When was the last time you went on an outdoor adventure? The last time you moved from the pull-up bar in your bedroom doorway to the monkey bars in your neighborhood playground, from the stationary bike to the wooded bike trails or from the CrossFit box to an outdoor obstacle course? According to one study, we should all be exercising outside more than we do, and exercising outside provides benefits you can’t get in a cleaning-chemical-laden, radiation-soaked gym, such as improved mental well-being, increased energy and vitality and decreased stress, confusion, anger and depression.
So if it's been a while since you forewent the weight rack and treadmill and instead went to the park, woods or beach to get in some quality fitness time, with summer in full swing, now is the perfect time to make the shift to outdoor fitness!
To fully prepare for your long bike ride or hike or trail run, you have to fuel yourself with the right foods and supplements. You’re about to learn five simple tips for fueling outdoor adventures that’ll help you power through whatever epic wilderness workout you choose.
Outdoor Adventure Fuel Tip #1: Eat Clean
Nothing ruins an epic workout like bloating, cramps, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea. And it’s likely that a big bowl of granola with milk (gluten + vegetable oils + dairy) or an egg sandwich from McDonald’s (slow-burning fats + vegetable oils + gluten + outrageous amounts of sodium) are not going to make your stomach any happier.
Eating a big meal of clean-burning carbohydrates two to three hours before your workout can provide you with the fuel you need without the aforementioned unpleasantries.
Consider a sweet potato, yam, some rice or kaniwa (the seed from a flowering plant called Chenopodium pallidicaule, or goosefoot. If you need to satiate your appetite, you can top these carbs off with a little almond butter or a handful of seeds or nuts.
Outdoor Adventure Fuel Tip #2: Hydrate
This may sound like a no-brainer. However, the human body's increased demand for H20 during periods of intense exercise is often an afterthought and thus something people fail to adequately prepare for.
For most workouts, but especially an outdoor adventure where you’ll be sweating for long periods of time, you’ll need at least 24 oz. of water per hour – in some cases, in excess of 30 oz. of water. In most cases, a good rule of thumb is that if you get thirsty during a workout, you should drink.
Even if you can easily complete a two-hour workout with no water, your workout will be higher quality and your cells will recover more quickly if you hydrate and don’t ration your water.
Outdoor Adventure Fuel Tip #3: Amino Acids
Amino acids are crucial for muscular performance and recovery, especially because some of them (the essential amino acids, or EAAs) are not produced by the human body. There are a couple of ways to consume amino acids. You could, of course, get them by eating “real food” protein sources like chicken or beef.
Because these amino acids take far longer to digest than supplemental forms, the most efficient way to take pre-workout amino acids is to ingest 5-10 grams of either an EAA capsule, tablet or powder, such as Kion Aminos, 30 to 60 minutes before working out. Consuming the same amount each hour during long exercise sessions can provide a readily available source of amino acids to stave off central nervous system fatigue and muscle catabolism.
Not only does your body digest and absorb these amino acids much more quickly than it digests solid food, but supplemental amino acids also won’t leave you worried about mid-workout cramps from having too much food in your stomach.
Outdoor Adventure Fuel Tip #4: Fats
The human body is remarkably capable of burning fat for fuel. But during high-intensity exercise, the body can become less efficient at burning fat for fuel, so consuming fat before or during long workout days can be beneficial.
Specifically, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), such as those found in coconut oil, whole coconut milk or coconut flakes, can provide more readily available sources of energy than other types of fat. Granted, if you over-consume MCTs, you can get stomach distress.
Before going for a long workout or a long day of exercise, try slurping down a few tablespoons of coconut oil or guzzling a tall glass of full-fat coconut milk. If you're more into chewing your food, get creative and make a homemade trail mix (the pre-made stuff found in stores is often filled with vegetable oils and excessive sweeteners) with ingredients like chia and sesame seeds, almonds and some unsweetened coconut flakes to keep your body well-fueled.
Outdoor Adventure Fuel Tip #5: Electrolytes
Electrolytes can save your butt during endurance events. You'd be hard pressed to find a decent half-Ironman or Ironman triathlete who isn't sucking down electrolytes in some form every half hour or so.
Especially in the heat of the summer, it’s critical to make sure that you replace all the minerals you lose through sweat, so it's recommended that you consume the equivalent of 700 to 1,200 mg of sodium per hour (depending on the temperature) along with other electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
There are tons of high-quality electrolyte tablets and powders on the market these days. Electrolyte tablets are extremely portable and can easily be plopped into a bottle of water on the go.
There you have it: five simple, easy-to-implement diet and supplement tactics to keep you going all day so you can dominate your outdoor workouts. Be prepared with ample water, eat clean leading up to your workout, and consume fats, electrolytes and amino acids. With these tools, you'll notice optimized performance and recovery and be prepped to embark on Spartan races, Ironmans, marathons and a multitude of other epic adventures!