By properly eating and drinking the day of, and even a couple of days before going on a big hike you can impact whether you have an enjoyable time or whether you hit a wall on the trail. You don’t want to be the hiker that experiences “bonk,” which is described as total glycogen depletion from the muscles and liver, and prepare with proper hiking hydration and nutrition.
In order to properly prepare for a hike we’ve outlined some of the basics to make sure you’re in great shape the next time you lace up the hiking boots and hit the trails.
Pre-hike, you will want to try and drink about 20-32 ounces of water. If you haven’t had the time to pre-hydrate then you might consider avoiding hitting the trails. Then once your hike has begun, you’ll need to plan to drink another 32 ounces for roughly every two miles that you’ve hiked. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink, instead take frequent, small sips of water. Are you hiking with your dog? You’ll want to make sure that you bring along a second supply of water and a drinkable container for your pup to drink from.
Here is a simple rule: if you’re only drinking water when you’re thirsty, you’re already behind.
Now as appealing as a summit beer may sound to you and you buddies, you should save any alcohol consumption or sodas, tea, coffee, etc. until after you’ve finished the hike and have replenished food and water levels. In order to replenish your water levels, you’ll need to drink at least 8 ounces immediately after your hike. Consuming alcohol and beverages with high caffeine levels can have adverse effects when trying to stay hydrated.
The main fuel for your muscles comes from carbohydrates, but not all carbs are created equally. Try and select carbs that are easily digestible before exercise so you don’t feel sluggish. Did you know that the act of hiking can suppress your appetite? This means you should try to plan on feeding yourself anyway as calories play an important role in regulating body temperature.
Have you ever refused to eat breakfast and regretted it halfway during the hike? Don’t be that person that asks other members of your group “Are you going to finish that Cliff Bar? Got any extra gummies?” when they are snacking. Make sure you are properly stocked up with snacks to consumer during your hike and that you have consumed a good amount of food pre-hike.
WHAT TO EAT BEFORE A HIKE
For a short morning hike fuel yourself with:
- a light breakfast like eggs
- whole grain non-sugary cereal
Other pre-day hike food ideas include:
- whole-wheat toast
- low-fat yogurt
- whole grain pasta
- brown rice
WHAT TO EAT DURING A HIKE
Snacking throughout your hike is important, especially if you start to take on longer day hikes or hikes that take multiple-days. You want to try to snack at least once an hour, in addition to your routine, full meals. For longer, more intense hikes you should be eating double your normal intake of carbohydrates and salty foods.
Nutrient dense day hike snack ideas include:
- Trail mix
- Nuts and seeds
- Ready-made tuna pouches
- Peanut butter
- Whole-grain tortillas
- Beef jerky
- Energy bars
- Granola bars
- Fresh or dried fruit*
*If you decide to snack on fruits or dried fruits there are some things to consider:
- Pack durable fruits like an apple, over a banana that may end up squished in your pack.
- For dried fruit, be aware that your stomach re-hydrates the fruit to digest it, so if you don’t replenish your body with enough fluids, dried fruit could end up dehydrating you and making you feel light-headed, which undoes the effort altogether.
When selecting granola bars, look for options that don’t have any added sugars, as high sugar levels can work against you, sparking a short burst followed by an epic energy crash. For a hike that has a great view at the end, consider packing a picnic lunch with a sandwich, just make sure you have an ice pack or another cold source to prevent food-borne illness.
WHAT TO EAT AFTER A HIKE
When thinking and prepping an after-hike meal, look for options with protein and complex sugars. It could be a quick energy bar snack in the car, a packed meal left in a car cooler or a meal at your favorite restaurant on the way home. No matter the source, it’s advised to refuel within one hour of your hike.
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