How to Fuel Yourself on the Trail

Trail hiking is one of my favorite summer activities. I love spending time in nature, pushing my body outside of its comfort zone, and having good conversation with my hiking partner (hiiii Cody). Fueling your body correctly is an important aspect of feeling strong and staying energized while hiking. The following tips and strategies will help you power through your hike or other endurance type of activity like biking.

1. Hydrate. Be sure to drink water throughout the day before you set out on the trail. As you hike, drink a minimum of 24 oz. each hour, taking time for a drink every 15 or 30 minutes. Continue to drink water after you are done training for the day. Hydrating yourself before, during, and after your hike will prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration include yellow or dark urine, decreased urine output, thirst, dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness. It is always a good idea to pack more water than you think you will need and plan your hike accordingly so you can fill water bottles as needed. High water-content foods like fruits and vegetables also help with hydration.

2. Choose a higher carbohydrate breakfast option. This will give your body extra energy to burn for fuel. Some of my top suggestions include oatmeal topped with berries and nuts, sprouted bread with nut butter and banana slices, a sweet potato topped with nut butter and cinnamon,or overnight oats. If you generally prefer a more protein-based breakfast, I would add at least one serving of complex carbohydrates to your meal like a piece of sprouted bread or a serving of fruit.

3. Pack portable snacks. Having snacks available will allow you to refuel on the trail when necessary. Snacks should be a mix of carbohydrates and protein–this will help your muscles recover while providing you with fuel to keep your stamina up. Not to mention, the protein will help to keep your hunger in check. Stop for a snack every 1-2 hours. Some of my favorite trail snacks:

Single serving nut butter packets like Justin’s. You can eat the nut butter straight from the package or spread it on an apple, banana, or grain option.

Portable fruit like apples or bananas. 

Larabars, RxBars, That’s It bars. These are my favorite bars because they are made from real food ingredients. That’s It bars and some varieties of Larabars are higher in sugar and lower in fat and protein than I like to see for everyday use but in the case of fueling a trail hike, I think they’re great.

Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and cacao nibs. 

Salted peanuts or nuts. If you are losing a lot of fluid through sweat a salted snack will help replace some of the sodium lost and help with electrolyte balance.

Single serving tuna pouches with crackers. My personal favorite cracker brands are Way Better, Simple Mills, and Mary’s Gone Crackers.

Mighty BarsEpic Bars, or other clean beef jerky bars.

Fruit or vegetable puree squeeze pouches. You will find these in the baby food aisle. I would personally select an organic brand like Earth’s Best, Plum, Happy Squeeze, Ella’s Kitchen, Happy Tot, or Gerber Organic. Even though these are designed for babies they are an easy, clean, on-the-go source of fruits and vegetables that adults can eat as well.

Homemade oatmeal cookies or Aussie BitesYou can find Aussie Bites at Costco.

Go Picnic meals. These are a fun option if you are looking for an all-around balanced mini meal or a heavy snack. In terms of ‘clean food’ they aren’t 100% perfect but I am ok with that on occasion.

Nuun tabs. This is my preferred electrolyte replacement drink. You simply put a tab into your water and shake. Boom–you’re good to go. Nuun tabs are a much healthier alternative to sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade.

4. Have a combination of protein and carbohydrates following your hike. (Examples: Grilled grass-fed steak with sweet potatoes and vegetables or a Mexican-style chicken over beans.) This will help your muscles recover and replace any lost glycogen stores.

5. Sleep. Aim for peaceful, uninterrupted, and restful sleep the night before and after your hike.

6. Don’t count calories or have a ‘diet’ mindset. I don’t recommend this in general but especially not while you are taking part in any sort of endurance sport. Keep a mindset of ‘food is fuel’ and make food choices that will energize you through your activity and help your muscles recover.

7. Listen to your body. You know your needs best. Listen to you body—rest when you need it, refuel when you are hungry, drink water if you begin to feel dehydrated, and add extra carbohydrates or protein where you see fit.

I hope these tips and strategies help you to feel energized and strong during your trail hikes or other endurance sports. Do you have any favorite trail snacks? Any tried and true tips for trail hikes or endurance sports? If so, leave a comment below.

Happy hiking. 🙂

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