- Jul 14, 2015 at 10:24 am #1330733Robert JusticeBPL Member
@rjustice7Locale: Central Texas Hill Country
I've been on the Atkins diet (phase 1) where you limit your carbohydrates to about 20 a day. Soon my friends and I will be backpacking the Gila Wilderness, Aug 31st to Sept 5th. It will be my first trip since I've started this eating plan.
How likely is it that I can keep up my diet on this trip? I feel like I'll probably need the extra carbs and either way I'll probably still drop weight even eating high carb foods but I want to look at keeping true to what I'm doing.
Does anyone know of a meal company that makes meals high protein and low carb backpacking meals? It it even feasible in your opinions?
-RobJul 14, 2015 at 11:49 am #2214622
First take a look at the interesting experiment documented below:
Yes it is not Atkins (a high protein diet – I won't go into the difference between Atkins and Ketogenic diets, there are a lot of great resources out there) but a Ketogenic diet. They are both low carb. And the endurance activity is ultrarunning not backpacking. Nonetheless a very worthwhile read and a very well documented, data based account.
Now, I've personally been on a ketogenic diet for about two months now – yes I've been monitoring my blood ketones to ensure I am in nutritional ketosis. I'm now down to about 20 g of carb a day. I've also been hiking/backpacking and had the same concerns as you.
Two data points:
One 20 mile day hike (5500 ft + total elevation gain ) with less than 20 g carb ingested the entire hike. Almost no carbs at post hike dinner either and pretty low protein. I felt fine.
One overnight weekend backpacking trip at altitude covering almost 10 miles each day (~3000 ft elevation gain each day) with less than 20 g carb ingested both days. Never felt hungry.
I should note that being on a ketogenic diet I take a LOT of fat: avocado, bacon, olive oil, coconut in various forms including oil. Good news is that the oils and bacon are suitable for extended backpacking trips. Obviously avocado is not, neither is heavy cream.
One consequence of a ketogenic diet is that the body tens to dump sodium, potassium and other minerals. I take magnesium supplements and drink salty broths to replenish the minerals to avoid cramping and other issues. Bouillon cubes are great on hikes. Better than any gatorade or other "sports drinks" at preventing cramps. Trust me: I have a long history of bad cramps on runs and hikes and I've tried them all!! Nothing works like the bouillon cubes! I've even just added a cube to my drinking water while hiking to keep from cramping.
For me this is just an experiment and I've not yet been on extended trips but I do plan to soon. Thus far I see no impact on my hiking ability or running (I'm a slow, endurance runner NOT a speedster!). Studies suggest that most extended endurance activity can be supported by burning fat: my experience has held this up (experiment of one!). To fuel sustained sprints and other intense activity, the body requires carbs. Again, you can read the extensive literature on this topic. Tim Noakes is a life long runner and an exercise physiologist and medical researcher who has many great youtube lectures that delve into all the theory and practice. You can look him up at:
Also check out: Low Carb Down Under at:
My long winded $ 0.02. YMMV……Jul 14, 2015 at 12:17 pm #2214626Katherine .BPL Member
like the above, I'd pack in the fats. (and hey, great caloric density)
will you have a chance to do a long day hike or an overnighter before then? Could give you some feedback on how you feel exerting yourself on that diet.Jul 14, 2015 at 3:32 pm #2214671
Highly biased opinion:
Diet fads are OK in front of the TV. They rarely work in the field when you are working hard. Usually totally detached from reality.
CheersJul 14, 2015 at 4:18 pm #2214690
Caffin as usual offers his pithy response – he's so often right about so much.
But in this case the extinguished moderator needs to moderate his own response. ;) Roger, you know not what you're so dismissive of – keep an open mind Mr Moderator!
There is a range of realities out there – BPL meets the REAL world.
For some people with certain conditions, Low carb is not a "fad" but a medical or health necessity. Please educate yourself – might help you some day.Jul 14, 2015 at 9:24 pm #2214772Robert JusticeBPL Member
@rjustice7Locale: Central Texas Hill Country
Thank you Ped Estrian, that was some good information. I'll have to read that article. I too am at 20 grams of carbs per day, mostly obtained through green veggies, cheese, and some nuts here and there (lots of protein of course). I've dropped 65 lbs since February, and I'm excited to see how hiking will aid me in my goals, it's already something I love so much. I'll definitely keep the fat in mind on the trail. Do you put your own meals together or have you found any meal provider that offers high protein, low carb meals?
Katherine I have not yet been on an extended trip or even an overnight since I've started this, just a few day hikes. I live in Central Texas and the heat is awful this time of year. My plan is to hike a 7.5 mile trail at a nearby state park twice so I put in 15 miles. I'm going to do it in the evening to avoid the heat, and I'll hike into the night as well and then camp in the primitive camping area. I may do the hike again in the early morning, just the 7.5 depending on how squirrely I'm feeling.Jul 15, 2015 at 10:26 am #2214852Katherine .BPL Member
this may be of additional interest:Jul 15, 2015 at 10:41 pm #2215060Yak AttackBPL Member
@yakLocale: IN, USA
Type-1 diabetic here, so definitely interested in this conversation…Jul 15, 2015 at 11:41 pm #2215065
>> Do you put your own meals together or have you found any meal provider that offers high
>> protein, low carb meals?
I've always put together my own meals for backpacking which makes it easy for me to adapt my food to my dietary needs and preferences. I buy bulk dehydrated vegetables, beans, soy protein from Harmony House (NFI – No Financial Interest, just a very satisfied customer) and make up blends for each dinner, packed separately. I re-hydrate each dinner along with some beef jerky etc in some hot water (20-30 minutes in a cozy), add some Olive oil, or coconut oil or Ghee (clarified butter used in South Asian cooking – very shelf stable at room temperature). I might add some dried beans or some bouillon cubes or any other spices etc to the cook pot. Makes a delicious, soupy meal that's also very satisfying. Best part is I know exactly what went into each dinner. Before I was on a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet, I would've added some couscous or instant rice etc to the above soup pot. Now I don't but just up the amount of added fat.
Lunches consist of peanut or almond butter and beef sticks or jerky or summer sausage. Being LCHF does limit one's options. The first day on the trail, I might carry in an avocado.
Breakfast is pre-cooked bacon (keeps for 3-4 days on the trail), nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, whole milk powder (in very limited quantities), some coconut flakes and/or oil. The challenge is to get enough fats. Turns out the body is most sensitive to carbs first thing in the morning so best to avoid carb heavy foods at first meal of the day. Once you've been moving a while, it might be OK to take in more carbs. Again you'll know as you experiment what works best for you.
As long as I take in a sufficient amount of fat, I feel completely full and can hike for hours without hunger or any discomfort. More on this in my post below.Jul 16, 2015 at 12:03 am #2215066
>> this may be of additional interest:
That's a great post by Andrew! Thanks for sharing it as I had missed seeing it and I read his blog regularly!
It's interesting that Andrew cites Jonathan Savage's Ketogenic experiment – he's extremely diligent about capturing all the details about his experience!
And of course Stephen Phinney who's been doing research in the LCHF field for several decades – literally a lone voice in the wilderness for a long time.
I've been hanging around ultra runners and running/hiking long distances for several years now. I'd keep hearing about this idea of "training your metabolism". It was described as training the body to perform efficiently without ingesting a lot of food. At some point during long runs, the body just stops processing additional calories which results in stomach distress or nausea or vomiting. It takes most runners some time to figure out just how many calories to ingest while on the run and avoid bonking (too few calories) or throwing up (too many calories).
So I started to train myself to eat before a long hike/run and then not eat anything at all for up to 5-6 hours of hiking/running. For me this meant hiking/running 12-25 miles at a decent pace with significant elevation gain (3000 – 8000 ft or more). I've been doing this now for about two years. The stored glycogen stores (about 2000+ kcals) run out at some point and with sufficient "training" the body starts to burn fat. This adaptation does take some time; at first I would bonk after 4 hours or so of activity.
This was well before my Ketogenic experiment. I believe this prior training helped me transition much more easily to the Ketogenic diet as my body was already used to "burning fat" during extended endurance activity.Jul 16, 2015 at 4:03 am #2215073
> the extinguished moderator
That's a new one. I like it. Very witty. :-)
> For some people with certain conditions, Low carb is not a "fad" but a medical or
> health necessity.
Oh, for sure, but that 'necessity' is almost always designed around a sedentary suburban life style. When you change to a relatively high-energy output for 8 hours a day, that 'necessity' changes fast. You need a LOT more calories, and carbs are the preferred route for that.
Yes, I could give you an extended lecture on metabolic needs, food calories and the consequances of going into hypoglycemic shock, but I won't. I will instead stay fairly pithy.
I do remember discussing food needs with one guy who reckoned he could travel on about 400 g dry wt of food per day. Not possible. Asking questions revealed that he normally lost somewhere around 500 – 600 g of body wt per day when doing this. Ah well, as a form of diet or wt reduction, I guess that works.
CheersJul 16, 2015 at 4:12 pm #2215233Terry SparksBPL Member
@firebugLocale: Santa Barbara County Coast
Unless the OP is also diabetic, hiking on the Atkins diet for a week isn't going to cause him to go into hypoglycemic shock. What will happen is he will turn his body fat into keytones, (not to be confused with keytoacidosis) which is a perfectly good source of energy for his body. He may tire sooner than normal and may feel the "bonks" but, he's in no danger of an insulin/blood sugar level disparity that would cause hypoglycemic shock. Personally I hope he will modify or suspend his Atkins Diet while on the trail, he cam still lose some fat from the increased calorie burn and enjoy his hike too.Jul 16, 2015 at 11:36 pm #2215319
I too doubt he would go into hypoglycemic shock, but then I never suggested that he would.
By the way, the word you want is ketones, not keytones. The latter are found on mobile phones.
CheersJul 17, 2015 at 2:50 pm #2215449Terry SparksBPL Member
@firebugLocale: Santa Barbara County Coast
You're right, you didn't say the OP would go into hypoglycemic shock, you only suggested it. You also must feel better now that you found a word that my computer changed in "auto correct".
Hike On!Jul 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm #2215456Ralph BurgessBPL Member
"By the way, the word you want is ketones, not keytones. The latter are found on mobile phones."
I always wanted to start a band called "RORI and the Ketones".Jul 17, 2015 at 3:42 pm #2215457Anonymous
"By the way, the word you want is ketones, not keytones. The latter are found on mobile phones."
Careful, Roger. That kind of comment could get you banned. ;0)Jul 18, 2015 at 2:40 am #2215538
Thank you Tom.Jul 18, 2015 at 8:40 pm #2215658Ed TBPL Member
The Atkins diet sounds like a bad enough idea as is without adding continued strenuous activity and the elements into the mix.Jul 19, 2015 at 9:58 am #2215703Aubrey W. BogardBPL Member
Kudos to you for sticking to your diet, whatever your motivations might be. Unfortunately dietary topics tend to evolve rapidly into polarized, non-constructive banter, much like politics and religion.
At a risk of offending the non-believers, for a low-carb approach, you might search threads on BPL or Google regarding a Paleo philosophy. I believe that there are some pre-packaged Paleo meals, which will be close to your Atkins in terms of carb intake.
"Fad" or not, it works for me. Hike your own hike.Jul 27, 2015 at 7:41 pm #2217404Anonymous
"Thank you Tom."
:o))Aug 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm #2220031Jennifer MitolBPL Member
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
OK, here is what I did:
about 6 weeks before my trip I started with the low-carb diet for health and for weight loss (I needed to lose about 50-60 pounds). After about a month I started adding a "cheat meal" once a week to increase metabolism. Basically I was teaching my body to burn all that stored fat instead of carbs. Apparently a fit male has about 40,000 calories of fat available as fuel at any given time, but you can only store (and have available) 2000 calories of carbs. This is why we have to eat constantly while hiking! But if you can burn the fat you are already carrying….and some of us carry a whole lot!…then you can just use what you already have (and yes, even you thin guys have 40,000 calories available) instead of carrying a ton of food with you all the time as well. But I digress…
Now, FYI, I'm doing this under the supervision and guidance of a fellow physical therapist with a research interest in high-performance diets – and basically I just ate what he told me I could eat. I was NOT trying to go full-on ketogenic.
Now, during my trip I fasted in the morning – I didn't eat anything until about noon, maybe 1p (sometimes I was too hungry and actually DID eat some nuts in the morning, about 10am or so – things like Brazil nuts or Macadamia nuts, but not often). Lunch consisted of some salami and good cheese, more nuts. I could start eating carbs after 3p – but really I didn't eat anything until dinner time, when I would really eat a lot of carbs – mashed potatoes, Ramen noodles, thai peanut noodle, etc. This was for recovery and to replenish glycogen stores overnight. If my trip were shorter (say a long weekend, or 5-6 days) I would NOT eat the carbs at night – this was just because of the extended nature of the trip (37 days).
My food bag weighed SIGNIFICANTLY less than those of my companions: no breakfast, teeny lunch, and pretty much no snacks. I was never hungry, I never felt the need to pig out in towns, and I never developed a "hiker hunger" that seems to plague us all. I also lost nearly 40 pounds (which I was TRYING to do, by the way!) and literally inches from my body. I'll have exact measurements by Tuesday once I meet with my colleague about it (we took tons of measurements right before I left: body fat percentage, H2O weight, circumferential measurements of calf, thigh, hips, waist, chest, upper arm).
Anyway – I had tons of energy, I never felt the need to take a nap during the day, I never bonked AT ALL (which I usually do) even on 20 mile days, and my pack was that much lighter because I just didn't need to bring much food with me. Even my companions – who teased me about the risk of my raiding their food bags overnight – were duly impressed with my performance.Aug 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm #2220035idesterBPL Member
@doug-iLocale: The Cascades
Very impressive. Is this something you plan to continue, and if so, how will you alter it for being more sedentary now?Aug 9, 2015 at 7:20 pm #2220038Anonymous
"do remember discussing food needs with one guy who reckoned he could travel on about 400 g dry wt of food per day. Not possible. Asking questions revealed that he normally lost somewhere around 500 – 600 g of body wt per day when doing this. Ah well, as a form of diet or wt reduction, I guess that works."
It works just fine for either short high mileage trips, or slightly longer lower mileage trips, until you run out of useable body fat, as long as you have adequate carbs to feed the Krebs Cycle. Speaking from personal experience here, I do have a bit of it myself, Roger, I do just fine on slightly over 500 grams of food/day up to 8-9 days of relatively strenuous, relatively high altitude hiking with average mileage of ~10/day and the occasional 14-18 mile day thrown in as the situation demands. I typically lose about 1/2 body fat/day on my trips. Malto will tell you pretty much the same thing, based on his extensive experience at higher mileages and intensities, so it's not just an anomalie. Rather, it's basic human physiology, how the body has evolved to function over the millennia. Clearly, it's not the only way, for the body has evolved to function under many different sets of physiological conditions, hence ketosis, to mention one fallback system for supplying energy. But it is definitely a very effective way of hiking with minimal dietary food to carry. One more way to go lighter. Eat less be more, I guess you could say. ;0))Aug 9, 2015 at 7:34 pm #2220042Hiking MaltoBPL Member
I love the "I hiked 20 miles one day and did fine on no food". Well go do it tomorrow, and the next day and the next day and report back. (There is a huge difference between a single day and multiday events.) Even on short duration trips there will be a point where your body can not supply the energy from fat and protein. Is that 10mpd? 12? 20? That will vary by individual depending on how much their body is trained to supply energy from these sources. While it may work for one, it may or not work for all.Aug 9, 2015 at 7:53 pm #2220045Anonymous
"This was for recovery and to replenish glycogen stores overnight. If my trip were shorter (say a long weekend, or 5-6 days) I would NOT eat the carbs at night – this was just because of the extended nature of the trip (37 days)."
First off, congratulations on everything you accomplished, which was pretty much everything you set out to accomplish, and had a helluva good time in the bargain.
So, basically, you were hiking primarily on stored glycogen, replenished overnight, and body fat, plus carried carbs for glycogen replenishment, protein, and a bit of supplemental fat. What a finely optimized diet, as your results attest.
I am intrigued by one secondary statement: "If my trip were shorter (say a long weekend, or 5-6 days) I would NOT eat the carbs at night"
The long weekend part I can understand, if the mileage/intensity were not too high, because your stored glycogen going into the trip would likely be sufficient for 2-3 mellow days. But I am curious as to where you would get the glucose to support fat catabolism efficiently on a 5-6 day trip, where you would very likely exhaust your initial supply of glycogen before the trip was over. Would you purposely go ketogenic? Rely on synthesis of glycogen from muscle protein? Or? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, as I am always trying to optimize my diet further, and the opportunity to plug into the knowledge base and experience of someone like yourself is too good an opportunity to pass up.
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