Hiking is a great way to reap the rewards of exercise while enjoying the beauties of nature. Because it's a steady burn of calories over an extended period of time, your body needs consistent fuel from the right kinds of food.
Pack enough snacks so that you can consume about 150 to 200 calories every hour, focusing on carbohydrates with some protein for balance. Frequent snacking gives your body sustained energy for the near-constant movement of hiking. Post-hike, add some protein to your carb source to aid in muscle recovery.
Before you head out on the trail, you may want to taste-test your snacks during an at-home workout. Find out how well they work for your energy levels and digestion.
Here are 10 snacks that can help you maintain energy while you hike.
Whether you like them raw, toasted or seasoned with salt or other herbs and spices, nuts provide healthy fat and a rich calorie value for their size. They can quickly satiate hunger and provide energy boost for long-endurance activities like hiking. Try a recipe for candied pecans or walnuts with honey or maple syrup for some added carbohydrates for energy.
Mix oats with your favorite nuts, dried fruits, spices and natural sweeteners like honey or agave. Bake to dry out and to toast the nuts and spices, and enjoy the benefits of a blood sugar boost, along with high levels of fiber and healthy carbs.
3. Crackers With Nut Butter
Crackers that won't be smashed to crumbs work best for carrying in a backpack on a long hike. Options like a pita cracker or graham cracker have some crispy sturdiness and are great paired with peanut, almond or sunflower butter. Crackers provide a good carb source and the fat in nut butter boosts the calories.
4. Roasted Beans
Edamame and chickpeas taste great roasted and are great sources of protein and carbs. Dry the beans, mix them with olive oil, salt and your choice of seasoning (garlic, turmeric, curry), and bake at 350°, stirring occasionally, until dry. Roasting removes the water content, making them light to carry in your pack.
Bananas are a high-calorie carb option that are also a great source of potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramps. Add some nut butter for a healthy fat boost.
Celery contains over 90% water, giving you fiber, nutrients and hydration all at once. Plus it's satisfyingly crunchy and refreshing. It's low calorie on its own, but adding a nut butter increases its calorie punch.
Because of their firm outer skins, grapes travel well without bruising or turning to mush. Some people like to freeze them in advance for a cooling snack on a hot day. They can help boost your blood sugar when you start to lose energy.
8. Dried Fruit
Whether mixed in granola or trail mix, or eaten alone, dried fruit is light and compact when you're trying to pack a carb punch without taking up a lot of room in your pack. Try banana chips, raisins and dehydrated apple slices.
9. Pretzels and Hummus
Creamy hummus and crunchy salty pretzels cover carbs, fat and protein in a satisfying bite. Try making your own hummus with flavors and spices you like.
10. Beef Jerky
A great source of protein, beef jerky doesn't take up a lot of room and is ideal for muscle recovery when you're finished hiking. Because it's often salty, be careful eating it early in a hike to avoid drinking your water too quickly.
Heather Legler's Story
When Heather Legler, a Colorado resident, first started backpacking, she bought snacks to help keep her energy levels up throughout the long, and sometimes grueling, journeys.
The only problem was that her go-tos—Pop-Tarts, candy bars and gas station beef jerky—were doing little in the way of fueling her body. They were, however, adding unhealthy levels of saturated fat, calories, sugar, and sodium to her diet.
“It seemed like hiking was an excuse to forget every nutrition rule I ever knew,” recalls Legler, cohost (with husband Josh) of a hiking podcast called "The First 40 Miles.” “I kept thinking, ‘I'm going to burn thousands of calories, so I can enjoy junk food.' But still something didn't feel right; I went out to experience this pristine wilderness and opened my pack to convenience store food. It just didn't sync.”
Legler started experimenting with healthy homemade snacks. “I did a ton of reading,” she says. “I don't have a degree in nutrition, but I knew I could create better trail snacks than what the convenience stores were selling.”
Once she started researching healthier snack options, Legler discovered the most effective ingredients.
“It all started with whole foods and a plant-based diet,” she says. “I decided to cut the sugar and refined oil, and use more nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” After finding her favorites, she released a self-published book called Trail Grazing: 40 High Energy Snacks to Fuel Your Adventures (available through Amazon).
When making snacks for hiking , Crandle says that combining carbohydrates and proteins is essential.
“Carbs help fuel the body, and protein helps you sustain that and keep blood sugar stable,” she explains. “When active, the body also needs antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to help you replenish what your body is losing and to support the immune system that helps you stay active."
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.