Fueling Up for a Healthy Hike
By Tanya Goyette, RDN
Its summertime! Time to hit the trails and have fun exploring in the great outdoors. Here you will find several useful tips to help you be safe and perform better on your hikes! Happy trails!
Summertime increases our need for water. Whether you are at sea level or in the mountains with a high altitude or a desert environment, it is important to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated starts well before your hike begins.
Many people are not drinking enough water daily and this puts you at risk of complications when faced with a strenuous hike and heat. How do you know you are hydrated? Are you drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day? Are your lips or skin dry? Do you have fatigue or loss of energy? Are you dizzy or weak? Do you have a headache? These may be signs you are not drinking enough water.
Start drinking the evening before and bring 32 ounces (1 liter) of water for every hour you are hiking in hot or humid climates. For high altitude, you should do the same, even if the air is cooler, it is dryer and thinner.
One more tip! Keep cool by wearing a hat and light wicking clothing that reflects the heat and sweat. The more you sweat the more hydration you need.
Eat before you go!
Whether you go early in the morning or later in the day, you need to have adequate calories to fuel up for your hike. Having the right kind of calories will help you perform better and sustain your energy levels. Hiking is hard work and uses up your energy stores. Here are some healthy suggestions for you.
Carbohydrates: start with healthy carbohydrates coming from whole grains such as oatmeal, a whole wheat tortilla, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, or brown rice. Fruits such as bananas, oranges, and apples are also a great option.
Protein: good sources of protein come from nuts, seeds, beans, pea protein, sprouted brown rice protein, and hemp protein.
Fats: Healthy fats also come from nuts and seeds, avocado, and olive oil
Vegetables and fruits: Be sure you add in some color to your meals by adding fruits and vegetables!
Snacks and Meals to pack with you.
Now that you have some ideas of what a well-rounded meal looks like, here are some specific snacks you can take that will keep and not go bad or get soggy. You want to be sure you take along foods that will not spoil in hot weather.
Dates and Walnuts: Grab a baggie full of dates and walnuts. Stuff a walnut into the date. Eat! Provides healthy protein, fats, carbohydrate and nutrients.
Tortilla Roll-up: A simple lunch is to roll up a tortilla with peanut butter or almond butter, and sliced bananas.
Salty snacks: healthy salty snacks such as salted nuts, wasabi peas, and whole grain snack foods
Trail mix: bring along some trail mix for a salty and sweet option
Fruit: grapes, apples and oranges are easy and portable foods to keep you hydrated and provide healthy fiber, carbohydrates, and nutrients.
Re-fuel after the Hike
Your hike is over! Congratulations! Now it’s time to refuel and replenish your nutrition stores.
Electrolytes: fruits such as bananas, avocados, dates, and raisins are a great electrolytes source of potassium. Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, beans and lentils are all great choices to refuel.
Salt: you lose salt and water when sweating during hiking or high heat. This is when we need to have some salt in our foods to replenish our stores of this important electrolyte.
Meals: If you are eating a meal after your hike choose a combination of whole grain carbs, protein, and fats such as beans and rice with lots of veggies and guacamole.
Snacks: Any of the snacks mentioned above are great choices to refuel during and after your hike.
Hydration: Just because you’re done with your hike does not mean you should stop hydrating. Keep drinking water and try some orange juice or coconut water for natural sources of electrolytes.
Here is one of my favorite balanced electrolyte powders to re-hydrate with. Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator