During prolonged periods of high energy expenditure (EE), restricted food intake can lead to a loss of body mass. This case study describes the preexpedition support for an unsupported 3-wk crossing of the Atacama Desert in Chile. The goals were to simulate the energy requirements of walking under varying conditions and to predict energy intake and EE to evaluate whether the expected weight loss was in acceptable limits. The expeditionist (male, 35 yr, 197 cm, basal weight 80 ± 0.5 kg) was a well-trained endurance athlete with experience of multiple expeditions. During the simulation, he walked on a treadmill at speeds of 2–7 km/hr under varying conditions of inclination (0%, 7.5%), backpack weight (0 kg, 30 kg), and altitude (sea level, simulated altitude of 3,500 m). Under all conditions, the lowest EE was observed at 5 km/hr. Based on the simulation data, we predicted an average EE of 4,944 kcal/day for the expedition. Because energy intake was restricted to 2,249 kcal/day, we expected the expeditionist to lose considerable weight and consequently advised him to gain 5 kg of body-fat reserves. During the actual desert crossing, he covered a distance of 26 ± 7 km/day at an average speed of 3.8 ± 0.4 km/hr. Daily EE (4,817 ± 794 kcal/day) exceeded energy intake (1,771 ± 685 kcal/day), and the negative energy balance was in agreement with the actual weight loss of 10.5 kg, which was most notable in the lower trunk.
Koehler, Huelsemann, Braun, and Schaenzer are with the Inst. of Biochemistry; de Marees, the Inst. of Training Science and Sport Informatics; and Braunstein, the Inst. of Biomechanics and Orthopedics, the German Research Center of Elite Sport, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.