Hiking and Sports Nutrition: Learn All You Need to Know
Reading time: 5 min

Hiking and Sports Nutrition: Learn All You Need to Know

Reading time: 5 min
Hiking nutrition follows the same principles as nutrition for endurance sports, so you should not neglect it.
Hiking and Sports Nutrition: Learn All You Need to Know

Hiking can be a pleasant and relaxing activity, but it demands physical endurance, something affected greatly by the correct nutrition, regardless of the length and intensity of your hike.

Nutrition for hiking is also an area in which many people make mistakes: either they carry excessive amounts of food and needlessly burden their backpack, or they underestimate their energy needs, choosing too little or wrong foods for their exercise.

In this blog, we'll look at what foods you should pack to enjoy your hiking without dreaming about the pizza you'll enjoy when you get home.

Carbohydrates are essential for hiking

Hiking is an endurance activity, and endurance requires carbohydrates, as they represent your body's main source of fast energy.

The amount of carbohydrates you should consume depends on several factors, especially the length and intensity of your hike. If all you want is conquer the hill next door, you don't need any food. But if your hike is two hours or longer, we recommend an intake of 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour (240 to 360 kcal).

If your hike lasts several hours or is performed at high intensity, you need to take care of your glycogen stores. If you plan to fill your glycogen stores, we recommend an intake of 8 to 12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body mass at least one day before your hike. E.g., if you weigh 65 kg, this means 520 to 780 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Hiking and protein

Protein are an essential nutrient for muscle growth and recovery.

A hike of a few hours does not require an intake of protein, under the condition that your protein intake is sufficient before and after your hike. This changes if your hike lasts several hours or even days. In this case, add protein to several small meals, whether a protein bar, protein powder, egg, or ham sandwich.

Put special attention to protein after your hike. You should consume 20 grams of protein total and 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body mass for a perfect recovery meal.

You can achieve this with regular food, but if you are out of home or don't have access to your fridge, make good use of a recovery drink or a recovery bar.

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Fats are important for hiking

While dietary fats will do more harm than good during a short hike, don't neglect fats during long hiking adventures, as they are crucial for several processes in your body.

When planning a long hike, include other nutrients in your meals in addition to the essential carbohydrates.

Enrich your meals or snacks with healthy fat. For example, add peanut butter to your sandwich or eat a cup of nuts. This will provide you with quality dietary fats and protein.

Don't hike without fluid

During physical activity you lose a lot of fluid, especially in summer. Since access to water is limited in the wild, you should bring your own supply.

Dehydration in the mountains is a huge problem. Among other things, it may cause a drop in endurance, headache, reduced concentration, disorientation ... All the things you don't want to experience out there. 

During exercise you also lose electrolytes, which are responsible for the correct functioning of your body, so you need to replenish electrolytes efficiently. A simple way to do that is with an electrolyte drink.

Pohodništvo in hidracijaThe most efficient way to take care of hydration and energy during hiking is with an isotonic sports drink, such as Nrgy Unit Drink.

The isotonic sports drink Nrgy Unit Drink contains minerals in citrate form, which means they have high absorptions rates and don't cause digestive issues. It allows you to stay hydrated, reduce sensation of fatigue with the optimal combination of carbohydrates, and replace the electrolytes you lose in your sweat.

Examples of meals for hiking

Summer is not an ideal time to fill your backpack with easily-spoiled food that should be kept cold. Such a backpack, exposed to sunlight, is a breeding ground for microbes and bacteria.

Instead, you should pack foods that are not easily-spoiled, don't take up too much space, are easy to carry, and have high nutritional values.

Let us give you a few suggestions on what foods you can use for hiking. Since every person has their own specific needs, we did not express the quantities.

Example of meals for a 5-hour hiking trip

  • BREAKFAST: a cup of milk rice, two eggs, a slice of bread.
  • HIKE: 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Options: energy bars and energy gels, a ham sandwich, banana, gummy bears, crackers, dry fruit, isotonic sports drink.
  • AFTER THE HIKE: recovery meal (20 grams of protein total and 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body mass). Options: ricotta with banana and honey, chocolate milk, recovery drink.
  • LUNCH: rice with vegetables, grilled turkey fillet, a cup of beetroot.
  • DINNER: polenta pizza with an egg.

Example of meals for an all-day hike

  • BREAKFAST: bread with Greek yoghurt and jam, cacao.
  • HIKE: include same snacks as with the 5-hour hike. An all-day hike also requires a meal larger than simply energy bars or energy gels. Sometimes you can have a meal at a mountain hut. Be careful not to excessively burden the stomach or the digestive system, as this will hinder your ability to continue hiking. You can bring along cooked pasta or rice, bread, tuna, ham, boiled egg with some vegetables (e.g., fresh paprika), rice pudding, nuts.
  • AFTER THE HIKE: recovery meal (20 grams of protein total and 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body mass). Options: ricotta with banana and honey, chocolate milk, recovery drink.
  • DINNER: salmon, potatoes with Swiss chard, salad.

Example of meals for a multi-day hike

Same as with the all-day hike, but your options for dinner are limited. If you have the opportunity, have a nutritious meal at a mountain hut. If that option is not available, the dinner should be similar to lunch.

Conclusion

Nutrition for hiking follows the same principles as the nutrition for endurance sports. The quantity and composition of your meals depends on the duration and intensity of your hike.

In case your hike lasts only a few hours, focus on simple, easily-digestible carbs. For all-day and multi-day hikes include foods that are a source of protein and fat.

Never forget to have a quality recovery meal.

You want to go hiking with the lightest backpack possible, as it weight will slow you down. In summer, be mindful of the foods you choose and try to avoid easily-spoiled foods. A practical solution are energy bars, protein bars, energy gels, and isotonic sports drinks, which provide you with energy and electrolytes.

When hiking in nature, you have limited access to water. Since dehydration in summer is very likely, you'd better use up the space in your backpack for a sufficient water supply.

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