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"ASK THE DIETITIAN"   by Helen Lutz MPH, RD

We hope you find these Questions and Answers helpful in attaining peak condition for your Everest. 

Please, submit a question.

 

QUESTION

                                                 WEIGHT LOSS ON EVEREST                                                 

 

Helen,

This is Jim, Currently station in Iraq, very active in weight training since 1983 and some jogging. My problem is I came to Iraq in Jan 07 at 240lbs, I am at 219 lbs today 2 June 07, I have not lost any more weight in the past 6 weeks. I eat light breakfast and medium lunch no dinner since I arrived in Iraq. And no snack. My weight will not drop any further. I am on blood pressure medicine Atenerlol 50gm. my blood pressure is excellent my pulse 59, when I get on on the tread mill my pulse will not go past 89bpm. At 60 most people consider me big and muscular. I am 5'11 and weigh 219lbs. 

Can you give me any advise? I did loose weight from 240 to 219 rather easily in 21 lbs. in a month and half. 

ANSWER  

Helen, from the banks of the Green River.

Hi Jim.

I have calculated your Body Mass Index (BMI) using your height and weight.  BMI is a tool that is used to determine if someone is at a healthy weight for his or her height.  Given your muscular build though, and the fact that muscle tissue is fairly heavy, BMI isnít the only consideration I use to assess whether someone is at a healthy weight.  For example, your BMI at 219 lbs is 30.5.  Generally a BMI over 30 means overweight for most people, but not in your case due to the heavier weight of a muscular build.        

 

A weight loss of 21 lbs is quite significant.  Gradual weight loss over several months isnít quite as alarming as a very sudden weight loss.  Since arriving in Iraq, your weight loss could be explained in several ways, including unusual and unfamiliar food, a hot climate will reduce appetite, a recent or re-occurring illness, and stress and strain can also affect someoneís desire to eat.  You mentioned that you do not eat dinner or snacks, which means your calorie intake is less than it was before arriving in Iraq.   

 

Despite your 21 lb weight loss, you are still very likely to be at a healthy weight for your muscular and heavier build and I am therefore not concerned.  Your blood pressure and resting pulse rate are also great.  Your weight loss may reduce your blood pressure somewhat, so have it regularly checked and medication adjusted if needed.   I would advise against further weight loss because it could lower your energy level and make it easier for you to become ill.   

 

I suggest that you begin eating supper, even if it is a small meal.  Also, snack once or twice a day on the healthiest of foods that are available.  Keep snacks handy and remind yourself (or set your watch) to snack regularly.  Muscle tissue is very metabolically active and needs nourishment.  You may want to consider taking a high quality nutritional supplement as an added benefit.  You appear to work hard to maintain your fitness, and eating nourishing food throughout the day will help too.   
 

Vegan diet and High Altitude Mountaineering

Question II am a strict Vegan (no meat, no dairy, no fish, chicken, cream, eggs). I eat mostly a diet of raw salads, fruit, nuts and seeds.

I am wondering if I climb peaks from 6- 8000m meters what you think of a vegan diet.  I drink plenty of warm lentil soups, eating whatever fresh and dried fruit I can and plenty of water. I am used to this diet at sea level, but i am curious what you think about using this diet at high altitudes. Also I am 6 feet tall, 140 lbs and in very good condition and excellent healthI

Stefan

Answer Hi Stefan,

Your question is a good one, and I completely agree with Becky's comments regarding body fat, red blood cells, etc.

I would also add the fact that at altitude the body's systems (including the digestive system) tend to slow down due to the physical stress of the climb and lower 02 levels. Therefore eating foods that are easily digestible (and that won't place extra stresses on the body) at altitude is a good idea. As you know, raw foods, legumes, beans and other high fiber foods take longer to digest (which is one of the reasons they are healthy choices). While you can manage  eating these foods at a lower elevation, these foods may contribute to unexpected cramping and even vomiting when at altitude. My advice would be to practice with your diet choices at altitude as much as you can to see how altitude will (or won't) affect your digestive system.

It's also import to consider the fact that altitude tends to take away one's appetite and can change preferences for favorite foods. People find that they lose interest interest in foods that they typically eat at lower elevation, making the planning for high altitude meals and snacks very important. once again, the best advice is to practice with your foods to see how you tolerate them as well as whether you can stand them. While a warm lentil soup sounds wonderful at lower elevation, it may be the last thing you want on Everest or any other high altitude peak.

At altitude, temperatures are lower, meaning that some of your raw food choices might freeze solid. This would make them unappealing and even impossible to eat. If you want to eat warm soups, then  you'll need to plan extra fuel for warming them, extra weight (and energy) for carrying them. etc. There are some great dried lentil and been soups that only take hot water to rehydrate. I'd suggest that you experiment with finding some of these that you like. 

High altitude mountaineers typically do best when they stay very well hydrated. Relying on carbohydrates laden beverages when climbing is a very good idea. I'd suggest this to you as well, to make sure you include sweetened beverages in your climbing diet. This could include warm juices and warm herbal teah (sweetened with your preference of sweeteners). 

I hope these ideas are helpful. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

Best,

Helen

 

 

GAINING WEIGHT FOR CLIMBING EVEREST

Question Hi Helen,

Tim here, I am trying to put on some weight before the climb. I know some of my Everest 2008 team members are also. Any ideas?

 

Answer "Tips for Tim"   
  • In order to gain weight, you will require more calories in than you expend. So choosing plenty of high fat foods with lots of calories are important. 

  • Liberal use of butter, mayonnaise, avocado, peanut and other nut butters, salad dressing, full fat milk, full fat yogurt and sour cream. 

  • Dessert with lunch and supper such as ice cream (good protein value as well as fat), fruit desserts with whip cream.

  • Nuts and seeds sprinkled onto hot or cold cereal, onto salads, mixed into yogurt with dried fruit.

  • Hot sweetened drinks such as rich hot chocolate.

  • I would suggest you stay away from alcohol this close to leaving for altitude. Keep a bag of mixed nuts, dried fruit and chocolate in your pockets, glove box etc.

  • Hope these ideas help. Some of us only wish we would need to gain weight!

Best,

Helen

                       

         SUBMIT A QUESTION        RETURN TO EATING FOR EVEREST

 

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