There’s no doubt hiking is great for your health, wellbeing and general fitness but it can be less so if you use it as an excuse to eat bad foods. By bad foods I mean processed, packaged or high-sugar treats full of nasty additives.
When I did a lot of hiking a few years ago, I lost weight fast and often felt tired. I told myself that I was just a hiker (not an athlete) so I didn’t need to worry about nutrition. Instead, I indulged in jelly babies, chocolate and store-bought muesli bars. Two things happened. Firstly, when my months of training ended, I found it hard to give up those sugary treats and quickly got fat. Secondly, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a complex condition I won’t blame entirely on my binges but they sure didn’t help.
I’ve learnt a bit about exercise nutrition since then. One of the basic lessons being, when you go for a long or challenging hike you will need some energy but you’ll do better to make it good, natural energy.
Nuts, seeds and natural trail mixes are great for energy on a hike. Bananas are naturally good too. Tahini or peanut butter on healthy bread will also get you through. But what if you have allergies or get bored with nuts and seeds? Why not try experimenting with different kinds of natural whole foods. Hard-boiled eggs are easy to pre-prepare and carry. Homemade hummus packed with high protein chickpeas is a great option I’ve been using lately. Hummus tastes great with carrots, apples, corn or rice cakes or good old Ryvita.
For something a bit more decadent though, try this excellent, adaptable recipe called the Ultimate Energy Bar Formula I recently found on a website my husband is hooked on, No Meat Athlete. If you have allergies or are eliminating particular foods, you can easily adapt the formula to suit your needs.
We made a batch on the weekend and our version came out well. After a trail run and surf, Shane happily reported that he was still ‘full of beans’ (in a good way). Be wary though – while natural and preservative free, these bars are a high-energy treat. So be aware of the nutritional value of the ingredients you put in them and go easy eating them when you hike. Like your legs on the day, these bars will go a long way!
1 can of black beans/frijoles
½ cup of almond butter
¼ cup of agave nectar
½ a mashed banana
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
1½ cup of oats
½ cup of rice protein powder
½ cup of pea protein powder
1 cup of mixed shredded coconut, raisins, chopped fresh dates and cacao nibs. Yum!
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