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Pre- to postexpedition changes in the energy usage of women undertaking sustained expeditionary polar travel

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Woods


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This paper reports the metabolic energy changes in six women who made the first unsupported traverse of Antarctica, covering a distance of 1,700 km in 61 days, hauling sledges weighing up to 80 kg. Pre- and postexpedition, measurements of energy expenditure and substrate utilization were made on all six members of the expedition over a 36-h period in a whole body calorimeter. During the study, subjects were fed an isocaloric diet: 50% carbohydrate, 35% fat, and 15% protein. The experimental protocol contained pre- and postexpedition measurement, including periods of sleep, rest, and three periods of standardized stepping exercise at 80, 100, and 120 steps/min. A median (interquartile range) decrease in the lean and fat weight of the subjects of 1.4 (1.0) and 4.4 (1.8) kg, respectively (P < 0.05) was found, using air-displacement plethysmography. No statistically significant difference was found between pre- and postexpedition values for sleeping or resting metabolic rate, nor for diet-induced thermogenesis. A statistically significant difference was found in energy expenditure between the pre- and postexpedition values for exercise at 100 [4.7 (0.23) vs. 4.4 (0.29), P < 0.05] and 120 [5.7 (0.46) vs. 5.5 (0.43), P < 0.05] steps/min; a difference that disappeared when the metabolic rate values were normalized to body weight. The group was well matched for the measures studied. Whereas a physiological change in weight was seen, the lack of change in metabolic rate measures supports a view that women appropriately nourished and well prepared can undertake polar expeditions with a minimal metabolic energy consequence. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first study on the metabolic energy consequences for women undertaking expeditionary polar travel. The results show that participant selection gave a "well-matched" group, particularly during exercise. Notwithstanding this, individual differences were observed and explored. The results show that appropriately selected, trained, and nourished women can undertake such expeditions with no change in their metabolic energy requirements during rest or while undertaking moderate exercise over a sustained period of time.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hattersley J, Wilson AJ, Gifford RM, Cobb R, Thake CD, Reynolds RM, Woods DR, Imray CHE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Applied Physiology

Year: 2019

Volume: 126

Issue: 3

Pages: 681-690

Print publication date: 01/03/2019

Online publication date: 19/03/2019

Acceptance date: 17/12/2018

ISSN (print): 8750-7587

ISSN (electronic): 1522-1601

Publisher: American Physiological Society


DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00792.2018

PubMed id: 30571278


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