ALTITUDE AND NUTRITION




An interesting Article brought to you by John MCclinton:

ohn McClinton BSc (Hons) PGCE Dip ION MBANT CNHC NTC

John McClinton
John McClinton is a Nutritional Consultant specialising in health, performance and recovery. With a background in education and fitness, John uses nutritional wellness packages to support positive client change. With a passion for endurance events and adventure races, this helps him target nutritional strategies suited to particular client needs. John is also a qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer.




ALTITUDE NUTRITION

32 FSN JULY/AUGUST 2012

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Mount Everest lies in

the Khumbu region
of the Himalayan
mountain range and
has presented itself
as the ultimate iconic challenge that
climbers have for decades tested
their wit and guile on. Standing at
17568 ft (5335m), Base Camp holds
an intrigue as the gateway to the
highest peak in this glorious range,
Mount Everest.

The nutritional challenge
In my own quest to trek to Base
Camp and beyond and with
performance and recovery in mind,
my nutrition was one of the few
variables that I knew I could control,
to some extent. Having previously
trekked the Andes in South America,
I was aware that such events tend
to be nutritionally dominated by
carbohydrate-rich meals and sugary
snacks. My aim was to source,
where possible, a blend of starchy
and fibrous carbohydrates, quality
proteins and healthy fats in order to
support my energetic requirements
at altitude. Food was available at the
various stop off points en-route and
trekkers were able to choose from
set menus.

Altitude sickness
Acute mountain sickness (AMS)
and high-altitude cerebral edema
(HACE) can result with the fall
in barometric pressure due to
increased altitude. Consequently,
this reduced partial pressure of
oxygen may produce a hypoxic
state for those ascending to altitude.
Symptoms such as dizziness,
fatigue, insomnia, poor sleep,
shortness of breath and nausea
are some of the common features.
Diminishing appetite, weight loss
due to increased metabolic activity
and the concomitant loss of lean
muscle tissue associated with high
altitude and performance were
the challenges that I faced. What
nutritional interventions could I adopt
to offset some of these symptoms?
My trekking group responded to high
altitude (HA) in varying ways and I
wanted to gain some control over its
effect on me. My aim was to improve
systemic oxygen delivery through
optimal food choices and targeted
nutritional supplementation.
Ensuring adequate glycogen
storage was of paramount
importance: optimum food and
snack choices would prove to
be significant. Mountain athletes
working at very high altitude (3500 –
5500m) should not use hunger as a
sign of nutritional status. Leptin and
ghrelin, hormones that recognise
satiety and stimulate hunger, may be
affected at certain heights above sea
level. As Kechijan (1) noted;
High altitude physiology affects
performance in the following ways:

• Low oxygen, resulting in tissue
hypoxia.

• Lower work capacity of respiratory
and cardiac systems.

• Poor sleep quality, compounding
the decrease in exercise
performance and cognitive function
caused by hypoxia.

Protein anabolism as a result
of growth hormone and insulinlike growth factor-1 may be due
to increased activity adaptation,
something I wanted to maintain at
altitude in order to ensure optimum
CAN NUTRITION BE USED To MAINTAIN
high LeveLs of Performance at
ALTITUDE?

John McClinton demonstrates by firsthand experience that it can.
performance. The potential for
lowered thyroid function and hence
energetic requirements due to
these environmental conditions
was a further consideration.
Supplementing with a spectrum
of targeted nutrients was therefore
imperative (2).


Everest base camp-feature ALTITUDE NUTRITION
this every other day with sachets of
CherryActive concentrate for its fastacting muscle recovery. These fluids
were drunk consistently throughout
the day. Every morning, Magnesium
oil, a super saturated pure mineral
spray with glucosamine, was applied
to my joints and muscles supporting

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A Day in the life

A typical day started at 4.30am –
5.00am. Upon rising, I blended Ultra
Muscleze with water, a magnesium
and malic acid powdered formula
with an array of nutritional co-factors
helping support energy metabolism,
muscle and nerve function. I rotated
musculoskeletal function. I also
consumed a tablespoon of Neovite
Colostrum with water during the
early morning trek break. With its
notable beneficial bacteria, this
multi-functional food helped support
health and performance, boost
immunity and improve digestive
capacity. Breakfast consisted of fruit,
porridge and a vegetable omelette. I
further supplemented with: omega
3 fish oil capsules for their antiinflammatory joint health properties;
a B-complex, supporting the use and
storage of energy from protein and
carbohydrates; and a Multi vitamin
and minerals for cognition. I also took
vitamin C for immunity and to help
maintain collagen health.
Interspersed throughout the day
and always consumed with food, I
maintained this supplementation
protocol, along with the herb
Gingko Biloba and the medicinal
mushroom reishi, both in extract
form. research has shown that
gingko may support people working
at a certain altitude. reishi, with its
purported blood sugar regulating
and cardiovascular properties,
helped enhance my buoyant
energy levels. Chlorella, regarded
as a complete whole food, gave me
additional protein, vitamins C and E
plus the minerals zinc and iron, vital
for sustained energy and supportive
recovery. Every meal was a mix of
either fish or meat with vegetables.
Lunch times were a blend of fibrous
and/or starchy carbohydrates where
possible. Before bed Magnesium
oil, the super saturated mineral
spray, was applied topically to
my torso in order to aid restful,
rejuvenating sleep.

Toast, jam, cereal, tea and coffee
were very much the staple for
other trekkers. Chocolate, sweets,
biscuits and sugary drinks were
recommended by our trekking
guide as essential to supporting
energetic needs during the day. As
an alternative, I chose a blend of
raw chocolate, goji berries, guarana,
ginseng, maca, ashwagandha,
almonds, raisins and whey protein
in the snack bars that I travelled
with. These proved so nourishing,
helping to sustain my energy levels
throughout the day.

With regards to goji berries,
Potterat (3) noted:
“As to the root bark, several goji
“Diminishing appetite,
weight loss due to
increased metabolic
activity and the
concomitant loss of lean
muscle tissue associated
with high altitude and
performance were the
challenges that I faced”

34 FSN JULY/AUGUST 2012 www.fsnmag.com
feature ALTITUDE NUTRITION
About the author
John McClinton BSc (Hons), Dip. ION, MBANT,
CNHC is a Nutritional Consultant specialising in
health, performance and recovery. With a background
in education and fitness, John uses nutritional
wellness packages to support positive client change.
With a passion for endurance events and adventure
races, this helps him target nutritional strategies suited to particular
client needs.

• www.foodswork.com

compounds have demonstrated
a hepatoprotective action as well
as inhibitory effects on the renin/
angiotensin system which may
support the traditional use for the
treatment of hypertension”.
The refined sugars that many
trekkers consumed appeared to
support their immediate performance
needs. However, it was noticeable
that energy levels within the group
diminished at consistent junctures
throughout the day. Having sourced
whole coconut in Kathmandu, I
dissected it for its calorific density,
quality fats and protein. Almond,
cashew, walnut and brazil nuts were
also part of my provision bag. High
quality and tasty food is so significant
in these extreme environments. This
blend proved both satisfying and
satiating.

Astute diarizing of my daily food
and supplementation, sleep patterns,
energy and mood, helped me more
clearly detail my experience. one
definite marker was my weight; 76
kilograms pre event – I clearly didn’t
want to loose size because I was due
to compete in an extreme off-road
race upon returning to the UK from
Mount Everest.

Altitude training
Initial research suggested that
impressive levels of physical fitness
did not necessarily correlate with
altitude adaptation. This was noted in
the following piece of research; “Sea
level aerobic fitness is not protective
for altitude illness. Acclimatization
is thus the only known way to avoid
AMS and HACE” (4).
Nonetheless, in order to potentiate
psychological adaptations during my
trek, I undertook cycle ergometer
training at an Altitude Centre in
London. Inducing hypoxia to the
body by lowering the percentage of
chamber oxygen had the potential to
enhance physiological adaptation and
improve event performance. Training
in the chamber simulated altitude at
approximately 3000 metres. I was
attempting to trek to almost twice this
height without supportive oxygen. The
metabolic and endocrine response
to extreme high altitude hypobaric
hypoxia in conjunction with physical
exertion would be substantial. This
initial exposure to altitude, albeit in a
chamber, proved to be invaluable and
helped prepare me both physically
and psychologically for the trip. As
Kamimoro et al (5) noted; “adrenaline
was increased in all subjects with
AMS, but arterial noradrenaline
was not, suggesting that adrenal
medullary responses may play an
important role in the pathophysiology
of AMS”. This was my opportunity
to test targeted nutrition in a fairly
extreme environment.

As an anecdotal account, I was
aware that numerous stressors such
as; lack of sleep, poor quality sleep,
nutritional requirements, hormonal
disruptors, increased exertion,
climate, physical separation, and
the threat of survival, were limited
to personal perceptions. It was
evident, however, that physiological
adaptation would occur under
certain conditions. Notably, hormonal
response at high altitude, less
oxygen and nutritional deviations
from the norm.

Fluid loss was also a
consideration. Bright but often
bitterly cold conditions proved to
be quite a challenge in an effort
to consume sufficient amounts
of water, given its cooling effect.
Hot teas such as ginger, mint
and honey proved both warming
and energizing. The guides
recommended consumption
of 3-5 litres of fluid per day to
replace losses from sweat, urine,
heat regulation and respiration.
I also consumed cardio tea, a
blend of fruit, leaf and flower teas
offering cardiovascular support for
endurance athletes.

Trekking towards my ultimate
goal – Everest base Camp and one
of the world’s most awe-inspiring
sights, was unforgettable. To do so
with peak performance, the ultimate
goal proved to be a real thrill. I
returned to the UK having lost no
lean mass, feeling buoyed by my
adventure and in excellent physical
condition. Preparation is key and i
was delighted with my performance
and nutritional outcomes.

FSN
REfEREnCEs
1. Kechijan D (2011).

Optimizing Nutrition for
performance at altitude: A
literature review. Journal of
Special Operations Medicine.
11(1).
2. Benso A et al (2007).
Endocrine and metabolic
responses to extreme altitude
and physical exercise in
climbers. European Journal of
Endocrinology. 157:733-740.
3. Potterat O (2010). Goji:
Phytochemistry, Pharmacology
and Safety in the Perspective
of Traditional Uses and Recent
Popularity. Planta Med. 76:7-19.
4. Imray C et al (2010).
Acute Mountain Sickness:
Pathophysiology, Prevention,
and Treatment. Progress in
Cardiovascular Diseases.
52:467-484.
5. Kamimoro et al (2009).
Catecholamine levels in
hypoxia-induced acute mountain
sickness. Aviat Space Environ
Med. 80:376-380

Hungry4Fitness would like to thank John for this article.  To find out more visit:

www.foodswork.com

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