This week, Colin O'Brady became the first person to traverse the continent unassisted.
Credit: Nicolas Tolstoï/Getty Images

This holiday season, while you’ve been gobbling down your turkeys and toasting champagne, two men — American Colin O’Brady and Englishman Louis Rudd — have been surviving on much more meager rations. And while O’Brady certainly now has a reason to celebrate, packing a bottle of bubbly wasn’t in the cards. These two friends were simultaneously attempting to be the first people to ever cross the Antarctic alone on foot, and on December 26, O’Brady bested his buddy becoming the first to achieve the goal after 932 miles and 53 days of inhospitable conditions. Rudd, meanwhile, is expected to finish his journey on Saturday, playing Buzz Aldrin to O’Brady’s Neil Armstrong.

So what do you eat when traversing the world’s coldest continent? Well, when you’re required to pull everything you need on a 300-pound “pulk” — a type of Norwegian sled — conserving space is of the utmost importance, and meals have to be relatively minimal. At the same time, skiing for as many as 10 or 12 hours a day requires a lot of energy — a.k.a. calories to burn — so both men attempted to maximize the bang for their buck.

According to the New York Times, both adventurers focused on a diet of “warm fluids and high-calorie snacks.” At breakfast, O’Brady chose oatmeal with extra oil and protein powder, made with freshly boiled water from his backpacking stove. Comparatively, Rudd’s breakfast began a bit more indulgently: instant hot chocolate. He reportedly packed over 15 pounds of the stuff on his sled for his trip. Of course, man cannot live on hot cocoa alone, so he “also eats a freeze-dried meal of porridge or onions and eggs.”

“After each segment, the men stop for five-minute breaks, taking a sip of warm water and eating a snack,” the Times continues. “O’Brady opts for a bite-size chunk of an organic, calorie-rich energy bar that his sponsor made for this expedition. Consisting of coconut oil, nuts and seeds and other ingredients, each chunk contains as many as 500 calories. Rudd grabs a fistful of chocolate and nuts or some salami and cheese from his ‘grazing bag.’ The salami melts in his mouth, but the cheese has been frozen solid, so he keeps it tucked into his cheek like a hamster until it thaws, as he continues to move.”

Apparently, these snacks served as enough to keep Rudd going, whereas O’Brady stopped for a formal lunch… or at least as formal a lunch as you can consider ramen noodles slurped out of a thermos.

For dinner, O’Brady once again went with soup, this time chicken noodle, again utilizing freshly boiled water, along with a freeze-dried meal. Rudd, on the other hand, apparently was satisfied with a “warm recovery drink,” and then a freeze-dried dinner including two English classics: spaghetti Bolognese or chicken tikka.

In the end, it’s unlikely that meal selection had anything to do with who finished first. Another possible factor: O’Brady is just 33-years-old compared to Rudd, who is 49. Regardless, if you ever find yourself planning a two-month trek across the Antarctic, you now have two possible menus to choose from by a couple of people who know what they are talking about.