November 17th is National Hiking Day! With cooler weather to enjoy and so much terrain to explore, it’s the perfect time to stay active and enjoy nature. But before heading out on the trails, it’s important to plan ahead how to nutritiously fuel your body for the hike. Village Dietitian, Jamie Miller, has some helpful nutrition tips to keep in mind beyond just tossing a bottle of water and a granola bar in your bag.
Even if the weather has cooled off and you’re not sweating as much, you still need to stay hydrated as you enjoy your hike. Try to pre-hydrate by drinking 2-4 cups of water before a hike so you have less to carry in your bag. Then, a good rule of thumb is to plan for about 2 cups of fluid for every hour of hiking. If the hike is less than 1 hour, simple water will do. But if it is a longer venture or you are sweating more heavily , it’s important to add in electrolytes to keep you hydrated. While there are many products on the market, Village Dietitian Jamie Miller, likes a product such as LMNT which is no sugar added and also contains salt to balance out the sodium your body is losing while sweating.
Food is Fuel for Hiking
While hiking or doing any endurance activity, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy since they’re easier for your body to digest and use for energy versus protein or fat. When embarking on a longer distance hike, aim for 30 to 60 grams (120 to 240 calories) of carbohydrates per hour to improve strength and endurance and delay fatigue.
Stock Up On Snacks
Similar to hydration, if your hike is shorter than an hour or two, you likely won’t need a snack. But much longer, you will need to prepare with nourishment to keep you going. The body best processes 100–300 calories per hour while exercising. Eating smaller snacks more frequently keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable, and also won’t overload the stomach. Eating too many calories at once not only can divert blood away from working muscles in favor of digestion, but also can cause energy levels to dip or cause digestive distress.
What to Pack
While perishable food could be carried with an ice pack, that can easily weigh a hiker down. So instead, try some creative non-perishable food items. The key is to pack a balance of different food groups, and pair them together for best satisfaction and stable blood sugar. There are many easy to pack produce options such as apples, applesauce packets, bananas, oranges, grape tomatoes, and mini bell peppers. For portable protein, try jerky, meat bars, protein powder to be mixed with water, and tuna pouches. Healthy fats can be packed in the form of nuts and seeds, nut butter packs, or olives. Carbohydrates could come from dried cereals or granola, dried fruits, fruit leather, bread, tortillas, or crackers. For ideas how to pair foods for balanced snacks, check out these snack ideas:
- Trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, dried cereal, etc)
- Nut butter packs with apple, banana, or tortilla
- Ready made tuna or chicken packets with crackers
- Jerky, fruit leather, and cheese crisps such as Whisps
- Applesauce pouch and almonds
- Smoothie Pouch, such as Fuel to Fire
- Energy or granola bars, such as RXbar
Or if you have some time to spend in the kitchen, try one of these homemade hiking snack recipes!
Homemade Trail Treats
Smoked Almond Snack Bar
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment and coat with cooking spray. Roughly chop almonds, then combine the chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl.Combine the brown rice syrup and sugar or monk fruit in a measuring cup and microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute to make it warm and easy to stir. Stir in the collagen peptides, if using. Pour the syrup mixture over the nut mixture and stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated and quite sticky. Add the nut mixture into the baking pan with a spatula. Spray your hands or a piece of parchment with cooking spray and gently press the nut mixture evenly into the pan.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the syrup is bubbling around the edges and the nuts are beginning to have a toasted color. Cool the bars in the pan for 30 minutes, until they hold together in a solid block when you lift them from the pan, but are still a bit pliable and flexible. (If the bars cool too much and you have trouble lifting them from the pan, put them back in the oven for a few minutes to soften the syrup again.) Put on a cutting board, and spray a sharp chef’s knife with cooking spray and slice the brick into 10 bars. Leave the bars on the cutting board to cool completely and finish firming up, about 3 hours. Store the bars between layers of parchment in an airtight container for a few days at room temperature or up to 2 weeks refrigerated.
- 1 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar or monk fruit (for lower sugar version)
- 1/4 cup dried apricots (or sub figs, prune, or other dired fruit
- 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup quinoa, cooked or uncooked
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 24-count mini muffin pan or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1 cup of the rolled oats to your food processor and pulse until the oats are turned into a fine flour. To the food processor, add remaining 3/4 cup of rolled oats, 1/4 cup dried apricots (or dried fruit of choice), 1/4 cup raisins (or dried cranberries), 1/4 cup sugar or monk fruit, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/4 cup quinoa, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup flax meal, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp baking soda. Close the lid and pulse the food processor repeatedly until the dried fruit is cut up into small bits.
To the dry mix, add the melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon extract. Pulse again until everything is evenly moistened and combined. Divide the mixture into the prepared mini muffin cavities and press down to compress the bites. Alternatively, use a small cookie scoop (1 tbsp size) and form 24 mounds on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. Let them cool before removing and storing.They keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 week, refrigerator for 3 weeks, or in freezer for 3 months.
Goji Berry Trail Mix
Place all ingredients into a container or bag and stir to combine. Seal and store until ready to eat.