Starvation Resulting From Inadequate Dietary Planning for a 50-Day Rowing Expedition

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Meeting the energy demands of prolonged arduous expeditions and endurance sport may be a significant barrier to success. Expedition rowing is associated with high levels of body-mass loss, reflecting the challenge of meeting energy expenditure in this exacting environment.


To use the doubly labeled water (DLW) technique to calculate the total energy expenditure (TEE) and body-composition changes of two 28-y-old healthy male athletes during a 50-d continuous and unsupported row around Great Britain.


A measured dose of DLW was taken at the start of 2 separate study periods (days 5–19 and 34–48) followed by sequential urine collection, which was analyzed on return to land.


Mean TEE was 15.3 MJ/d: athlete 1, 16.4 MJ/d; athlete 2, 14.9 MJ/d. Athlete 1 lost 11.2 kg and athlete 2 lost 14.9 kg of body mass during the row. Average energy provision was 19.1 MJ per 24-h ration pack.


These results highlight the difficulty of maintaining energy balance during expedition rowing. A starvation state was observed despite dietary provision in excess of estimated energy expenditure, indicating that nutritional strategy rather than caloric availability was at fault. The authors recommend that future expeditions prioritize thorough testing and the individualization of rations to ensure that they are both palatable and practical during the weeks to months at sea.

Reid is with the Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Dennison is with the Royal Army Medical Corps, Aldershot, Surrey, UK. Quayle is with Frimley Park Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust, Frimley, UK. Preston is with the Stable Isotope Biochemistry Laboratory, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, East Kilbride, UK.

Reid ( is corresponding author.