Long hikes are a great way to experience the outdoors, but they can also involve a lot of physical exertion, which can quickly deplete your energy.
When hiking, it’s important to keep your "gas tank" full before, during and after an outing that lasts more than two hours.
What to Eat before Hiking
Before going on a hike, fuel up with food. Start with a healthy, filling breakfast – or lunch, if you are hiking in the afternoon. Enjoy fruit or vegetables, whole grains and quality protein, such as peanut butter, lean meat, fresh nuts or eggs. Drink water with your meal (you can easily dehydrate while hiking, especially when hiking at higher altitudes).
What to Eat during Your Hike
During your hike, plan to snack about every two hours. Carry compact, lighter foods so you aren’t burdened with extra weight in your pack.
Convenient snacks include small boxes of raisins, dried fruit, some fresh nuts (but not too many – high-fat foods don’t provide quick energy), seeds, vegetables like celery and carrots, or fresh fruit such as small apples and pears. Crackers, granola or spoon-sized Shredded Wheat are other ideas.
Avoid packing plastic containers of meal items such as pasta dishes as these can be high in fat (which won’t supply quick energy), plus the container takes up more space in your pack. Also, if your hike is a long one, pre-cooked meals need refrigeration. When planning your snacks think compact, nutrient-dense, high-carb foods for instant energy – and don’t forget water bottles. Take frequent, small sips as you hike; about half a cup (125 mL) every 20 minutes.
What to Eat after Your Hike
After your hike: It’s wise to refuel within one hour of a hefty hike. Leave a cooler in your car packed with sandwiches, fresh fruit or veggies and nuts, and drink at least two more cups (500 mL) of water.
Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.