Personally, I love to hike – it’s one of my favorite summer activities. There’s nothing more satisfying than conquering a huge mountain or trekking eight miles through the forest. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and can sometimes make you feel literally on top of the world.
But in order to actually get through that hike you need to eat things beforehand that will give you energy, fuel, and power to achieve whatever your goal is. Read on to discover what foods will do just that for you, and which could result in you giving up and going back home to your couch.
Oatmeal is one of the best breakfasts you can eat on any regular day, but will be additionally beneficial before a long hike. Because of the high fiber and carbohydrate content in oatmeal, it will keep you perfectly energized throughout your journey. If you’re not the biggest fan of oatmeal, try adding in honey, brown sugar, and/or fruits.
For extra protein, you can also mix in a scoop of protein powder or peanut butter before you heat it up. This version of oatmeal is made with chia and flaxseeds, which provide omega-3s and even more protein and fiber to help you crush your hike.
Protein is an extremely important macronutrient, especially for hikers. It helps to increase metabolism and repair tired muscles, which are pretty much inevitable when climbing a steep mountain.
To decrease muscle soreness, try to eat some lean meats before you go for you hike, such as chicken, turkey, or fish. Consider this cajun chicken with guacamole, which serves as a delicious source of protein and healthy fats. If you’re a vegetarian, try tofu, or some of the alternatives listed below.
Eggs are another great protein-filled breakfast choice. Pair them with a carbohydrate to boost performance, decrease muscle damage, and improve recovery better than just carbs alone.
Studies also show that eggs with toast have a 50 percent higher satiety index than breakfast cereals, so they’ll prevent you from snacking the entire time you’re hiking. Here are some super egg and carb combinations that will provide you with ultimate fuel.
Another great pairing with your eggs is whole wheat toast spread with your favorite nut butter. Nut butters contain fiber, protein, and magnesium, which help to build muscle strength and bone health. Optimum muscle and bone condition are extremely important while hiking for an extended period of time. Make sure you choose the right kind of bread and nut butter for prime benefits.
A nutrition bar is a perfect pre-hike meal replacement if you don’t have enough time to prepare something. However, eating just any bar won’t cut it, as some have about as much nutritional value as a chocolate bar. Choose one that contains real ingredients and a hefty amount of protein, carbohydrates, and other vitamins and minerals to propel you through any hike. This list is a great source for what nutrition bars you should and shouldn’t be buying at the store.
Most people don’t realize that veggies actually contain a fair amount of complex carbohydrates, which provide way more nutritional value than simple carbs that are found in sugary foods. A couple of really great veggies to choose from are sweet potatoes and carrots. Carrots are made even better when dipped in hummus or nut butter, for additional protein and healthy fats.
Like vegetables, fruits are another food group that are high in carbohydrates, helping to increase your hiking performance. Fruits like bananas, apples, and peaches are perfect pre-hiking choices. Make them even better by adding them to oatmeal or greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is full of protein and, combined with fruit, will keep your energy levels steady throughout your hike. Pack some fruit along with you on your hike too, to keep you fueled if you start to get hungry.
If you’re going on a really long hike, pasta is a great meal to eat beforehand. It’ll provide you with an insane amount of carbohydrates you’re going to need to fuel you through all that walking. To add even more nutrients to your pasta, add chicken or shrimp and/or fresh vegetables.
However, skip out on the creamy sauce varieties, as they’ll only mess with your stomach while you’re hiking. Instead, choose one of these homemade light sauces that require no cream or butter to weigh you down.
Water is probably the most important thing to consume before hiking, as hydration is key especially if you’re hiking on a really hot day. Even if you’re not thirsty, be sure to consistently drink water well before you set out to begin (and pee first too). Water will keep you cool during your hike, as it helps regulate your body temperature. Drinking it with food will additionally help convert it to energy you will most certainly need throughout your trip. And make sure to pack plenty of water to drink while you’re hiking as well.
Burgers & Fries
Greasy fast food is definitely the worst food you can eat before going hiking. Deep-fried, fatty foods will only cause you to slow down and crash mid-hike. This is because high-fat foods are turned into energy less efficiently than carbs and protein. You’re going to need all the energy you can get while hiking, so it’s best to just avoid the drive-thru before a hike and prepare one of the foods mentioned above instead.
Cheese is a deliciously magical food that can make almost any dish amazing, however if you eat it before a hike I guarantee your opinion of cheese will change for the worse. Because it’s high in fat, it digests slowly in your stomach, it ends up feeling like a brick weighing you down, making it way harder to conquer hiking those steep mountains.
Sacrificing cheese for one meal might be hard, but after you finally finish your hike go on and treat yourself to a cheesy bowl of mac and cheese, or a huge slice of pizza. Or both, you earned it.
Although chocolate might give you a slight rush to begin your hike, it won’t last very long. It’ll cause your blood sugar to spike as soon as you eat it. Then, according to Kelvin Gary, Precision Nutrition Coach, your body spreads out insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and into your tissues, causing your energy levels to crash. Exercise also sends the sugar to your muscles, which might cause a double energy crash, leaving you wanting to go back down the mountain instead of up.
Spicy foods may help burn more calories overall, but they fail to do that job if you eat them right before your hike. Spices and seasonings in your leftover Mexican food may cause heartburn or indigestion, causing a halt to your climb, because of their long digestion time.
They’ll only make you want to take a nap, rather than go on a long or strenuous hike. If you’re craving something boldly flavored and savory, opt for jerky instead, which is high in protein.
Cream-Based Soups or Sauces
If you’re going to have spaghetti before your hike, make sure you don’t use Alfredo or any other type of cream-based sauce. Creamy foods take longer to digest, which can therefore result in serious stomach aches.
Heavy-creamed sauces and soups also divert a large percentage of blood flow to your GI tract and away from your heart, lungs and muscles, which can make you feel sluggish, impact speed, or lead to cramps. So before you head out on your hike, skip the heavy soups and sauces and opt for lighter variations instead.
Most people experience bloating after drinking carbonated beverages, which can cause major discomfort while hiking. Additionally, it’ll only give you a small sugar and energy rush, spiking your blood sugar, then causing you to crash. Instead, just drink some good ‘ole harmless ice water, which will do you way more good, especially in the hot summer heat.
A high dose of dairy right before your hike may cause a bit of issues because it’s way harder to digest than other foods. This causes reactions like diarrhea, discomfort, and worst of all, cramps. No one wants to start cramping up while they’re working out, especially if you’re stuck at the top of a mountain or in the middle of the woods. To avoid any of those problems, try to not to eat or drink dairy within two to three hours of the beginning of your hike.
While fruit is a great addition to your pre-hike feast, fruit juices don’t have the same effect. Because they usually contain a hefty amount of sugar, they could cause an upset stomach during your hike, which you definitely don’t want.
Additionally, because they’re a source of simple carbohydrates instead of complex carbohydrates, they’ll only provide a quick boost of energy, but won’t sustain your energy levels for very long. Choose whole fruits instead, or make sure to drink juice along with other solid complex carbohydrates.