Hiking Snacks to Fuel Your Adventures
Enjoy the great outdoors without running out of energy with these easy hiking food ideas
Do you ever struggle with low energy during hikes? Or feel like you “hit a wall” halfway through? Or are you just curious if you’re eating the right things to fuel your outdoor adventures? Then this blog post is for you! Continue reading as we discuss what foods are best for hiking and explore some hiking snacks for energy.
What are the best foods before a hike?
To give yourself a good start to your hike, it’s important to make sure you’ve got lots of great energy available before you start hiking otherwise you may find that you’re feeling lousy and fatigued not long into your hike. This can look different depending on individual tolerance and on the time of day you’re starting your hike.
Carbohydrates are our body’s primary source of energy so ensuring you have a carb-rich pre-hike meal will be ideal to give your body the fuel it needs to get up the mountain. Carbs are found in grains/starches (bread, oats, wraps, pasta, rice, cereal, crackers, potatoes, granola bars, etc.), fruit, and yogurt/milk.
If you are heading for a day hike, make sure your breakfast has a source of carbs and moderate protein, fat, and fibre. Carbs are digested quickly and will supply the fuel, whereas protein, fat, and fibre are digested slower and will keep you feeling full for longer. Considering this, make sure to give yourself at least 3 hours to digest a balanced meal like this to prevent getting stomach cramps during the hike.
Note: timing may vary depending on individual tolerance. Some people may tolerate a balanced meal closer than 3 hours, and some may need more time to digest to prevent cramping, nausea, and heaviness. It may take a little trial and error to find where you feel your individual best.
Some examples of balanced breakfasts are:
- Oatmeal with nuts and berries
- Overnight oats (oats with yogurt, milk, chia seeds, fruit, etc.)
- Toast with peanut butter and sliced banana
- Breakfast wrap with eggs, peppers, spinach, and avocado
If you’re heading out for an early morning hike or simply don’t have 3 hours to digest a meal before you plan on starting your hike, plan to have a carb-rich snack 1-2 hours before you start hiking. The shorter time period means we need energy fast and readily accessible, so focusing more on carbs/sugars and less on protein, fat, and fibre is more ideal in this case.
Some examples of easy pre-hike snacks are:
- Granola bar and juice
- Fruit smoothie
- High-carb sports bar
- Low fibre cereal, such as cheerios, with milk and fruit
- A piece of fruit (may depend on individual tolerance)
- Low fibre muffin
What should I eat during a hike?
Okay, so you fuelled up before starting your hike but you’re 2 hours in and starting to feel your energy fade. What should you be looking for?
During a hike we want to focus on foods that will help top up our energy. The type of hiking snack you’re grabbing may depend on the type of hike you’re on.
For hikes that include steep elevation changes or you’re moving quickly (like a trail run), it’s better to focus on easily digestible carbohydrates or sugars that will give us quick energy and little on protein, fat, and fibre, for reasons mentioned earlier (prevent cramping, nausea, etc.) To give your body the most readily available energy, focus on hiking snacks like:
- Dried fruit like raisins, mango slices, pineapple, etc.
- Fresh fruit like apples or mandarin oranges (choose ones that won’t bruise easily in your backpack)
- Low-fibre crackers (less than 2g fibre per serving)
- Granola bars
- Sports gels or sports drinks containing glucose
- Fruit gummies like Welch’s fruit snacks
- Fruit bars like SunRype fruit source bars
- Sesame snaps
- Low-fibre cereal mixed with dried fruit (homemade trail mix)
For lower-intensity hikes with gradual changes in elevation or speed, hiking snacks can look a little more balanced with both carbs and a small amount of protein or fat to provide longer-lasting fullness and energy. Some examples include:
- Granola bars with nuts or protein bars
- Crackers and cheese
- Trail mix or this Healthier Nuts and Bolts Snack Mix
- Whole grain bagel with hummus and cucumber
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich
- Energy bars like Andrea’s Award Winning Cocoa Energy Bars or these delicious Peanut Butter Energy Bars
- Muffins or trail mix cookies like these Summit Cookies
- Energy bites like these Nutty Chocoholic Balls or Nut Free Energy Balls
- Beef jerky and dried fruit
For a multiday backpacking trip, plan to have a variety of hiking snacks that include foods from both categories above. This ensures you have snacks for all types of terrain and intensities.
So, you may be reading this and wondering, “how do I know if the hike is high or low intensity?”. Great question! With a little research, you can easily gather the necessary information to pack along the right snacks for your hiking adventure. Here are some tips to plan your snacks accordingly:
- Check trail reports using apps like AllTrails or Gaia GPS for tips on length, intensity, elevation gain, and terrain reports.
- If you know anyone who has done the hike before, ask about their experience (how long it took, what the incline was like, etc.).
- Assess your own fitness level and experience and choose a hike accordingly using the tips above.
How often should I be eating during a hike?
Timing of snacks during a hike will vary from person to person depending on your energy levels, hunger, and preferences, but a general tip would be to aim to have something small every 1-2 hours to keep your energy levels topped up, especially during more intense terrain.
If you have trouble remembering to eat, set reminders on your phone to have a small snack every 1-2 hours. Speaking from personal experience, it can be easy to forget to eat because you’re having fun, taking in the scenery, or pushing to the top of the mountain, and before you know it, you’re feeling completely depleted.
Now that you’ve gathered some more hiking food ideas, you’re ready to hit the trails! Happy hiking!
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