLCE Side Pocket Menu

by Paul Kirtley

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Foodstuffs - cheese, oatcakes, snickers, granola bar, cereal bar, cous cous, Cup-a-soup, pasta, Kenco coffee sachets, John West tuna

How does the nutritional value of this DIY ration pack stack up? Photo: Paul Kirtley

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.

You can calculate your calorie requirements here.

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 ItemPacked Weight (g)Kcal /100gKcal PackedCarbs (g)of which sugars (g)Fat (g)Protein (g)Fibre (g)Sodium (g)
Granola850.0415.03,527.5544.9234.6101.279.958.70.3
Powdered Milk171.0347.4594.090.690.60.961.80.9
Kenco 3-in-1140.0415.0581.0108.577.014.73.50.7
Snickers336.0510.01,713.6183.5151.993.731.65.00.6
Nature Valley Cereal Bar168.0456.0766.1108.447.528.913.69.41.3
Eat Natural Almond & Apricot Bar150.0462.0693.058.226.438.410.57.50.1
Pasta500.0362.01,810.0365.517.58.561.512.5
Cous Cous500.0374.41,872.0356.244.215.668.919.52.6
Oatcakes510.0431.02,194.9298.46.688.151.940.73.1
Red Leicester Cheese250.0390.0975.00.30.380.063.80.9
Swiss Gruyere Cheese200.0413.0826.02.066.056.03.0
Emmental Cheese250.0388.0970.01.31.373.876.31.31.9
Chorizo Rings480.0508.02,438.411.04.3188.2116.63.416.8
Tuna With A Twist425.0151.8645.212.39.438.376.52.1
Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce Mix80.0308.0246.449.26.21.37.34.33.2
Garlic Mushroom & Cream Sauce Mix52.0395.0205.429.00.65.34.91.72.9
Tuna Napolitana Sauce Mix60.0377.0226.227.14.19.26.54.32.9
Tomato Cup-a-Soup93.0387.1360.065.635.28.43.63.22.0
TOTAL5,214.3395.920,645.62,312.9757.6860.4794.6171.549.1
Per Day744.9 n/a 2,949.2330.3108.2122.9113.524.57.0
% Split55.2%18.1%20.5%19.0%4.1%1.2%

Observations

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.

Conclusions

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:

How To Pack Enough Food For A Week In A PLCE Side Pocket

How To Pack A Bushcraft Camping Outfit

Survival Foraging: A Realistic Approach

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

stuart

Really interesting read Paul, thanks for going to the trouble. I feel that the diet that we regularly eat when living from a rucksack provides me with pretty much all the nutrition I need (unless, of course, Tom’s packed), it’s good to see a bit of empirical data that supports my own gut instinct (pun intended).

Good stuff mate.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Excellent. Glad you like it Stuart.

Reply

Paddy

Thanks for such a detailed breakdown. I was surprised at the amount of fibre the couscous provided as I had always put this alongside polished rice! Yes the salt is high and its no surprise its from packet sauce. While high, for just a week and with the added sweat, I would be content. What is of real interest is that this is affordable!

Reply

Rob

Nice comprehensive follow up, i’ve taken a second look at my pack list, a while back i took a block of mature cheddar and ended up not eating it after day 2 due to how greasy and sweaty it appeared after a day and a half in my kit, reluctantly giving up on hard cheeses and settling for squirty tube garbage since as a makedo (i don’t like anything in tins if i can avoid it), how well do those cheeses you have listed hold up in the pack? I love a bit of red leicester and Emmental but after my cheddar experience they are only enjoyed when i have refrigeration. I have also been on the hunt for a bacon butty substitute meat, any ideas on that side? I have been trying to find a salted pork (like mentioned in Lord of the Rings books) that i could slice like a cured belly pork but no luck yet. After each trip back i get home and treat bacon like gourmet grub i haven’t seen in years, i keep telling myself it has only been a week since i had a bacon butyy and it makes me worse,

cheers

Rob

Reply

Alex

Salted pork is surprisingly easy to make yourself – there are good instructions floating around on the internet too. Definitely worth a try! (Or go to a Spanish supermarket and get a leg of jamon..! I always thought strapping a leg of pork to a pack would look very Olde Worlde! [Might encourage flies though! Or circling raptors!])

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Rob

Thanks Alex i’ll look into that

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Rob

Just an update incase there are any meat lovers out there who like me who miss a bacon butty when out in the sticks, check out freshers bacon jerky, it rehydrates perfectly in a pan of baked beans. i have also found the product Beef Biltong, basically seasoned dehydrated lean beef steak, perfect for a real high energy snack of for chopping up and adding to recipes for dinner round the fire. My next adventure I am taking food with me for to last a month (supplemented by what i can catch and forage) so the more dehydrated stuff in my pack the better as I am trying to fit it all into two PLCE side pouches,

thanks again Paul, before i seen your blog I thought i was alone when it came to taking lots of food i had to cook and prepare from dehydrated provisions,

cheers

Rob

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Rob,

Thanks for your comment and your food suggestions.

I’ll have to try the bacon jerky. Sounds like it could be a worthy addition to the repertoire.

Let us know how you get on with your next adventure.

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Shiver

Hi Paul,
I think you have done a great job, I must admit the nutritional information on your chosen rations has been a great help, it’s very useful to to see exactly the structured and balanced diet that can stand alone for a week without wild foods, that in itself is a comfort, and makes this a great packing list. The high fats are what is needed when undertaking strenuous activities, especially in northern climates where the cold burns more calories while you stand still. Reading articles on keeping warm at night always suggests hydration and that you are well fed on a rich diet before going to sleep.
Some people may have there own opinions on what’s best to pack, but the facts are there and ill definitely be making some changes to my packing list, based on your solid information.
Thank you Paul … Great job !!
Shiver

Reply

Jon Silver

Brilliant detailed well-researched information-rich stuff as always, Paul. Addicted to learning as I am, I always look forward to your next article or video.

Reply

Jack

Interesting read again. on a recent day hike with a friend we decided to measure our calorie expenditure via heart monitors. I mean, you would wouldn’t you, it’s a gadget. Not for any particular reason, just interested. Anyway, at the point we had decided to finish we had both burnt 4,000 calories over 21 miles. Now this wasn’t a heavy backpacked day over a mountain, rather a day pack over the north downs. Didn’t bother with it for the final 7 miles home as batteries were running low. Anyway, I think it would be safe to say I would have been quite close to 5,000 calories for the day. So the pack you’re suggesting would offer me a good bulk to replace those expended calories, with a bit of weight loss to boot. Personally I think the pack also offers what we need in a good form to adequately extract the necessary nutrients over a period of time for the type of activities I would use them for.

But as you mentioned, this is a pack for you, doing the things you do. It has been put together to both match the energy requirements and flavours you need for an extended time away. We all need to look at what our requirements are and make informed decisions from it. I’m certainly a good bit heavier than you and do not regularly do extended trips, so would have to consider perhaps a slightly higher calorie intake if I wished to sustain 7 days heavy pack walking. But now I feel I’ve got a bit more information to make that informed decision. And let’s not forget the importance of keeping well hydrated as this will aid the uptake of nutrients.

All in all, another powerful string to my bow called bushcraft.

Thanks Paul

Reply

Adam Robson

Looks like exactly the sort of thing I would pack, I’d probably have some wine gums or similar for an energy boost (even if it’s mainly phsycological) when I felt I was flagging.

Great stuff Paul, it works for me

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Alex

Excellent stuff, again. I loved the original article, as it backed up more or less exactly what I’ve been doing for some years now, and this one adds a neat layer of science and hard facts. Thank you for taking the time – both for the original video, this article, and the site in general – I may not comment much, but I always read/view – and always really appreciate them. I’d also like to say thanks to all those who do comment – it’s always good to see what others think.

Since I now have to avoid gluten my outdoor menu has changed slightly, but not too much as to be indistinguishable from that you demonstrate. In fact I find the gluten free alternatives are actually better at providing quality carbs than the original white wheat flour pasta, for example.

Keep up the always excellent work – only just discovered your flickr site too (via the excellent firelit photo) and I am looking forward to more pics there!

Reply

Julian Cresswell

Paul,

Just wanted to say thanks A/ for another great article B/ for taking the time to produce this and the original presentation C/ For such clear concise and evidentially based information.

Cheers,

Julian

Reply

Erwin Koekoek

First of all great subject!
My own in-the-field-menu is almost identical. Just easy and it works.
I really like the table view approach. A lot of work but it gives you more overall information.
Thanks for sharing!
Best Erwin

Reply

Pete

Hi Paul,
thanks for another interesting article.
How does this menu change when you are in Northern Sweden in Winter? What additional preparation do you need to do to stop the food from freezing prior to cooking? Also, if you didn’t have to carry the food yourself, for example you’re travelling by dog sled for a week, would that change the make-up or contents of your menu?
As always, your articles are a brilliant read and provide practical and sound advice on how to enjoy the outdoors.
cheers
Pete

Reply

oldtimer

Anyone who doesn’t realise how much thought and experience you put into your articles is thinking clearly enough. I’ve been walking and camping forover 60 years yet I stil manage to learn something new from your articles.

Your current articles on food and nutrition are very important and relevant. Clearly there has been a lot of research undertaken by experts in this field. You have read and digested it (irresistable pun) so I don’t have to.

Thank you for a great first article and great follow up

Reply

James Harris

I’ll be honest and say that i know nothing about nutrition, but I found this article easy to read and understand. Another great article Paul, thanks.

James

Reply

Cees

That is a very usefull article and going in depth.
thanks for sharing, you have spend a lot of time on this.

gr
Cees

Reply

Leena

Thanks Paul. a lot of effort has been taken to analyse and dissect the energy source
Very professional standard.

It breaks down the nitty gritty of what I need to do…ie total energy needs, versus , breakdown of balance of nutrients- macro and micro.

As a happy go lucky hiker…I would have just packed something randomly…its interesting to apply my intellect to something I enjoy…I think there is place for flexibility ie…some of the threads in previous articles give alternative ideas for food.
As I now know what I need to do…ie carb, prot, fats….and in which balance…I can then adapt to my needs.

some feedback and tips
brown pasta- as it is wholesome , get broken down slowly- keep blood sugars high at a steady level for longer – so avoids fluctuation. They compare with fruits, similar to how fructose in broken down as opposed to chocolates. chocolates serve as treat or instant fix.

Nuts are compact high energy resouces for those who can have them ie no nut allergies.

Full fat milk powder as opposed to skim will add in fat, adding to calories…
This is ideal for short time, not for a daily basis.

Lean meat and fish – dried, grilled add variety as well as protein. Avoid smoked versions as these are carcinogenic..best cook them on your grill/fire and smoke from fire adds the flavour.

Multivit capsules are excellent idea.

Sensible foraging should add to the greens. I said sensible as some of the plants are high in oxalic acid and you have rightly pointed this out…urinary stones etc. Sensible foraging in balance!

Do read or chat to people who have been on slimming world or weight watchers diet…these focus on a balance of carb, prot, fat and in what ration and how to blend it in while adding flexibility. Take a feather out of this , and see what you can add to when hiking/camping.

Salt – less the better. however the point about salt replenishment to cover up loss due to activity makes sense. Keep hydrated.

What this articles is a excellent structure to build on , adapt to each ones needs.
Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Leena

Thanks Paul. a lot of effort has been taken to analyse and dissect the energy source
Very professional standard.

It breaks down the nitty gritty of what I need to do…ie total energy needs, versus , breakdown of balance of nutrients- macro and micro.

As a happy go lucky hiker…I would have just packed something randomly…its interesting to apply my intellect to something I enjoy…I think there is place for flexibility ie…some of the threads in previous articles give alternative ideas for food.
As I now know what I need to do…ie carb, prot, fats….and in which balance…I can then adapt to my needs.

some feedback and tips
brown pasta- as it is wholesome , get broken down slowly- keep blood sugars high at a steady level for longer – so avoids fluctuation. They compare with fruits, similar to how fructose in broken down as opposed to chocolates. chocolates serve as treat or instant fix.

Nuts are compact high energy resouces for those who can have them ie no nut allergies.

Full fat milk powder as opposed to skim will add in fat, adding to calories…
This is ideal for short time, not for a daily basis.

Lean meat and fish – dried, grilled add variety as well as protein. Avoid smoked versions as these are carcinogenic..best cook them on your grill/fire and smoke from fire adds the flavour.

Multivit capsules are excellent idea.

Sensible foraging should add to the greens. I said sensible as some of the plants are high in oxalic acid and you have rightly pointed this out…urinary stones etc. Sensible foraging in balance!

Do read or chat to people who have been on slimming world or weight watchers diet…these focus on a balance of carb, prot, fat and in what ratio and how to blend it in while adding flexibility. Take a feather out of this , and see what you can add to when hiking/camping.

Salt – less the better. however the point about salt replenishment to cover up loss due to activity makes sense. Keep hydrated.

What this articles is a excellent structure to build on , adapt to each ones needs.
Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Carl

Thanks for another great report, Paul.
There will always be people who think they know it better,
Coming from South Africa I always carry Biltiong with me when camping.

Reply

Duncan Barnes

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the article – it was realy interesting to see how you broke the products down nutritional

I just wanted to add, that from my experince, packing food for any type of endeavour allways falls down when what you pack is very different from what you eat normally!

For instance i know long distance athetes (50K + runs), that whilst in a race feed off chunks of cheese and dried sausage(salami), but they have a fairly paleo diet normally. However other freinds have tried this race diet and failled, because we beleive their normal diet isnt geared up to processing fat as a main source of energy!

I would be interested in your views on this, as its something i have been pondering about ( in the best Pooh Bear Tradition) for some time now.

Many thanks,

Duncan

Reply

Clay Strong

Excellent video on the menu and a great deal of useful information. I’ll review and take notes for sure. Thanks for the effort put into this valuable video and your comments. I will certainly share these posts with my friends.

Reply

Duncan

In all honesty, my knowledge of nutrition is somewhat lacking. However having seen the consideration you have put into the food pack, shows me it’s all been thought about and considered carefully. I in fact cannot fault it at all, in fact it is informative for me. Hey…. I don’t eat that healthy at home….LoL :D

Reply

James Gohl

Hey Paul,
How good of you to break down your rations into the basic nutritional essentials. Military specialists have been doing this for a long time. Caesar, in fact, searched for a super food for his legions. Recently, I’ve seen some reviews of 24 hour military ration kits from France, Germany, the U.S and others but not Britian. I think it would be interesting to compare your menu with some of these, especially if you could include a British example.

Water, of course, is the most important nutritional element often not regarded in nutrition charts because it’s not food. But without water, food is worthless.

I really enjoyed your article and look forward to next one.

Jim

Reply

Diego

The first article/vid was great.The side pack you show is one of the best for this kind of activities and purpose.Regarding the contents I would add some isotonic powder and a handful of dried apricots or figs.I also take a piece of fig. bar with almonds…..a tipycal southern Spain meal.
The second article it is a real lesson in bromatology.Well done and Thank you for sharing.

Reply

Craig Twiner

Paul ,
As always a very good article, as to my mind each to there own regarding what you take with you
Depending on how deep your pockets are, thanks for taking the time to do this,
I tend to buy readymade cous cous meals, rice from places like 99p shop make my own flapjacks and if in camp wild edibles to supplement to food carryed in. Regards craig.

Reply

Dean

Great article Paul, thank you.

Dried kidney beans take a bit of planning and time but a hand full with a cup of water in an expandable dry bag or overnight, followed by an hour on a wood burner provides a really good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fibre. Throw in some fusilli cook for a further ten minutes, a mini peperami, a sachet of Tabasco and give Heston a call.

Dean

Reply

Roy Henshall

Outstanding, I love this Paul, its great to stay fit and eat the right food.
THANKS
HEDGEY
Keep the Faith.

Reply

P. Morley

It’s always good to have other people’s ideas on food as it’s really what it’s all about. A very informative article and it has given me plenty to think about.

Thanks once again, Paul.

Reply

Rody Klop

Something you should be aware of is that 1 kg of bodyfat is about 8000 calories to burn. Your body can use more than that but is unable to turn food in that amount of energy. Thats why you can eat all day and still lose weight. Your body is unable to digest that amount of food in such a short time. Food and outdoor is a very interesting subject.

Reply

Nate

Excellent synopses and one not found in this context elsewhere.

It was acknowledged the temporal nature of this diet during periods of high physical exertion.

However, the ingredients of some of these items are killing some of us when you consider the MSG, presevatives, and high-octane additives.

Forging a tight relationship with a food dehydrator over many years of experimentation and integrating this nutrition information can result in a healthy and effective food strategy.

Anyway, well done and much appreciated. This article was the first of its kind I’ve found.

Reply

Swallow

for those interested in dehydrating to get to biltong, pemmican etc. but not interested in paying though the nose for a dehydrator, here a tutorial on how to build one cheaply

http://www.k-clements.fsnet.co.uk/dehydrator.html

Reply

Deri

This is so well thought out, so useful. I’m surprised such info does not seem to have been properly collated and presented on all backpacking outfitters websites. I have to alter the balance for my needs as I am type 2 diabetic and must take in fewer carbs than you recommend. But my home-made jerky, home-made dried wild boar ham, Turkish “sucuk” spicy sausage, tuna and salmon in foil envelopes all help. I will try to control my balance as rationally as your analysis. Thank you Paul

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Kev Knights

Great article! As a type 1 diabetic and personal trainer I have spent more time that I care to remember reading nutrition data off the back of packets and creating lists like yours for one reason or another. It’s great that you’ve shown a clear layout and added the best current guidelines for each aspect of the macronutrients. Hopefully people can take this idea away and develop it based on what you’ve given them. From my experience I’ve found that the guidelines must be taken as guidelines and your diet needs to be adapted to suit what best works for you in any situation. Good nutrition really does make the difference when you need to make important decisions, either at home or in the great outdoors. Finally, in my opinion, anyone with questions on the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) should to talk to a Nutritionist as that is a whole specialist science that can really cause problems if played with too much in the wrong manner.

Reply

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