Nutrition & Hydration

The following notes are written as general guidelines. I am not a qualified nutritionist so there is no “do this” or “follow this” type of advice. Most of what is here is common sense but often that is the one thing that is forgotten. Where I have highlighted a problem there is usually a link to articles with a better medical grounding than I can provide. However, as with any article on the web it pays to be cautious. Either do a web search on the term and get a number of views or seek medical advice if you have a genuine concern about it. After all it’s your body.

Most sporting activities last no more than a couple of hours during which the body can, to a large extent, operate on its internal reserves. The BGR on the other hand requires that the body operate for an extended period of time. This means that significant amounts of both food and water need to be taken in order for the body to remain within its optimum operating range. The problem is that many get into a state where they “just don't feel like eating”. This leads to a continual weakening until the body simply says “Stop!”.

There are two sides to nutrition with regard to the Bob Graham: pre-attempt and on the day itself. The well known “Carb loading” may well work for you - it will certainly be useful to keep energy levels up for the early parts of an attempt, possibly as much as two stages.

One thing that you really do not want to do is try something new on or close to the day of your attempt. This is what your training runs are for: sorting things out. What you need to know is what foods your body can easily digest whilst on the move.

There are many so called “sports” foods and supplements available today that are “designed” for eating whilst active. The early versions were either bland or vile tasting but these days there are enough flavours to suit most palates. Well perhaps not Egon Ronay!

One tip that I was told was that you should eat as you begin to go uphill, not at the top of a hill as you begin your descent. The reasoning being that your stomach is going to try to deal with the new intake and everything is just sloshing around due to the jolting of the descent. This can lead to nausea. Going uphill on the other hand, you are going slowly and the body can take its time in absorbing the food. On the face of it, this does seem counter-intuitive but personal experience appears to back it up.

As mentioned above, it is important to get food inside you during the attempt - you just won’t make it otherwise. See the calculator at the foot of this page to see just how many calories you need. There are three basic strategies for feeding:

Eating at main stops
Basically, on this strategy you eat little or nothing during each section. At the end of each section a decent amount of food is eaten.
Main plus intermediate stops
As well as taking on decent amounts of food at the end of each leg, two or three intermediate stops are taken during each leg to take food on board. This allows the body some respite in trying to absorb the food.
Continuous nibbles
Here you simply eat something like a Jelly Baby every five minutes or so and something more substantial or savoury every quarter to half an hour.

The first is hardly a strategy at all - you may be going for up to six hours without taking on energy, hardly a sensible way of doing things. The second is a little better in that the gaps between feeding are much reduced but they still mean an hour or two of depletion followed by a few minutes of trying to feed.

The third strategy is the old “little and often”, it is just that there will be a lot of often! The idea is not to let your blood sugar level begin to fluctuate.


Water is, on the face of it, easier to deal with. It is well known that the body becomes dehydrated before the thirst reflex kicks in. This level of dehydration is enough to affect athletic performance. So the basic rule is “drink regularly and often”.

However in recent years a condition known as has been seen in athletes. This is the opposite to dehydration, in effect the body is awash with fluid and the sodium balance of the body is incorrect. The problem is that the obvious symptoms are very similar to dehydration so giving extra fluid will only make the condition worse.

One thing that has become well known in recent years is that the body is not very good at absorbing pure water. It seems that a weak sugar/salt solution is the best means of reyhdration. There are now several so called “sports” drinks on the market.

There are three levels or strengths of these drinks:

The drink is the same concentration as your body fluid e.g. Isostar. These drinks are ideal for ordinary fluid replacement during exercise and are therefore the most popular type of sports drink.
The drink is a weaker solution than your body fluid e.g. Impulse, Dexter’s Low Calorie. These drinks help the body to speed up water absorption and are best used when you need urgent fluid replacement as in after exercise. These drinks are not the best for energy replacement.
The drink is a stronger solution than your body e.g. traditional Lucozade or Ultra Fuel. These drinks are designed to replace and maintain energy levels during exercise of at least one hours duration. They are absorbed slowly and therefore are not appropriate for fluid replacement. In fact using these drinks as fluid replacers could increase your dehydration as your body releases water into your intestines in order to dilute the drink enough for it to be absorbed.

Energy Calculations

The form below will allow you to calculate the amount of energy required for the Bob Graham. It is based on the formula of 1KCal/KG body weight/Kilometre.

Select your body weight in Kilogrammes, using the higher weight if you lie between values. The percentage and product fields may be used to calculate the energy requirement provided by energy drinks. This assumes that you mix the powders at the recommended concentrations and will give you the number of litres (rounded to the nearest litre) of such drink for each leg.

Energy Requirements
Total              Liquid
Keswick - Threlkeld      
Threlkeld - Dunmail Raise      
Dunmail Raise - Wasdale      
Wasdale - Honister      
Honister - Keswick