What food should I bring for my day-hike? You have probably asked yourself this question many times.
It may seem simple to grab your favorite food and hit a trail. But, planning in regard to the nutrition for a hike is more than just loading your backpack up with a bunch of useless food and snacks. Although you think you can’t survive a single day without your favorite food or snack, maybe you should skip it when going on a hike.
Proper nutrition during hiking is essential if you want to enjoy your hiking adventure, rather than pushing the limits.
How to Optimize Nutrient Quality
When it comes to on-trail diet, it’s very important to find the food that is nutrient dense but also light-weight at the same time. To opt your hiking efficiency you have to find a balance between the three main elements of food: carbohydrates (both simple and complex carbs), fats, and proteins.
The intake of these elements varies depending on a number of calories you lose on your hike.
The number of calories burnt depend on your stamina, metabolism and body weight, trail intensity and difficulty, duration, the weight of your backpack, weather conditions (during winter and cold weather generally you need more calories than during summer days) etc.
Your nutritional needs are unique so hiking experience will eventually help you a lot in planning your on-trail diet.
Carbohydrates and fats are primal and the most efficient fuel for the muscle, while proteins are important in building the muscles. Your body has to be supplied with enough carbs during hiking activities, otherwise – you will bonk before you reach your destination. Quickly metabolized carbohydrates will boost your energy immediately.
Besides, your possibilities and nutritional needs aren’t the same when you take a shorter hike as those for long walks of week or more. You can decrease the amount of fatty food on shorter hikes and you can pack perishable food, a sandwich for example.
Forget about losing weight! Hiking is not an activity that will help you to get thin and spending more calories than you actually intake, can be very dangerous. You’ll be losing a lot of calories, and if you don’t eat adequately, you’ll run out of fuel and hit the wall. That means you may start to feel dizzy or it may get cramps or nausea, or even worse.
What’s the Best Food for Day Hikes?
If you want to know accurately not only what number of calories you will burn on a hike and what food should you bring to maximize nutrition, but also to be sure you will neither gain nor lose weight during the hike, there are many ‘calories burned calculators’ available online. But if you don’t feel like counting calories, there’s a list of food you that will fuel you up during hiking activities.
Salty food like crackers and pretzels will help you replenish lost minerals, while sweet food will give you energy. Some excellent sweet snacks for hiking are dried fruit, cookies, energy bars etc.
Fresh food is the healthiest choice, but, unfortunately, fresh food like fruits is generally heavy and thereby impractical for hiking. But, dried fruits such as raisins, dried figs or dried apricots, are an excellent substitute for fresh food. Still, if your pack is lightweight, you can pack a banana for example.
Energy bars are one of the most popular hiking snacks because they are practical, easy to pack and easy to eat. They come in many different tastes, and they may include different ingredients, but they all are exceptionally nutritious. Depending on ingredients, some energy bars could be a meal replacement while others will help you to prolong the energy. Energy bars with chia seeds, for example, are very renowned because they give you a strong boost of energy. It’s up to you to choose the one that suits your needs, or you can even try to make a homemade energy bar.
Food rich in fats such as cheese, roasted nuts, tuna, and chocolate, are both nutritive and satisfying, but be careful – too much fat can cause stomach issues and that annoying feeling of ‘heaviness’.
It’s always recommended to eat small snacks but often because the frequent snacking is necessary to sustain high energy level. You can grab a bite every two hours instead of taking only three large meals per day.
Don’t Forget – Water is a Fuel Too
Proper hydration during hiking is common sense. Depending on a trail difficulty, air temperature, backpack weight, your conditions and many other factors, the amount of indispensable water varies but drinking enough water when hiking will make your hike successful, safe and pleasant.
Water will help you to replenish lost fluids you lose through sweating, urination, and respiration, but it’s extremely important to replace lost electrolytes (salt and minerals) by eating food rich in minerals like calcium, sodium, potassium etc.
This way you’ll avoid getting a serious medical condition called hyponatremia caused by the deficiency in sodium. So be sure to keep your sodium level high.
Share your experience with hiking food in the comment section and enjoy your meals while you breathe in the fresh mountain air!