Aug 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm #1306615
I just returned from a solo in the Sierra and was musing on food much of the way. While not the hardest trip or mileage I've done, it was hard enough. Roughly 16 miles/day for two days (8 hours of solid hiking/day), each day including Kearsarge Pass, Glen Pass, and Rae Col, with a an additional trip up to the top and down Sixty Lakes Col on day 1.
Comparing the pages of nutrition advice on the current "How to do 20 miles/day thread" here on BPL with my own nutrition experiences over the last two days, I have to wonder about a few things…
I only ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner on day 1. I only ate breakfast on day 2 (no snacks or meals until I finished and reached my car).
I was fine.
Breakfast, Day 1: coffee, apple, Lara bar, a handful of nuts.
Lunch, Day 1: two slices sprouted wheat bread, 1 avocado, 1 tomato, ~1-2 ounces of Fritos.
Dinner, Day 1: 1 package ramen with 1 cup spinach and one hard boiled egg, 1 Lara bar.
Breakfast, Day 2: coffee, Clif bar, ~2 ounces of trail mx.
That's it. By the numbers, I suspect most people would say I should've bonked, and bonked REAL hard.
Now this raises a big question in my mind about fat metabolism and fasted exercising, something the "paleo" camp advocates. Most of my exercise is done fasted, so maybe I'm pretty good at the fat metabolizing…
I've found myself asking a lot of questions:
I understand the need for fueling during strenuous and long endurance events, but for moderate, all-day activities, are we over eating?
Have we been trained to fear the slightest sign of hunger?
Have people trained their bodies through constant snacking to not metabolize fat and need a constant suger/carb drip?
Have average hikers been co-opted by the abundance of sport nutrition info out there, becoming overly concerned with a constant "caloric drip" or need for food?
It seems that the sports snack industry in this country would be more than happy to convince everyone they need 1 gel, a bar, some cubes, or some other snack every hour of the day…
So what happened to breakfast, lunch, and dinner? And plain water? It worked for me when I did 8 hour shifts loading trucks at a hardware store. It worked for me during years of construction and doing demolition for 8 hours/day in the sun. And it still seems to work for a lot of people…
I know nutrition is a very subjective topic, but I increasingly find myself questioning whether the average athlete/hiker has been sold a bill of goods concerning sports food and electrolyte replacement.
Ed. grammar…Aug 16, 2013 at 8:12 pm #2015981
I'm pretty much with you here. I don't even eat lunch. I eat a small breakfast, snack a bit throughout the day (generally) on some nuts and dried cherries/cranberries, and then have dinner (used to be a Mary Jane's dehydrated meal followed by some nice single malt, now it's a ProBar Meal bar). I don't eat much while I'm hiking because I don't feel hungry, simple as that. Mostly water, sometimes a NUUN tablet in the water during the day.Aug 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm #2015990
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> find myself questioning whether the average athlete/hiker has been sold a bill of
> goods concerning sports food and electrolyte replacement.
What's more, some in the the corporate world would love to charge for the bill as well.
Reality is that those companies are in business to SELL you what they have. That's THEIR need, their whole existance. What your need is simply does not matter to them, as long as you BUY.
The consumer needs to think for himself instead. Fortunately for the commercial world, few can be bothered. If people only bought what they really need, half of American industry would die. Of course, an awful lot of unproductive jobs would disappear as well.
CheersAug 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm #2016000
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Maybe as going to a slow carb or paleo diet takes some getting used to, so maybe your body is simply used to it. The Fritos had some serious kcals however (students can do calorimeter experiments on those). Caveman did not have pasta, chips, or pizza, but also no beer, wine, etc., bringing up another dilemma…Aug 17, 2013 at 3:41 am #2016039
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
"…Caveman did not have pasta, chips, or pizza, but also no beer, wine, etc., bringing up another dilemma…"
I'm not sure on that. Beer, probably true. But a wet pouch full of grain sounds like starters for sure. Beer may have changed a lot, but it started as mead. Only the grinding, cooking, filtering, and sealing into a container have changed. And it took christian monks to formalize that.
Pasta? Well, it would have started as wheat flour and water mixed, cut and dried. A way of packaging flour.
Wine? They had that from before the greeks invented "civilization." Spoiled grapes get pretty heady. Apples, peaches, plums, etc all have some alcohol in them when ripe. Even the cows on the farm would get a bit tipsy eating rotting fallen apples out of the orchard. As I remember, every society has had technology enough to make some sort of alcoholic drink…even paleolithic ones since it occurs in all ripe fruits. Ha, those guys knew how to party!
Frito's? Try ground cornmeal, salt, and water as a dough, fry dough strips till crunchy at a low heat. Pizza? I believe they used a wheat flour dough and let it sit for a couple or three days. Yeast came from the air. Cooking on a rock makes a good shell. Spoiled milk of any kind makes cheese. Other types of chips were simply dehydrated and/or fried veggies, etc. (I make home made potatoe chips all the time. Better'n bagged.)
Seriously, the things you mention are easily done without any real technology. Most foods today are the same we have always had. The preservation methodes have changed. We think of Fritoes as a luxury snack chip. The Amerindians would easily make non-fried versions. Corn, ground usually, was their staple grain, like wheat was to Europeans. Frying in oil (I won't mention what *kind* of oil) is a simple step. Dehydrating/salting them are really preservation methodes.Aug 17, 2013 at 4:58 am #2016049
I think you are comparing apples and oranges. Most of the threads regarding nutrition are in the context of
1) people that are doing high mile days.
2) people that are bonk while doing a less aggressive day.
In your case, 16 mile days are probably not pushing your system all that hard. Compare that to the R2R2R trip and its a whole different animal and needs. (I would love to see the numbers that claim you should have bonked.).Second, your body is used to this kind of physical activity and I do believe that your body learns to draw on fat stores more effectively when it is called to do so repetitively. So I guess I wouldn't expect you to have had any problems. Go do the same trip at 30mpd and you likely would have seen some adverse effects from that strategy. (This is no different than do a 20 mile run without eating, I'm sure you have done that in the past.).
Second,, in my mind it is helpful to find a strategy (nutritional or otherwise) that is valid when pushed well beyond the desired window. For example, the BLD eating that you talked about. Would it work for 30,40,50 mpd? If the answer is no then it is lacking something. Would it matter for 99% of backpackers that do less than 20 mile days, no it wouldn't? But those that do push the limits a bit it is important to have a strategy that can be scaled and I doubt you would have done a breakfast, lunch and dinner strategy on the R2R2R.
Finally, as far as what you eat I agree with much of what you wrote. I do believe in constantly eating, there is a sound basis for that but I do believe hikers eat too much on short duration trips and don't train their bodies to use the most efficient energy source possible, their own fat. And while I am a huge believe in dripping in the carbs I think it is a bunch of hype that it has to be this kind of carbs or you bonk etc. I have done many very long days eating nothing but little Chocolate donuts and Oreos loaded with nasty sugar. And it worked. I purposely replaced my Malto with Koolaid for a large part of a day on a very aggressive hike and it worked. So while I love my Malto, I haven't dropped dead when it hasn't been available either. And since I make my own Malto for less than $2/lb, it is a very affordable form of energy. I am way too cheap to spend the money on Hammer Perpetuem which is essentially the same product but with a much fancier name.
One last thing. I know for a fact what effect electrolyte had on me once I pushed beyond 30 mile days. Again, I wouldn't have expected a need on a short duration trip like you did and I also believe there are huge variations in individuals on the benefit. But in my case I have enough experience both before and after I started taking them to have proven their effectiveness for myself. YMMV.Aug 17, 2013 at 8:13 am #2016084
I get you Greg, I know exactly where you're coming from. And yes, on our R2R2R I likely would've been in bad shape trying to eat only breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What I'm really wondering about is how much the heavy caloric needs of ultra running or more intense endurance sports have been pushed on the average athlete or casual hiker.
The constant snacking is probably completely unnecessary for most, but we've trained our bodies (and/or our brains) to think we need it…and possibly even require it.Aug 17, 2013 at 8:16 am #2016086
I tank up and go. Not a big snacker. This works well for me unless it is really hot out. Then I have to eat smaller, more often or else I feel sick and bonk even on shorter hikes. If temps are mild I forget to eat sometimes and still do just fine. At home I usually eat twice a day and not much snacking.Aug 17, 2013 at 9:00 am #2016094
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
I feel bloated and sluggish when I constantly snack. Demographically speaking, I am in the group marketed to by gels and bars and electrolyte mixes, but athletically speaking, I'm not doing anything hard enough to really need the every-hour approach, and physiologically speaking, I don't seem prone to bonking unless I do something I know I shouldn't (for me that would be skipping breakfast) and then really push. I think I'm probably not an outlier and that most people could probably do with less frequent snacking and be fine. Also, is a bonk really so bad? Take the break, get some sugar in you, feel better, get going. Happened sometimes post-rugby match. I made sure to keep an apple in my kit bag.Aug 17, 2013 at 10:16 am #2016109
"The constant snacking is probably completely unnecessary for most, but we've trained our bodies (and/or our brains) to think we need it…and possibly even require it."
I would even go further than that. If you don't push your systems every now and then a bit out of their comfort zone then they won't develop for use in times when they are needed.Aug 17, 2013 at 10:59 am #2016118
For a few days i'm usually not that hungry.. small breakfast and snacks through lunch, then a small-moderate dinner are fine. spend more than 4-5 days out and you start requiring a lot more to keep up. After that you start eating whatever is not tied out.Aug 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm #2016151
I dont know about the average hiker.
I have bonked. But I also tend to push myself harder than most probably at times.
(I used to race to the top of mountains, and then collapse on top).
What I found eventually was slow and steady wins,…. every time, guaranteed. Slower people Id pass while I was rushing uphill, passed me up again while I was resting.
I find if you are pushing hard enough you have to take breaks while going uphill, you will probably lose all the time you you saved while resting.
I also know I feel far less tired at the end of the day with the slower steady pace. I dont know why this is, but it is. Its critical for doing high miles for me.Aug 17, 2013 at 2:34 pm #2016160
What you burn is largely tied to your HR. In an aerobic state, you're burning fat and carbs (ratio varies depending on what your body is trained for). At the point you go anaerobic (which is only maintainable for a very short time….not even 3 miles) you are essentially burning 100% carbs. The closer you are to being anaerobic the higher the percentage of carbs you're burning. Walking 2,3, or even 4 mph is going to be aerobic for pretty much anyone and you'll be burning a fair amount of fat. If you're running at 12 mph (5 min miles) for a marathon, you'll be running on mostly carbs and will have to snack often because your bodies glycogen storage is limited. Compare that with the amount of fat most people are storing and you can see why exercising at a low level doesn't require frequent snacking. Of course if you've trained your body to eat hourly or to depend heavily on carbs you may feel like you need to snack, even if you really don't.Aug 19, 2013 at 9:41 am #2016572
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is all I eat. I used to have to supplement between meals but found it was because I was eating too many carbs and not enough protein/fat. I changed my ratios and now my meals last me.Aug 20, 2013 at 9:02 pm #2017123
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Good post, Craig.
I think it is in everyone's head and the tendency today for people to over think, over worry, and over analyze backpacking. Of course one needs to be in hiking shape.
The only time I "bonk" is when I get too little sleep the days before a trip — usually when I have been flying coast to coast right before a trip.
I have hiked with Craig and we pretty much eat a light breakfast, a couple snacks during the day when I insist on a water halt, and then we have dinner.
A few years ago we did a 3 day trip and most people would say we should have bonked and maybe died from too little food and no sport drinks, as we only had water.
Day 1: 14 miles with 9,000 foot elevation gain.
Day 2: 24 miles
Day 3: 1/2 day hike of 13 miles. We did cheat on this day since it was over 100F, I bought a Popsicle near the end of the hike :)Aug 21, 2013 at 3:29 am #2017212
@m-lLocale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
I have to agree that with short stints into the woods you don't need much food. We can go a week without eating also.Aug 26, 2013 at 7:11 pm #2018849
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
I just did a trip where we ate just breakfast, lunch and dinner, not a lot of snacking. This was because we had to hang our food in camp so even if we had a short day, our food was out of reach. If it was a long day, we didn't stop very often so there was little chance for much snacking on the trail.
I made an error with my food prep and had less food than I thought. So my meals were calorie dense but smaller than normal in volume. I felt fine on small volume. I do think I tend to eat more than I need a lot of the times.
This year I have been lifting weights twice a week (lifting heavy) and doing 15 minute all-out sprints twice a week (22sec sprint and 1.5min rest on an exercise bike). For all these work-outs I did them fasted or only with a very small meal (half a banana and spoon of almond butter, for example). I actually felt on this last trip that when I started to get hungry something kicked in and I got really strong and fast. Like I had trained my body that when I'm hungry it better be strong and do a lot of exertion if it wants to eat anything.
I also noticed that on the days when we hiked in berry-filled canyons I felt a lot less strong and energetic when I shoveled a steady drip of thimble and huckleberries into my gullet.Sep 8, 2013 at 12:41 am #2022890
@dmusasheLocale: Pacific Northwest
I just eat when I'm hungry. It seems to have always worked for me :)
Some days I'm hungrier than others… Some meals are bigger than others and I will feel the need to snack less after them and some days are harder hiking than others, and I will usually get hungrier on those days.
I am of the opinion that your body will tell you exactly what it needs nutritionally and it will do that through hunger, thirst, and food cravings. But not everyone is going to agree with me.
What I will say with relative confidence (as Chris W mentioned above) is that you will be burning fat all day when you are hiking strenuously. Even thin people have a lot more fat reserves than they think, and your body will be burning this. It will also tap into glycogen stores quite readily to give you a boost. Your body usually doesn't just burn any one of these calorie sources alone (with some exceptions). It will burn a combination of them if it can during regular aerobic activity.
You will often hear that thru-hikers start off their hikes eating 1.5 – 2 lbs of food per day. Ask many of these same hikers how much they are eating 2 months later and it is often 3 – 4 lbs of food per day. It's rather obvious what happened, right? Most of their readily available fat stores had been tapped and now nearly all of the calories need to come from ingested food each day. (To be fair, they are most likely hiking longer days too, but I don't think this increase in miles accounts for the entire increase in caloric consumption each day.)
I doubt that on most 1-night to week long trips any of us gets even close to this point, so it's not surprising that so many people can get by on such small amounts of food during short trips (like 1.4 lbs of food per day, which is just crazy low to me).
Of course, nutritional needs will vary widely depending on circumstances, so it's kind of like shooting at a moving target…
Which is why, in the end, I just let my body do all the work and tell me what it needs:
So I just end up eating when I'm hungry :)
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.