Hiking is a great way to explore nature and get some exercise.
Taking a long hike is good for your health, both mental and physical, and is a great way to improve your health and fitness while seeing the great outdoors.
But just like any other form of exercise, hiking requires you to eat the right food beforehand.
A proper pre-hike meal will keep you energized and ensure you’ll get the most out of your hike.
Whether your hike will last a few hours or even several days, it’s important to eat the right foods beforehand.
This guide will take you through the best (and worst!) foods to eat before hiking. By eating the right food, you’ll be able to get out there and have a great time hiking.
So let’s get started!
Why Food Matters
Nutrition is an important part of all aspects of our lives. Eating the right foods will help keep you healthy and full of energy, and different foods serve different purposes.
Your body takes energy from three main food groups:
proteins, which build muscle and power vital body functions; fats, which give your body energy and absorb important vitamins; and carbohydrates, which break down into glucose (the main energy source for your body).
However, just eating foods with lots of these in them isn’t enough, and you need to know which foods are good sources of energy and which to avoid.
If you’re about to go hiking, you need to eat the right things beforehand. Having a good meal before your hike will make sure you have all the energy and nutrients you need.
Here are the best things to eat before your hike.
The Best Foods To Eat Before Hiking
When it comes to fueling your body before a hike, carbs are key.
High-carb foods are great for a pre-hike meal, as they will keep you energized for hours and continuously release energy as you digest them.
However, not all carbohydrates are useful.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple, and complex.
Simple carbohydrates break down quickly and release a lot of energy in a short time frame.
This raises your blood sugar, but the energy they provide doesn’t last long which leads to sugar crashes.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, release their energy more slowly. This means that your body is fueled for longer, helping you stay energized on your hike.
Complex carbs also regulate your appetite so you don’t get hungry as quickly, and maintain your blood sugar in a more controlled way.
Complex carbohydrates can be found in foods such as oats, rice, and pasta. Eating foods like this before a hike is a great way to fuel your body.
If you’re less experienced, or going on a longer hike, it’s important to eat plenty of complex carbs – this is called ‘carb loading’.
Protein is also important, and you should make sure you include a good source of protein in your pre-hike meal.
As mentioned earlier, protein is important for powering your muscles and various bodily functions, so it’s definitely needed for a hike.
Just like carbohydrates, there are good and bad sources of protein.
Fatty foods are a bad choice before a hike, so avoid meats with a high fat content.
Lean meats are a great alternative, and white meats such as chicken are full of healthy protein.
Nuts are also a good source of protein and can be included in all sorts of meals from salads to oatmeal.
Other protein-rich foods include eggs, which are incredibly versatile and dense in nutrients, and hummus, a light and vegan option that has a high protein content.
There are plenty of options available for a great pre-hike meal.
In general, you should stick to lighter, nutrient-dense foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein, while being low in sugar and fat.
If you’re starting your hike in the morning, you should start with a high-carb breakfast.
Oatmeal is the perfect option – not only is it simple and quick to make, but you can add practically any toppings you want.
Sprinkle in some nuts or some fruit for some added protein, and you’re set.
Eggs are another versatile breakfast, and are great for getting some protein while only eating light. Pair them with a bagel or some toast for the carbs you need.
For larger pre-hike breakfasts or lunches, you’ll need something more substantial.
A bowl of pasta with some lean meat and steamed veggies is a perfect meal for hitting all the required nutrients while also tasting delicious.
Alternatively, a rice bowl with some chicken, egg, or tofu is another good choice for a tasty and healthy meal before a hike.
Foods To Avoid
Just like there are foods that are great to eat before a hike, there are also foods that you need to steer clear of.
Even foods that are normally healthy can be a bad choice for before a hike, so make sure you pay attention to what you’re eating.
Junk food is a major no–go.
Greasy and processed foods are difficult to digest, and don’t give you the nutrients you need for a hike.
And while sugary snacks will give you some quick energy, this is short-lived and you’re likely to crash soon after.
You should also avoid large and bulky meals. Nutrient-rich, well-balanced meals are ideal here – you want to be fueled, not bloated.
While dairy is full of healthy protein, eating or drinking dairy before you start hiking can have some undesired consequences.
Many people find dairy difficult to digest, and trying to exercise too soon after consuming it can lead to upset stomachs and diarrhoea.
Sugary drinks like soda and juice have the same issues as junk food, where their energy is released in a short burst followed by a crash.
Carbonated drinks can also cause bloating and heartburn, which is the last thing you want in the middle of a hike.
Alcohol should be avoided for several reasons.
In addition to the obvious risks of hiking while intoxicated, alcohol causes a whole host of issues including dehydration, temperature issues, and a slowed heart rate.
So now you know some of the best foods to eat before hiking, as well as some foods you should steer clear of.
Making sure you eat the right foods before you go hiking will help you have the best experience possible.
Eating a well-balanced meal packed with nutrients will leave you feeling energized and fueled, ready for a great hike.
All that’s left for you to do now is hit the trail. Enjoy!