Written by Freelance Journalist and Health Enthusiast, Helen Veale

Food and water are the most important things to take with you on a hike as you will be burning a lot of energy!

Consistently, you should plan to eat at least one snack every hour. Make sure some of these snacks are salty in order to replace electrolytes lost through sweat (1). Without good nutrition, your hike could quickly turn into a disaster leaving you weak, unable to focus or enjoy yourself. In extreme circumstances a lack of nutrition can even put you at risk. This is why it’s so important to make sure that food and water is the first thing you should pack for your trip.

How much food should you have in your backpack?

When your body runs out of fuel it eats into a sort of reserve tank of fuel from fat stored in various places nuts and seedsaround your body. This is not a quality source of energy so in order to avoid this situation you must make sure you pack enough of the right kinds of fuel. When you walk, you burn calories so you need to make sure you bring enough food to replace those lost calories. Everybody has something called a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the energy needed to keep your body alive.As everybody’s BMR is different, it is difficult to suggest a definitive amount of food that you should pack. In simple terms, and as an educated estimation, an average male in their mid twenties will have a BMR of around 1,700 calories. You need to make sure that you have this every day. However, you need to add on top of this the amount of calories you burn on your hike. You will need to compensate for this by having your BMR worth of calorie intake (1,700) plus whatever calories you burn on your hike. There are many BMR calculators available online which will give you a good starting point(2).

What kinds of food should you pack?

JHiking is strenuous and you will want to pack light to avoid too much strain. Before you set out, have a hearty, energy rich breakfast. A large bowl of oatmeal is ideal for its nutritious and energy giving properties. Whole foods tend to be more nutritious and therefore more valuable to you in converting them into energy. However, this should be in the form of carbohydrates (3). Energy bars and dried foods such as noodles (which you can boil in your stove) are very lightweight and pack a punch of energy. This makes them ideal for hiking. Fresh fruits and vegetables, while incredibly nutritious, are not a good idea (4). Your body will need to replace the calories it has lost and fruits and vegetables are so low in calories that they will leave you wanting more. They also tend to be too heavy to cart all the way to the top of a mountain in comparison to the energy they will provide you with. They have what is called a low caloric density – great for slimming, bad for hiking. One food group that is both nutritious and contains an ideal high caloric density is nuts and seeds. Nuts are also high in omega three oils and proteins that are as vital to your body during exercise as replacement calories (5). A good tip would be to take a bag of nuts with you on every hike.

Beware the dreaded sugar crash!

One problem many hikers face is with a sugar crash. Many of the lightweight, high calorie snack bars are also high in sugar which you will need for energy throughout the day. Avoid the sugar crash by eating your food slowly throughout the day. This will keep a constant low sugar level in your bloodstream and stop you from crashing. If you stop for lunch and eat all your snacks at once, a few hours later you will be feeling terrible.

While it’s easy to get bogged down in measuring calories and calculating your BMR, it’s not so important that you should become too obsessive over it (7). Just ensure you have enough calories to keep you going and never leave for a hike without taking a good amount of food and water with you.

-Helen Veale