Three Peaks Challenge – Top Tips – Nutrition

By September 1st 2015

We are now only a few weeks away from climbing the three peaks! To prepare for this we have come up with a few top tips regarding our nutrition for the challenge.

As you’ve probably worked out, walking uphill is hard work and uses a lot of calories. The amount of calories you use will depend on your weight and the terrain you are walking over but as a very rough idea here is an estimate of the amount of calories you are likely to use on each of the mountains.

Your Weight

9 stone

11 stone

13 stone

Rough average calories used when walking uphill for one hour

400

490

570

Rough average calories used when walking down hill for one hour

190

210

250

Ben Nevis 3hrs uphill

1200

1470

1710

2hrs down hill

380

420

500

Scafell Pike 2.5hrs uphill

1000

1225

1425

1.5hrs down hill

285

315

375

Snowdon 2.5hrs uphill

1000

1225

1425

1.5hrs down hill

285

315

375

Total calories used

4150

4970

5810

So just in walking time we are going to use a lot of calories, on top of this is the normal amount of calories you would use up in an average weekend. Here are some notes on how best to fuel the challenge!

The Science

Your body has stored reserves of energy called glycogen, it uses this store of energy for any strenuous forms of exercise. Your body will try to use your glycogen stores first as these are the easiest and most convenient source of energy for the muscles to use, however, your glycogen reserves will only last 1 to 2 hrs depending on the intensity of exercise. As your glycogen reserves become depleted your body will begin to convert your fat reserves into energy for your muscles, however, your body finds it harder and slower to convert fat to energy so your performance will reduce and you will slow down! This is the reason any true fat burning exercise will normally be at least an hour, otherwise you’re just burning glycogen which your body will replenish when you eat something.

You can help conserve your glycogen reserves by eating carbohydrate or sugar rich foods such as energy bars. In this way the sugars pass into the blood stream quickly as glucose and are then absorbed by muscles or other organs as needed. Unfortunately, most people can only digest and absorb around 1g of carbohydrate per minute (60g per hour) irrespective of how much they consume … so don’t think it’s just a matter of eating as much chocolate as possible! What’s worse is a 60g high sugar energy or chocolate bar will only give you 250 – 300 calories and, as you can see when walking the hills, you will be burning over 400 calories per hour!

Energy food

Tips and Tricks

  1. Load up on carbohydrates before you start – i.e. eat lots of pasta, rice, grains etc. You want to make sure your glycogen reserves are full and your body has plenty of glucose in your blood ready for Ben Nevis. Porridge, muesli, rice pudding etc. are good slow energy release foods for breakfast.
  2. Whilst walking, eat little and often to give your body a chance to digest the food and use the energy. Eat high energy or sugar foods like chocolate or energy bars for immediate energy but also eat other carbohydrates or some protein and fat rich foods such as bread, flapjack and nuts for slower release and longer lasting energy.
  3. After each walk, take time to eat properly to help your body and muscles recover and repair. Eat recovery foods high in proteins such as milkshakes etc. and savoury foods rich in salts to help replace the salts you have sweated out … and if you’re like me you will get fed up of eating sweet things and want a proper meal. I like blue cheese and Tuc crackers as this contains lots of protein and salt too!
  4. Remember to drink! As a general rule you need to drink approximately 500ml of fluid per hour of strenuous exercise. Make sure you are properly hydrated before you start and then drink little and often… don’t wait until you’re thirsty. The temperature also makes a difference; you will sweat more on a hot dry sunny day than you will on a cold rainy day. Obviously, some people sweat more than others but you should have a rough idea of how much water you need to take, but my estimates would be…
Take with you
Ben Nevis 3hrs uphill 2 – 2.5 litres
2hrs down hill
Scafell Pike 2.5hrs uphill 1.5 – 2 litres
1.5hrs down hill
Snowdon 2.5hrs uphill 1.5 – 2 litres
1.5hrs down hill


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