If it's been a while since you traded the treadmill for a trail head, now is the perfect time to head out for a long hike.
Exercising outside provides benefits you can’t get in a typical indoor gym, such as improved mental well-being, increased energy and vitality and decreased stress, confusion, anger and depression. Hiking is one of the best ways to improve physical fitness, while reaping all the health benefits of being outdoors.
However, you'll want to make sure you're adequately fueled with the right foods and supplements.
This article will cover what to bring on a hike for sustained energy, including five essentials that will help you power through an epic outdoor adventure.
So grab your hiking boots and water bottle, stuff your pack with the following essentials, and head out for the open trail.
What to Bring on a Hike #1: Clean Carbs
Nothing ruins an epic hike 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.
Clean-burning carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide the body with glucose to keep muscles fueled and energy up so you can keep trekking without tummy troubles.
Consider a pre-hike meal with whole-food carbs like sweet potatoes, properly prepared grains, or low-sugar fruits. For longer hikes, try packing a homemade trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, an apple with almond butter, or a clean protein bar.
What to Bring on a Hike #2: Healthy Fats
The human body is remarkably capable of burning fat for fuel, especially during long, low-intensity exercises like walking or hiking. Specifically, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), such as those found in coconut products, can provide more readily available sources of energy than other types of fat.
Before going for a long hike, try including some healthy fats from coconut, avocado, or nuts in your meal. For snacks on the trail, pack a homemade trail mix with fat-rich ingredients like chia and sesame seeds, almonds and some unsweetened coconut flakes to keep your body well-fueled.
What to Bring on a Hike #3: Electrolytes
Electrolytes can save your butt during a long, sweaty hike when you're losing a large amount of essential minerals through sweat. Try consuming 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.
One way to keep electrolytes up is to consume an electrolyte supplement, which are often extremely portable and can easily be added to water during a longer hike. Just look for one that has minimal additives and is free of artificial sweeteners.
You can also pack some high-quality sea salt, which naturally contains essential minerals and electrolytes. Sea salt can be added to water just like an electrolyte supplement, sprinkled in with trail mix, or added on top of some nut butter.
What to Bring on a Hike #4: Water
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, especially on longer hikes.
In general, most hikers should consume at least 24 oz. of water per hour, and in some more extreme environments, 30 oz. or more. In most cases, a good rule of thumb is that if you get thirsty, you should drink.
Even if you can easily complete a two-hour outdoor excursion with little water, being adequately hydrated improves exercise endurance and shortens recovery time.
What to Bring on a Hike #5: 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, but those are sometimes logistically hard to pack for longer treks.
Additionally, because dietary sources of protein take far longer to digest than supplemental forms, they aren't always the most efficient way to get the body the amino acids it needs to perform optimally.
Some EAA supplements can be absorbed in as little as 20 minutes, making them a faster and more effective form of fuel when you need a quick boost of energy.
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-hike cramps from having too much food in your stomach.
If you are trying to pack light, or want to forego the snacks altogether for a fasted morning hike, an essential amino acids supplement with minimal calories like Kion Aminos can be a great option. For shorter hikes, try taking a serving 30-60 minutes prior. During multi-hour treks, you can consume a serving each hour to stave off central nervous system fatigue and keep energy levels up.
There you have it, five simple, effective foods and supplements to bring on a hike:
- Clean carbs
- Healthy fats
- Amino acids
If you're looking for an easy snack to bring on a hike that checks almost all the boxes above, look no further than the Kion Protein Bar.
A balanced ratio of protein from grass-fed whey isolate, healthy fats, and carbs from real foods, as well as natural electrolytes from sea salt, our protein bar delivers a stable, satisfying energy source, without the sugar crashes.
Plus, it holds up under intense conditions and won't melt in the heat or freeze in the cold.