Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor adventures. You don’t need a bunch of expensive equipment or training to go on a hike, and it’s incredibly satisfying when you finally reach the end of your trek – not to mention it’s a great workout too!
If you’re anything like me, you might be tempted to skip breakfast, grab a muesli bar, and down a cup of coffee before setting off – but take it from me, you’ll have a MUCH better time hiking if you take the time to properly fuel your body beforehand with nutritious foods.
Here are 5 great foods to eat before your next long hike:
What To Eat Before A Long Hike
Eggs are a popular breakfast food, and they have benefits for anyone about to go on a long hike. Including eggs with a meal that is mainly carbohydrates will decrease the damage to your muscles from high-intensity physical exercise (like hiking) and improve your recovery afterwards.
Eggs are also proven to have a higher index of satiety than most cereals and other breakfast options. Higher satiety means that you’ll feel fuller for longer, and you won’t feel the need to stop so often for snack breaks while on the trail.
Even when you aren’t hiking, oatmeal is simply a great breakfast option any day of the week. Since oatmeal has a high carbohydrate and high fiber content, it’s going to provide you with a lot of good energy throughout your hike. If you don’t like plain oatmeal, you can add ingredients like brown sugar, honey, and some fruit to liven it up.
Mixing in flaxseed, chia seeds, and even a scoop of peanut butter can add some extra protein to your oatmeal. When you have a hearty oatmeal breakfast, you’ll have a lot of fuel in the tank to tackle a long hike.
READ MORE: Essential Hiking Gear for Beginners: 5 Items You Absolutely Need For Your First Hike
Any experienced hiker will tell you that protein is incredibly important. This is because protein increases your metabolism, as more energy is needed to break it down, and protein also helps to repair the tired muscles you will inevitably get while hiking for a long time.
So, if you want to minimize how sore your muscles become during/after your hike, consider eating some lean cuts of meat like fish, turkey, or chicken. If you’re stuck on meal ideas, here are plenty of healthier recipes to try that replace beef and pork with lean meats.
For those all-day hikes, pasta is an excellent source of carbohydrates that will give you a lot of solid fuel to burn throughout your journey. Trying adding one of the lean protein options mentioned earlier (chicken, fish, etc.) along with a variety of vegetables to make a truly optimized pre-hike meal.
To make your pasta dish healthier, avoid sauces that are too creamy. Go with a light sauce that doesn’t include any butter or cream, which can weigh down your stomach and make you feel nauseous after physical activity.
Nutrition bars are an excellent choice if you’re short on time and need a reliable source of energy before your hike.
Make sure you look at the packaging of your selection to check that it actually has some nutritional value and isn’t just a cleverly branded confectionery bar. Avoid nutrition bars with too many artificial ingredients and look for those with high amounts of carbohydrates and proteins, but fewer sugars.
Nutrition bars aren’t just for before your hike, either: pack them for a mid-hike snack and a little pick-me-up on the trail.
READ MORE: Packing For A Day Hike: The Ultimate Day Hike Packing List
Foods To Avoid Before A Long Hike
Generally, you want to avoid eating anything considered unhealthy before your hike. This includes things like fast food burgers and other greasy, high-fat foods that are going to convert into energy less efficiently. While these foods will make you feel full in the short term, the energy you get from them won’t last, and you’ll crash with exhaustion during your hiking adventure. Not ideal!
Also be sure to avoid cheese, milk, and other dairy products, which digest slowly and weigh down your stomach while hiking.
Eating the right pre-hike food is essential for giving you the slow-burning energy you need to sustain the journey ahead of you.
No matter how determined or fit you are, trying to go on a hike without the right fuel in your body won’t be a pleasant experience. You really need to make sure that you consume an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates and lean protein before you set out in order to set yourself up for a successful and enjoyable hike.