Food & water
During a long-distance hike, it is important to keep eating and drinking. A rumbling sound in the mountains rarely means something good and the same goes for a rumbling sound in your stomach. You want to hike comfortably and as it means for every machine, it means for you: no fuel, no energy. Responsible eating and drinking enable us to use our muscles properly, be focused on difficult terrains, and cool down on warm days. But where do you start and what are the things you need to consider? Which nutrients will help you to the top of that mountain and the recovery afterward? After reading this blog you will know how to keep your body going.
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Carbohydrates, fats, protein, and fluids. These are the essential nutrients our body needs and uses to create energy and maintain a well-functioning body. Carbohydrates nourish our brains, nervous system and together with proteins and fats, our muscles. Fluid is needed for thermoregulation and electrolyte balances. Without these nutrients we will get disorientated, fatigued and our stamina will decrease. All of this can, for instance, increase the risk of sunstroke.
Vitamins and minerals
Various vitamins and minerals (e.g., micronutrients) are needed for exercise and recovery. Depending on your own health, you can support your body with extra vitamins and minerals. There are various tablets, pills, and powders available nowadays, but here are some to consider for your thru-hike. If you want to help your body with all the strains and exertion of hiking, you can consider the following micronutrients: magnesium, iron, and sodium (salt). For the recovery process, vitamins A and C are more useful. Try and eat natural and fresh and when possible use whole wheat products. This can be a challenge on a thru-hike sometimes making it even more important to supplement with vitamins and minerals.
If you want to make sure that you are eating and drinking correctly in the preparation for your hike, you can decide to get your blood checked and acquire advice from a (sports)dietician.
On the mountain
The one rule to remember on the trail is to eat and drink on a regular basis. Make sure that you take time for this! It will keep your blood sugar optimal and prevents excessive fluid losses. Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is important and can be done by eating and drinking regularly, for instance, every two hours. Nutrients will gradually be absorbed and released by your body. If you wait too long with eating, you might overeat to compensate for this. Unfortunately, this means that more blood supply is needed for digestion and less is available for your muscles. Therefore, it is better to avoid this.
Water & salt
Good to know
Every body and every trail is unique, making it difficult to create a standardized approach. Make sure you listen to your body and prevent the feeling of hunger and thirst because this means you are not properly taking care of yourself. Exercising can decrease your appetite and sometimes being hungry can be a sign of dehydration. Therefore, make sure you drink on a regular basis. When you are more experienced you will learn how your body reacts to long-term exercise and this will help you to determine what you need to do to arrive safely at your next (sleeping)location.
Here are some ideas that might help you choose the right nutrition:
- Isotones or syrup
- Banana bread
- Whole wheat bread
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Prepped meals
- Dehydrated meal packs
- Snacks and bars
- Vitamin and mineral supplements