NetHack uses a concealed system of nutrition points to keep track of how well (mal)nourished you are. You begin the game with 900 nutrition points. The base consumption rate is 1 point per turn, but this is modified by several things:
  • Regeneration (unless granted by an artifact) consumes an additional 1 point per 2 turns
  • Being "stressed" or more in terms of load consumes an additional 1 point per 2 turns
  • If you are wearing a ring of conflict or have eaten one, you consume an additional 1 point per 2 turns
  • Wearing any amulet consumes another 1 point per 20 turns
  • Carrying the Amulet of Yendor (even if you aren't wearing it) consumes another 1 point per 20 turns
  • Any worn ring charged beyond +0 consumes another 1 point per 20 turns
If you are wearing a ring of slow digestion, the normal 1 point-per-turn loss is eliminated, but all the above modifiers still apply. The same effect occurs if you polymorph into a creature that is neither a carnivore nor an herbivore, such as a xorn or rock mole.

Food usually costs about (nutrition_value/20)+5 zorkmids in shops. These prices can be modified by low or high Charisma. Addditionally, if you are hungry or starving to death, the shopkeeper will gleefully bilk you for twice that or more as he factors in the 200% "desperation tax".

The most nutritious non-corpse food items in NetHack are lembas wafers and food rations, at 800 nutrition points each. The cram ration is a close second at 600 nutrition points. Least nutritious are things like the clove of garlic or sprig of wolfsbane, for obvious reasons.

The major source of food in NetHack is the corpse, of corse. You can eat anything you kill, although eating some corpses can have undesirable effects, such as causing non-food poisoning or bestowing teleportitis. The larger the corpse, the more nutrition. Eating corpses that are older than around 100 turns causes food poisoning ("Ulch - that meat was tainted!"), which is rapidly fatal unless you can cure it. Certain corpses, such as acid blobs, lichens, and lizards never go bad.

To assure yourself of a good food supply, find or purchase a tinning kit as soon as you can. Tins are fairly nutritious and never go bad. The major disadvantage of tins is that they are time-consuming to open.

Nutrition used to be the sole criterion that the value of a sacrifice to your god was based on, but the DevTeam eliminated that after version 3.0, I think -- this oversight allowed you to sacrifice a food ration and immediately max out your alignment. This is now accounted for, so only corpses fresher than 50 turns can be offered.

For anybody desiring to improve their body's performances, nutrition and a balanced diet is the key. Here is a list of the principal substances and what happens to them, including a couple of diet tips.

carbohydrate (sugar and starch)
This is cut up into glucose which is then put into the blood stream ; the body tries to maintain a constant level of glucose in the blood stream (sugar count) and all excess glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen (if there is not enough room, the rest may be turned into fat). The liver then releases glucose into the blood as and when you need it. Some glycogen is also stored in the muscle cells. Glucose is transformed into energy in your cells (mostly muscular ones), the residue being carbon dioxide and water. What happens within the cell will be explored in greater detail later on, as it is of capital importance to getting fit.

Carbohydrate will not make you fat (unless you eat too much). Carbohydrate comes in two major forms : those that taste sugary (sugar, fruit, honey) and the foods which "fill you up" (bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes). In the body, carbohydrate can be rated according to how quickly it is digested and makes it into the blood stream. This is not easily predictable, but a rule of thumb is that processed foods (like honey, corn-flakes, mashed potatoes, white bread) make it quicker into the blood stream than fiber-rich food (like whole-wheat, bread, fruit, birchermuesli, pasta) and, surprisingly enough, plain sugar. Eating the slower type will keep you going longer and prevent you from feeling hungry. Eating the faster type (like a chocolate bar) on the grounds that you need an energy booster is a often a fallacy.

Because the carbohydrate metabolism is quite fast, carbohydrates are the prime source of energy : they provide 4calories/g.

Protein is decomposed into amino acids which are used as building blocks to make and repair more cells. It is mostly found in meat and fish, but for vegans and vegetarians it is luckily also to be found in eggs, cheese and several vegetables. You should be careful to vary your protein sources, as there are 9 amino acids which the body cannot produce on it's own and there are no foods in which they are all found in sufficient quantities (the only single source containing all nine is mother's milk; another advantage of breast-feeding).

The protein metabolism is rather slow ; so although protein can provide 4calories/g, it is not much point expecting to use protein as a source of energy.

Fat accomplishes many small indispensable tasks in the body : mostly when it comes to absorbing nutrients that are not soluble in water. It gets stored in adipose cells whence it can be sent to other parts of the body if it is needed. It often is not, so fat will make you fat. Some types of fats do not go to the fatty cells as they should, but rather clog up the arteries and can lead to heart disease.

There is probably a fair amount of fat in your favorite food : biscuits, chocolate, ice-cream, crisps, peanuts etc. this is because we like the mouth-feel of fat. So if you enjoy some particular food (or some brand over another) it is possibly due to the larger amount of fat that it contains. There will still be plenty of fat left in your diet if you cut out all the cream cakes and buns.

The fat metabolism is very slow, so fat's 9calories/g usually become available when you are asleep ; the body just says "huh, don't need all that, put it all in the fat-cells in case we need it some other time". There is some research being done and it appears that there may exist a type of quickly-digestible fat which could be of use in sport nutrition.

H2O serves three main purposes in the body : it keeps you cool ; it carries all the nutrients round the body (in the blood-stream) ; it gets rid of all the waste toxins. In water, there are always some dissolved minerals ; the liquid in our cells also contain some. Because of the nature of the cell walls, a chemical effect called osmosis keeps the mineral-water proportions the same inside and outside the cell through water transfer. To make your body feel more comfortable, it can be good to drink isotonic drinks such as isostar or gatorade who's mineral proportions are similar to those of your body ; this will prevent the body from having to do extra work to get the proportions right in the blood. This is important in order to be able to absorb liquid as quickly as possible.

These are the principal macro-nutrients. It is a fairly safe bet that, unless you are already watching what you eat, you are eating too much and in the wrong proportions : too much fat, too much protein and too little carbohydrate. You probably don't drink enough : you should drink at least 2 liters a day ; and try to cut out some of the caffeine, alcohol and sugar in your drinks.

If you're starting to exercise, add even more water. Add carbohydrate (and make sure you compensate by reducing on fat). Protein will help if you get muscular pains, but be careful! Most protein-foods will be full of fat.

There are many micro-nutrients that are also essential but because there are so many of them, the best way to get them all is to vary your foods as much as possible - and include some fresh vegetables.

The scientific study of "the sum of processes concerned in the growth, maintenance, and repair of the living body as a whole or of its constituent organs" (Graham Lusk, 1928).

These processes include ingestion and digestion of food, the conversion of food into chemical energy and other materials that the body can use or store, and excretion. The scope of the field also includes how these processes are different between organisms of different age, healthfulness, species, or environments.

From the BioTech Dictionary at For further information see the BioTech homenode.

Nu*tri"tion (?), n. [Cf. F. nutrition. See Nutritious.]

1. Physiol.

In the broadest sense, a process or series of processes by which the living organism as a whole (or its component parts or organs) is maintained in its normal condition of life and growth.

⇒ In this wide sense it comprehends digestion, absorption, circulation, assimilation, etc., in fact all of the steps by which the nutritive matter of the food is fitted for incorporation with the different tissues, and the changes which it undergoes after its assimilation, prior to its excretion. See Metabolism.

2. Physiol.

In a more limited sense, the process by which the living tissues take up, from the blood, matters necessary either for their repair or for the performance of their healthy functions.


That which nourishes; nutriment.

Fixed like a plant, on his peculiar spot, To draw nutrition, propagate, and rot. Pope.


© Webster 1913.

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