What to eat when hiking is important and you should start at least two days before the hike to hydrate and drinking water regularly.
The act of hiking can suppress your appetite, so plan to feed yourself anyway as calories play an important role in regulating body temperature and to keep you fueled. On the day of the hike trying to eat at least an hour before the hiking.
Planning what to eat for your day hike:
- What to eat before the hike?
- What to eat during the hike?
- What to eat after the hike?
What to eat before the hike?
Protein and complex carb combinations are perfect, start with nice breakfast eggs, bacon and whole wheat bread or bowl of oatmeal, eat some fruit and drink two cups of water or an energy drink.
What are complex carbs?
Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains.
Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, vegetables, berries, bananas, nuts, broccoli, spinach, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, apple, beans, oats, and brown rice.
Both simple and complex carbohydrates are turned to glucose (blood sugar) in the body and are used as energy.
What are the simple carbs?
Donuts, sweets, white bread, Coca-Cola, cookies, chocolates, and honey.
I can’t eat in the morning especially that early so I normally start with a protein shake.
My protein shake recipe:
USN Hyperbolic Mass (all-in-one)
Tbsp. Peanut butter
Tsp Jacobs coffee
All mixed together.
PS: A pre-workout shake also works well. Be careful which shake you use and take into consideration if you have any health issues.
As a rule, I try to drink more water so if I drink a cup of coffee I will drink a glass of water before I drink anything else.
The same if I drink juice, I will drink a glass of water as well before I drink anything else. This is an excellent way for me to drink more water and to stay hydrated during the day.
An hour before the hike, I would then drink my shake, one glass of Orange juice and one glass of water.
What to eat during the hike?
Eating during the hike is very important as you need to keep your body fueled with enough calories to keep hiking and enough salt to keep sweating so that you can drink enough water.
You need high energy salty snacks.
- Trail Mix
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter
- Ready-made tuna pouches
- Whole-grain tortillas
- Biltong (beef jerky)
- Energy bars
- Granola bars
- Fresh or dried fruit
I don’t like soggy sandwiches so I normally put the ingredients in different Ziploc bags and then just take it all out and make the sandwich when we stop to eat.
You can also make the sandwich and just vacuum it.
2 Rye of whole wheat bread slices
Halloumi cheese fried before packing
Cold meat like roast beef/Ready-made tuna pouch
2 Rye of whole wheat bread slices
Cucumber & Butter lettuce
Every few hours rest for at least 20 minutes to give your body time to digest the food you are eating and re-fuel your muscles.
Drink enough water, take a sip of water regularly during the hike – if you only drink when you are thirsty you are already behind.
Do not drink alcohol on a hike as alcohol and beverages with high caffeine levels can have adverse effects when trying to stay hydrated.
Here is a quick guide on how to hydrate:
- One (1) liter for every 2 hours depending on how hot it is and your pace.
- I always take a 500ml energade/game frozen extra with my water.
- I leave an extra 500ml energade frozen in the car for after the hike.
For more information see my blog about Hiking skills and Techniques.
Do not over drink on the water for that can cause Hyponatremia.
What is Hyponatremia?
Hyponatremia is decreased in serum sodium concentration < 136 mEq/L caused by an excess of water relative to solute as per Wikipedia.
If you are experiencing a decreased ability to think, headaches, nausea, poor balance, confusion, and has been drinking water regularly, it could be that you are suffering from Hyponatremia and you should immediately eat a banana and rest for a while to see if the symptoms disappear.
That is why if you drink Game or a drink that puts the electrolytes back in combination with water the possibility that you would get Hyponatremia is slim.
75ml Lemon juice
75ml Pomegranate juice
375ml unsweetened Coconut water
500ml Cold Water
What to eat after the hike?
You should eat about 1-2 hours after the hike and again protein and complex carbs meal would be best.
I like to eat steak, mushrooms, onions, and a salad, or I will have chicken, brown rice, broccoli, and mixed veggies and a fruit salad with cream for dessert.
Food management is important
Combine healthy nutrition with the weight of carrying the food is key. For a day hike eat a protein and carb breakfast before the hike and drink enough water during the hike.
A picnic as part of the hike is also an excellent idea as you can eat and rest for at least half and hour before continuing on your hike.
Remember to hydrate after the hike as well, drinking energy drinks that can put back the electrolytes lost.
“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time.” Paul Staso
Let’s go hike.