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Backpacker Magazine – May 2008

Eat Better

Want to hike farther, explore tougher terrain, and carry big loads without bonking? To achieve your biggest backcountry goals, you have to change how you eat.

by: Dorothy Foltz-Gray and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Photos by Justin Bailie

Photo by Justin Bailie
Photo by Justin Bailie

Sport-Specific Nutrition | Snack For All-Day Energy | Balance Your Backcountry Diet | Food Expert Q & A | The 10 Best Backpacking Foods | The Perfect Menu | A Day of Eating Healthy | The Burning Curve... | ...And a Radical Deviation

BALANCE YOUR BACKCOUNTRY DIET
Follow these 5 easy principles to achieve the perfect mix of strength, stamina, and speed.

1. Fuel With Fat
Backpacking is about sustained output over several days, says Leslie Bonci, director of sports medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and co-author of Total Fitness for Women. It's not a high-intensity sprint. To get the most energy for multiple long-distance days, you want to fire your engine with healthy unsaturated fats, the kind found in nuts and fish. Fortunately, these foods happen to be the most concentrated (read: easiest to pack) source of calories. On the trail, make them 30 to 40 percent of your diet.

2. Sustain With Complex Carbs
There's a reason marathoners like to eat a heaping plate of whole-wheat spaghetti the night before a race. High-fiber, complex carbohydrates such as those found in whole-grain pasta and brown rice are broken down slowly in your stomach, keeping blood sugar steady for sustained power. Make them about 50 percent of your trail diet.

3. Get a Boost From Simple Sugars
A backcountry trip isn't always a steady plod. For bursts of intensity–like a steep climb–you need simple carbs. The sugars in foods like chocolate and raisins are digested quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar and a flood of energy to your muscles. For best results, scarf a handful or two of something sweet about an hour before the hill gets nasty.

4. Recover With Protein
Skimp on this muscle-builder on the trail, and your body starts burning lean muscle mass for fuel. "If that happens," says Bonci, "you end up fatiguing a lot more quickly, which can increase the risk of injury." Make protein 20 percent of your backcountry diet, and you'll be repairing muscles you've spent the day breaking down.

5. Fight Free Radicals
The triple whammy of strenuous exercise, UV light, and high elevation subjects you to cell-damaging free radicals, which increase your risk of serious health problems like heart disease and cancer, says Dr. Wayne Askew, director of the Division of Nutrition at the University of Utah. On-trail prevention is the best medicine: Repair stressed cells with the antioxidant vitamins E and C, plus beta carotene.

Sport-Specific Nutrition | Snack For All-Day Energy | Balance Your Backcountry Diet | Food Expert Q & A | The 10 Best Backpacking Foods | The Perfect Menu | A Day of Eating Healthy | The Burning Curve... | ...And a Radical Deviation



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DP
Oct 01, 2012

Opt2thrive was great! Light weight and fresh.
Easy way to feel full: high calories and protein and contains fiber

michael
Mar 12, 2012

Serious long distance backpackers sometimes measure things in oz, its easy to make fancy stuff but the long distance guys I met had spreadsheets on calories/protein/fats per oz. It all tastes good out there when your hungry. the idea I have to heat something rehydrate or mix it up for lunch is a hassle on the trail when you're tired, better if its simple, easy acess and snacking throughout hike. I shoot for under a lb per day of food and oatmeal/almonds, then a bar, then jerky, dried fruit, then a bar, mixed with stuff mixed with water that i make enroute with steripen, saves on carrying water weight, and dehydrated dinners. graze and go, the lighter your load the more you enjoy it, best thing you can do is get in shape before the trip. I also carry potassium/electrolyte pills.

Josh
Dec 31, 2009

I think Craig is funny. He made me laugh. Thank you Craig. And you do bring up some very good points. Thank you again, Craig.

JMP
Nov 06, 2009

Two useful expert sources of fitness & nutrition:
1. U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion & Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM) - Hooah Health: http://www.hooah4health.com/ http://www.hooah4health.com/body/default.htm

2. military.com: http://www.military.com/military-fitness/ http://www.military.com/fitness-center/military-fitness/nutrition/archive

George
Sep 09, 2009

I don't want to eat what Craig eats. It appears to make you grumpy.

CB
Jul 11, 2009

Ground flaxseed goes rancid in no time. Take the seeds whole and grind them yourself.

Craig
Jul 11, 2009

You really need to check your nutritional consultants credentials as she appears to be an imbecile.

Craig
Jul 11, 2009

Complex carbs breaking down slowly has absolutely nothing to do with why marathon runners eat it the night before a race. The reason they do that is to make sure their bodies' reserves of glycogen are full. The speed at which carbs are digested has nothing at all to do with how effective they are at replenishing glycogen, given that length of time. Stick to pitching tents and leave the nutrition to the experts.

Craig
Jul 11, 2009

Most retards who try their hand at being nutritionists these days are absolutely obsessed by carbohydrates. It's laughable that the only advice you have to offer is whether to eat simple or complex carbs. Here's a few facts for you about carbohydrates. 1) The human body can survive indefinitely with a bare minimum of carbs (even none) whereas eliminating protein or fat will result in certain death. 2) The diet our bodies evolved to eat and thus the one most conducive to good health consists of around 35% carbs, comprised from large amounts of vegetation and a moderate amount of fruit. 3) ALL the cereal grains you idiots are obsessed with are inedible in their natural state and are only made edible by heavy mechanical processing. I'm reasonably sure they didn't have the ability to process food when Palaeolithic humans were around and therefore these foods are ill suited to human consumption (regardless of how many dumbasses would claim otherwise).

ellen
Jul 24, 2008

Cheddar can go 4-5 days w/o refrigeration, it just gets oily and melty, but still tastes good (makes the best mac and cheese)

JP
Jul 16, 2008

These are great recipes! One question though, how do you keep the cheese in the Tuna recipe cold on a muli-day trip?

JP
Jul 16, 2008

These are great recipes! One question though, how do you keep the cheese in the Tuna recipe cold on a muli-day trip?

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