If, like us, you are a huge fan of Mathieu Blanchard, you can’t have missed his latest sporting prowess. By completing the GRA1's 650km long trail in exactly 7 days 12 hours and 2 minutes, he literally shattered the record. As a great admirer of Mathieu, the Näak team was eager to participate in order to help the champion achieve his challenge. Experts in nutrition, we were able to advise the athlete on his diet. That’s how Näak became the nutrition and logistics partner of the project. Through this article we want to share with you Mathieu's challenge in which we had the chance to participate and which was, beyond a sporting feat, a real human adventure.
First of all, what is the GRA1?
The GRA1 is the first long-distance hike in North America. 650 km-long, it crosses the wild region of the Gaspesie in Canada and especially the Appalachian mountain range in Quebec. Little known, a few people have ventured themselves on this perilous route among the most remote regions of Quebec, such as the Matane wildlife reserve. The terrain being hostile and the weather conditions difficult, such a project could not be realized alone and required meticulous preparation over several months, something in which Näak wanted to get involved.
Why such a project?
A trail-running enthusiast, since only 2016, specialized more particularly in ultra-trail formats, this "victory" only adds up to Mathieu's already impressive track record. This young Frenchman who is now living in Canada collects victories all over the world: Transmartinique and Transalpine GoreTex in 2017, Ultra-trail Guatemala UTG100, Traces Nord Basse Terre TNBT in 2018, Québec Méga Trail QMT100 in 2019, TNBT in 2020. Mathieu had other ambitious projects for the year 2020 but he quickly realized last March that the current pandemic would severely limit the opportunities for international racing. Unable to compete against other runners, Mathieu had to think of other ways to challenge himself in the context of the corona virus. The GRA1 trail allowed him to face himself, to learn to push his limits and ignore pain and fatigue. By running more than 15 hours a day, it can be said that even though he was unable to measure himself against other runners, he was able to measure himself by constantly surpassing himself.
How do you prepare such a project?
The preparation of the GRA1 was a long-term project that required training several months in advance. Therefore, as a training session, Mathieu set himself a few objectives to achieve in order to prepare himself as best as possible for this 650 km crossing of Gaspesie. Since covid-19 and its implications are still relevant, Mathieu prepared himself for "local" challenges. He thus began his physical preparation with the tour of the island of Montreal in April, 125 km of road ran in more than 10 hours. He then continued with the 10,000m of accumulated elevation on Mount Royal. From then on, the Näak team was on hand, both nutritionally and logistically, and we were eager to help the champion succeed in his challenge.
Näak, the project's nutrition and logistics partner
Näak ambassador for several years, Mathieu is an authentic person that we greatly appreciate. His energy, his passion for trail-running and nature have immediately bonded with the vibe of our company based on respect for the environment. So when Mathieu talked about his project with the Näak team, we didn't hesitate for a second to offer him our help. We were eager to participate in this crazy adventure by bringing our own contribution to the project.
Experts in nutrition, we were able to advise the athlete on his diet to help him achieve his challenge. Indeed, beyond the physical capacities that are essential in such an event, special attention must also be paid to the nutritional aspect, as food is the body fuel. Our product manager, Kristina Nel, who has a degree in sports nutrition, has planned Mathieu's entire diet.
Moreover, these 650 km being a long and perilous adventure, Mathieu needed people he could count on to supply him, accompany him and encourage him in this race where the fatigue would be intense... That's how our community manager, Nicolas Danne, became Mathieu's right-hand man, taking care of all the logistics of the race, organizing supplies, equipment, overnight stays... The goal was to become Mathieu's second brain so that he only had to concentrate on his race without worrying about other trivial details.
Mathieu's meal plan
Running more than 15 hours a day was a huge physical effort, and so was Mathieu's daily energy and water expenditure. He burnt between 8000 and 10000 calories per day and it was therefore essential that he ate and hydrated accordingly. His diet and hydration had to be carefully planned to avoid any pain or deficiency that could slow his progress. Before his departure, the Näak product manager, Kristina, therefore created a mealplan day by day for the athlete Mathieu Blanchard who detailed precisely his water and food intakes. A food plan that he was able to respect during his race and of which you can find an example bellow.
Why were our products suitable for such an effort?
We recommended our products to Mathieu because we were convinced of their virtues and that they would be suitable for such a physical effort. Indeed, our new protein powders contain 24g of proteins per portion but also 4g of BCAA. BCAA's are branched-chain amino acids that help developing muscles, reducing muscle fatigue and relieving muscle pain. Our protein powders therefore allowed Mathieu to repair his damaged muscle tissues after his intensive efforts. By consuming between 10 and 15 Näak energy bars per day, Mathieu ensured long-lasting energy. Indeed, with 28g of carbohydrates, 6g of complete proteins with all the essential amino acids, 180mg of electrolytes and 180 calories per bar, the Näak bars allowed Mathieu to fill up with energy while continuing his physical effort.
Even if Mathieu's sporting prowess is remarkable, it is also worth noting his success on the nutritional level. Mathieu has never « hit the nutrition wall », which is exceptional according to his daily physical effort.
In conclusion, a human adventure
Beyond a sporting and nutritional achievement, this race was also a human adventure. Mathieu chose to surround himself with several people: Nicolas Danne, Mathieu's right-hand man, the video maker Jérome Binette, Julien, a friend of Mathieu, and Marianne Hogan, athlete and friend of Mathieu, she is also a Näak ambassador. These 4 people who didn't know each other followed our athlete together in a van, which Mathieu nicknamed the « magic bus » in his instagram posts. All of them highlight the good mood and the complicity that emerged from this adventure. From now on, they share something unique that will unite them forever.
To conclude, we don't say that our bars and our protein powders are the reasons of his success, but according to Mathieu's words, they strongly contributed to it, and for that, we can literally say that crickets give wings! ;)
Finally, through this post, we would like to thank Mathieu Blanchard for letting us be here for him in this project and for his confidence. We are proud to have been able to advise the champion on the nutritional aspects of such an event. Congratulations again for this FKT (Fatest Known Time). Click here if you want to try our new protein powders made from cricket powder or here if you want to try our vegan alternative.