How good is your hiking diet?
You’ll meet and hear of hikers who brag about how silly their diet is. Candy bars, pop tarts, Ramen Bombs, gummy bears, sticky buns, jars of frosting, or combining butter sticks with peanut butter. It will shock you. Epic hiker hunger stories and strange food challenges are abundant.
I was recently interviewed by an REI journalist about our PCT experience, specifically, our nutrtion game plan. Eating healthy and fueling your recovery should be a priority!
What if there was a better way?
Important note: A long distance hike isn’t a chance to disregard all common sense and rational behavior around food choices!
Hikers tend to eat this way with the thought that a calorie is a calorie, and that the body doesn’t discriminate, it just needs fuel. And putting diesel in a gas engine is a recipe for disaster.
What if you could reduce your hiker hunger and cravings with eating a better trail diet? As a bonus, a better diet will also reduce inflammation, help you recover better each night and feel more energized throughout the day. Sounds like a recipe for completing your thru-hike!
Download a free article that covers nutrition, sleep and the single the best thing you can do before stepping on the trail!
Some observations From Our 2018 PCT Thru Hike
My wife and I ate well during our hike and never suffered from ravenous hunger, or even constant hunger. We also never got sick on the trail, which seemed somewhat common. Hiker hunger for us was a muted full signal; we could consume more food than usual before feeling full. We snacked every 1.5-2 hours during our day and ate a large breakfast, a moderate lunch and a large dinner.
We aimed for 120-150 calories per ounce of nutrient-rich foods. Often packing out avocados, bags of spinach, vegetables, fruit, butter, oil, and various cheeses. The fruits and vegetables weight more, but that will ensure that you eat them sooner rather than later, and it was a nice change of pace from our other food choices. Learn more here!
Signs You Should Know
What are the signs and how will you know things are “off”?
Your face skin will break out with acne, you may find a rash or bumps on your skin, dry or flaky scalp, and digestion will be, well, messy. That’s your body telling you that it’s not responding well to the food you are giving it. Food sensitivities may also cause an increase in sneezing or rashes. Keep an eye out for these signs!
Remember, you need fiber, protein, good carbohydrates and fat in appropriate ratios for performance and recovery. Think long-term investment here, it will pay off!
Hiking is also a mental game!
Did you know that almost all hikers report an increase in mental fatigue at about the halfway point of their hike?
Believe it or not, the bacteria in your stomach play a major role here. The gut is also called the second brain, pretty neat right?
When the gut is imbalanced, the main neuro-chemicals for mood, energy, anxiety, depression, and motivation are negatively affected. When you eat low nutrient density foods, it doesn’t properly fuel you or your brain chemicals.
Also, post-hike depression is quite real and hits just about every hiker at the end of their trip. Having a solid nutrition plan on the trail will help you by not only giving you more pep in your step but may also decrease the post trail blues.
Upon returning home we made a lot of nutrient dense green smoothies and started with our post trail recovery. For us, that was a lot of self-massage, mobility for our hips, ankles and mid back, dry sauna sessions, walks and light physical activity.
Give yourself the best chance for success on the trail and off the trail with thoughtful, informed nutrition choices. Limit the sugary foods! Calories do count, but nutrient density is ALWAYS king!
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