Why am I so tired?

After long hikes or backpacking trips, why do I always feel exhausted two days later?

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The first day after a strenuous hike or backpacking trip, we feel fine. It’s not until the second day that we feel fatigued and sluggish. Why is this and what can be done?

Submitted by – Mark, Huntington Beach, CA


Your complaint is a common one, but not one easily answered. For one thing, fatigue is sort of like pain—it usually signifies something at least slightly unique to the individual. The most common causes of fatigue, as you probably know, are lack of sleep and lack of adequate nutrition.

For backpackers, most of us have enough stored energy to meet the demands of the first day on the trail. But by the second day, we’ve started to dig deep into our internal power supply, and thus the pooped out feeling. A few things to think about: Are you getting enough protein on the trail? Typically our trail food is light on protein, and our muscles can’t bounce back without it. (Editor’s Note: Shoot for 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein/pound of body weight/day for recreational athletes, or 0.6 to 0.9 grams for competitive athletes or those trying to build muscle.) Are you staying hydrated? Low water equals low energy. Your urine should be nearly clear. Are you sleeping well enough on the first night? Perhaps you need a better pad or pillow. And are you staying in shape in-between trips? All of these things can reduce your fatigue and keep you feeling energized. —Buck