Fit for Hiking

In this episode I dive into the basics of how to plan your nutritional choices before, during, and after a hike.

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| Colorado Hiking + Fitness| Ponytail on a Trail | United StatesWelcome to Ponytail on a Trail: Your guide to all things hiking and fitness! Get hiking tips, adventure ideas and learn about the top trails in Colorado! My goal is to help give you the tools and the confidence to explore the world around you!

What is Fit for Hiking?

Where fitness and outdoors meet. In this space we chat all things hiking, exercise, wellness, adventure, motherhood, and metabolic health from a female perspective! Get ready to learn + be inspired to live your fullest, most adventurous life!

Hi, my name is Brady, and I'm a longtime fitness professional and Midwest girl turned mountain living hiking addict. In combining my knowledge of fitness and passion for hiking, I've helped hundreds of women get lean and strong for the trails. Think of this as your onestop shop for both education and inspiration on all things female wellness. Trail talk and adventure hiking, female metabolism, motherhood, nutrition, travel, and fitness are all topics you'll hear discussed here. If you are outdoorsy and active, looking to level up your health, unlock your potential, and become inspired to live your most vibrant life, you're in the right place. You're listening to the Fit for Hiking podcast. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Fit for Hiking podcast. This is your host, Brady, and today we're going to be diving into the topic of trail nutrition. So whether it's hiking or fitness, I feel like I just always get flooded with questions around nutrient timing before activity, during activity, or even after activity. There's just a lot of confusion around like, what should I be eating? When should I be eating it? How can I optimize performance in that way? How can I make sure I'm recovering properly, all these things. So we're going to really get into what should you be doing as far as pre hike nutrition, intra hike nutrition, and post hike nutrition, and hopefully just break it down in a way that's easy to digest and feel simple enough that you're like, okay, I got this. I can implement this for my next hike, so let's get into it. Want to put out the disclaimer? I'm not a doctor. This isn't medical advice. I'm not a registered dietitian, but I am certified in sports nutrition and have a lot of experience with my own hiking and activity nutrition, as well as helping clients in this category. So these are just some general rules of thumb that are helpful around activity and how to feel properly and really do your best in the activities that you're doing and feel amazing. So let's first talk about prehike nutrition. So hiking is a longer duration, more cardio based activity, right? So we really need to focus on fueling up and replenishing glycogen stores. 1s In our rehike meals and even just during the hike and after the hike. So glycogen stores are going to be very important to keep full so that you have the energy to perform the activity and to keep expending energy throughout your hike. So glycogen comes from carbohydrates. So I know that there's been kind of like a low carb craze, especially for females, which is frustrating, and maybe we'll get to dieting stuff another episode, but this is pretty harmful, especially if you're super active, because glucose is our body's preferred source of fuel. So 1s we need carbs in order to perform our best feel, our best optimize hormone levels, so many different functions in the body. But especially if we're looking at activities that are kind of aerobic like this, we need carbs. So that's really what we're going to be focusing on big time in all of our hiking nutrition. So the form of carbohydrate that you want to consume here will kind of depend on your goals, intensity of your hike and your duration. So if you are going on a super quick, intense hike like the Manitou Incline or something like that in Colorado, and you just need some really fast energy, you're like walking out the door or literally getting ready to start hiking, then you're going to want more high glycemic carbs, meaning they absorb more quickly into energy. So this can be anything from fruit. You might see that runners use gels while they're mid race for some fast energy. They'll even use like candy, granola, juice, toast, things like that, things that are basically naked carbs. So carbs by themselves, they don't have any other macronutrients accompanying them like fat or fiber or protein. So naked carbs are going to absorb faster and they're going to produce that big energy spike. However, they're not going to sustain you as long. So that's why I say this is if you're doing a very fast thing, you only need maybe 30 minutes or so of quick energy. 1s Most hikes probably aren't going to be this way. So in general, if you are going for a longer duration hike, or perhaps you are having your meal and then you have to drive like an hour to the trailhead, then you're going to want a slower to absorb meal. So you're not going to want these higher glycemic carbohydrates. You're going to want slow digesting, low glycemic carbs paired with protein. Okay? So by fueling this way, you are going to. 1s Kind of shorten the 1s amount of time in which you're going to run out of energy or sorry, lengthen that amount of time. So you really want to make sure that you have sustained energy and fuel and this is the best way to do it. So this could be something like non fat Greek yogurt with fruit toast with eggs on top, a banana with some chicken sausage on the side, maybe like an egg scramble with some sweet potato in there. These are some really great carb and protein dominant foods that are going to allow you to have more sustained energy for longer duration hikes or just giving you that time to again drive to the trailhead. 1s I will note that it's recommended to avoid too much dietary fat. So things like nut butters, high fat yogurts, nuts, avocados, butter, oils, or dietary fiber. So really like fibrous veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens, things like that, or really starchy carbohydrates, these things are just in general harder to digest. And so not for everybody, but for a lot of people they can lead to some stomach discomfort, especially right on the cusp of doing something strenuous. You don't want your body to still be focusing on working really hard to digest things when you need to allot that energy to do the thing that you're trying to do, right? So I would probably avoid really high fat foods and really high fiber foods. I know for me, if I were to have a salad and then try to go do a hike or a workout later, I'm going to be Bloated. I'm going to just really struggle because raw veggies like that are just so hard for me to digest. We don't agree well together and that's the case for a lot of people. So I think it's also good to just pay attention to the things that you struggle to digest and not having those right before you're doing a big hike. So in general, you probably want to have at least something small before hitting the trails, regardless of the length and intensity. Unless you are used to fasting. Like if you fast all the time and you feel better in that state, then you can totally ignore me. But in general, I don't want to feel like I'm going to pass out if I am getting really hot and sweaty or exerting a ton of energy. And I do feel that way if I don't have at least a little bit of something to get me started. So I definitely don't recommend fasting unless you're super used to doing intense activity in that state. Also prefer to not have a massive meal where I feel bogged down, but a moderate carb source and moderate protein source. So think like maybe a palm size or a fist size of both is probably the sweet spot for most people. I don't want to be like having a massive brunch and then going and trying to hike because I'm going to be tired, I'm going to be full, I'm not going to feel my best. So you got to find that happy medium with your pre hike nutrition. 1s All right, so moving on to intra hike nutrition. So these portions during your hike are going to completely depend on the duration and intensity of your hike. So I wanted to break down a couple of different scenarios and how to feel properly, and some of this is quite detailed, but you might find yourself in this exact situation. So I hope that these scenarios are helpful. So once to 3 miles with less than 500ft of elevation gain. So we're thinking just like a really quick jaunt. You're basically walking it's maybe a little bit rolling. You're probably not going to need a lot of extra fuel on this type of hike, especially if you did have a meal within the last few hours. If anything, bringing a small snack such as, like a granola bar, protein bar will probably suffice or a small portion palm size of fruit. On the types of hikes, I usually don't need anything, but I always like to have something, at least in my bag, in case I were to get lost or things were to go longer than what my route says. It's just always good to have a little something in case, but you probably won't need it if it really, truly ends up being one to 3 miles and less than 500ft of elevation gain. 2s I will say the one caveat here, and just to go along with all of these, is if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you're probably going to need additional fuel. Personally, when I was especially pregnant, I was eating so much, I was extremely hungry more than what people would say, like, oh, you only need 300 extra calories, or whatever. I was ravenous in eating a lot more than normal. So you got to listen to your body. And that if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Definitely want to bring more than what I'm listing here. Okay, so moving on to a one to three mile hike with more than 500ft of gain, so we're talking pretty steep for a shorter amount of time or a four to six mile hike with less than 500ft of gain. In these scenarios, you're going to expend more energy and you're going to have less oxygen availability because you're going to be experiencing more of an altitude gain. So bringing something more calorically dense, like a sandwich, or really calorically dense bars, such as go, Macro bars, cliff Builder bars, or Bobo bars. Those are all ones that really kind of pack on the calories in a small container, which is nice, or maybe like a tuna pack with fruit on the side, so something where you're getting almost more like a meal. So probably more like three to 500 calories during your hike so that you're really sustaining that energy. Because if you're doing a four to six mile hike, this could end up taking you a couple of hours, depending on your pace. All right, next scenario would be a four to six mile hike with more than 500ft of gain or a seven to ten mile hike with minimal gain. In both of these scenarios, I would plan to pack a full meal that digests easily. So maybe you're like hiking to a destination, like a lake or a summit and you're sitting having a meal. Again, I would avoid a large fat or fiber source, something that's not going to set well on your way back because you still have some hiking to do. So I would plant a full meal, but make sure it digests easily. So maybe like a sandwich, an egg burrito, a wrap of some sort, and maybe bring some additional snacks. So think more like maybe five to 600 plus calories, longer duration and intense day hikes. So we're thinking like ten plus miles or maybe like seven plus miles with a lot of elevation gain. You're going to want to aim to eat two to 300 calories per hour after the first hour. Okay, so let me say that again. After the first hour, you probably are okay with just your pre hike meal. First hour, you're probably doing all right after that. If you know that you're going to be doing this thing for a long time, maybe you're out there for seven to 8 hours, then you're probably going to want to eat two to 300 calories per hour. After that first hour. 1s 300 plus if the hike has really extreme incline gains, or you are a larger person in general, and maybe more like 100 to 150 if it's pretty flat or you're just a smaller individual. Just think in general, the more body weight you have, the larger frame you have, the more fuel you're going to need to keep your organs running to keep your muscles going, just to sustain that energy. This is why smaller and stature people just need less calories to function. Again, I would stick primarily to proteins and carbs because you have a long day of hiking ahead of you. You want to make sure that you are fueling properly for that multi day hikes. This is where it becomes a bit more about your weight, the weight of the snacks that you're bringing, the food that you're bringing. And things need to be non perishable, right? So while freeze dried meals kind of get some crap for being really high in sodium, not healthiest, you're not probably going to be like sitting at home eating freeze dried meals. But they're really ideal for backpacking trips because they are super lightweight and they're calorie dense. And that's what you need when you're backpacking, right? You don't want to be bringing something that weighs time, but you need those calories. So I really like Mountain House meals. I really enjoy that brand. I also recommend. 2s Bringing higher protein sources along with those things. So things like tuna packs or chomps, beef sticks, beef jerky, protein bars, because you're already probably going to be getting a lot of carbs from those freeze dried meals. And just in general, like, non perishable snacks tend to be very carb dominant. So looking for ways to bring some extra protein is definitely recommended. Okay, so hydration. When we're talking about hydration, a general rule of thumb is one liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking. Probably a little bit more. If you find that you just like chug water, you're a larger individual. You are on a very hot, sunny, or exposed trail. I also do recommend bringing packs of electrolytes for either intra hike or post hike. These can be things like Liquid IV element or drip drop. Those are just some of the brands that I like of electrolytes. So if you feel like you're going to be sweating like crazy, especially on multi day or like really long day hikes, bringing some electrolytes, if you have like a separate water bottle from a bladder or something like that, I definitely would bring those if possible. All right, so let's just briefly touch on post hike nutrition. This one we really don't need to overthink. So you get done with a hike, you drive home and you're ready to have a meal. Just have a balanced meal of all your macronutrients and some veggies. So you want to think a portion of protein, portion of carbs, portion of fat, and portion of veggies. In general rule of is. 1s For females, most females, you're going to have a portion of protein, which is about the size of your palm, portion of carbs, which is about the size of your fist. Maybe more. If you didn't eat a ton on your hike or you just knocked out a multi day backpacking trip or a super intense hike, you probably want to err on the side of more carbs. A portion of veggies. This can be fist size or you can be pretty liberal with this as long long as you can digest them properly. I prefer cooked veggies to raw for digestion purposes. And then a portion of fat is about the size of your thumb. And if you're getting something, maybe you're eating your meal out in a mountain town or something that's nearby to the hike. Most of the time if you're getting something that's cooked at the restaurant, it's going to be cooked in more fat than what you're used to. So you probably don't need an additional dietary fat. You can bank on the fact that they probably used a lot of butter and oils. So I would focus more so on getting protein, carbs and veggies from that meal. More emphasis on carbs. Like I said, if the hike was really long and taxing. So the goal is to really to eat the right amount of food for you so that you feel energized rather than bogged down. Think in general, 1s too much high glycemic solo carbohydrates are going to equal insulins, like in a blood sugar crash, which can ultimately lead to low energy. So you want to try to avoid just having only high glycemic carbs. 1s Too many fats or fiber can equal GI distress. And then too much food in general can also lead to just feeling kind of lethargic and bogged down. So really what this means is that you have to do a little bit of self experimentation to see the right macro combination, timing amounts, and hydration everything that work well for you. I can't exactly tell you exactly what's going to be the secret sauce to make you feel your best on the trails. All of these are just general rules of thumb, and really, you got to experiment a little bit and find your sweet spot of the right amount of food. I've definitely done things the wrong way and learned from experience. I remember specifically doing this one hike that was really hard, and I had a PB and J or something like that, and I just slammed it at the halfway point, and I think I had a bunch of other snacks, too. I way overdid it, and I was super full, and I felt like crap. And we had to do, like, the hardest part in the second half of the hike, and I felt terrible. So I think it's just important to know that you need to kind of experiment with what portion sizes work best for you. After that, I found that I don't do a ton of intra hike nutrition. I try to stick with very minimal snacking and smaller portions more frequently than doing, like, a big meal, and that's just what works best for me. So definitely experiment and find your sweet spot. And for more snack ideas for what to eat on hikes, I do have a blog post called Eight Healthy Trail Snacks. I'll link that in the show notes. You can check that out for just some more ideas, and I hope this has been helpful, and hopefully you can kind of apply some of these things to your next hike. If you have any questions on trail nutrition, feel free to slide into my DMs at ponytail underscore on the Trail. Or you can also hit us up at the podcast Instagram page, which is Fit Underscore for Hiking. All right, you guys, that is all for today, and I will see you in the next episode. Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Fit for Hiking podcast. As always, I hope it leaves you feeling inspired and informed on how to take your health and adventure into your own hands. For more content like this, be sure to follow along with my daily posts at ponytail underscore on a Trail. That's ponytail underscore on a trail. You can also stay up to date on my new episodes being released at Fit Underscore for Hiking and find more free Happy and healthy trails.