Think that hiking is only for white, middle-class countryside dwellers? Think again. Anyone can get into walking, trekking and hiking – as Strong Women’s new walking series proves. Every week, the brilliant founder of Black Girls Hike, Rhiane Fatinikun, will be sharing a walking adventure and a different tip for becoming a confident hiker. This week: how to eat well on the trails.
What keeps you going during exercise? Is it the thought of the gains or the treat at the end? Anyone that’s been on a Black Girls Hike will have heard me describing my ideal post-hike meal… with all the sound effects included.
So far in this series, I’ve covered how to start hiking, what clothing to wear and the mental and physical benefits of getting outdoors. Hopefully, that’s ramped up your motivation enough to get started, so let’s now talk about how we’re going to fuel these adventures and replace those calories burnt on the hills.
This week’s walking wonder
We all know that our bodies need carbs, proteins, healthy fats and plenty of fluids to perform well, whatever our activity level. With hiking, the best foods are those that release a steady supply of energy to power you through and help your body recover. Nutrition might not be your first priority when planning your adventures, but it should be.
When I first started hiking, I didn’t give much thought to nutrition. I underestimated hiking as a workout. I’d grab a Mcdonald’s breakfast on the way and a meal deal for a mid-walk snack – the opposite of the type of food you need for exercising. Sugary and fatty foods give you a quick boost of energy then make you feel lethargic; the meal deals didn’t provide enough fuel for the day. Here’s how to fuel properly for a hike.
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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Start your day with a decent breakfast – not a double sausage and egg McMuffin. We need foods with complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and fibre – foods that are easy to digest, keep us full and provide long-lasting energy. When it comes to breakfast, you want to wake your body up and stock up on carbs for an instant boost.
Studies have shown that eating carbs before a workout improves our performance, allowing us to perform for longer or at a higher intensity, which translates to better adventures. My current go-to is overnight oats with dates and if I grab breakfast on the go now, it’s a granola and yoghurt pot.
Keep on snacking
It’s important when you’re exercising to replace the energy you burn through. Long hikes use a lot of energy and if you don’t eat enough, you’ll soon find your mood plummeting. Hiking snacks need to have the right nutritional balance; you want them to be light yet dense, easy to carry and easy to eat on the move.
Try things like trail mixes – nuts, dried fruit and cereal designed specifically to be eaten on hikes – as well as cereal and protein bars. Get creative and make your own if you don’t like the ready-made versions. I love stopping for cake on a hike and I always have a packet of fizzy laces, which are great when you need a quick boost of energy. Generally, you want to resist high-sugar foods when you’re walking because they can cause sugar rushes and energy drops, but life is about balance and sometimes, all you really want and need is a bag of sweets.
Everyone sweats when they exercise; it’s not glamorous but sweating is our body’s way of regulating temperature. It’s important to top up the fluids lost to maintain our energy and prevent dehydration, and to avoid a sore, dry throat, you need to wash all those cereal bars down with fluid.
I always say that water is the best way to hydrate before walking, replenishing during a hike and aiding recovery post-trek. When hiking, the rule of thumb is that we should drink one litre every two hours, but how much you drink ultimately depends on your body and hiking conditions on the day.
For a short day hike, I usually take two litres. For anything longer or more strenuous, I’d recommend adding electrolytes to replace your salts and always have a water filter if you need to clean any water that you’re collecting in the wild.
RHIANE’S HIKING TIP: MASTER SELF-TALK
Every week I’ll be sharing something hiking has taught me and this week, it’s about seeing food as the key to movement. Food is not just fuel – we eat to live and when I say live, I mean adventure. The two affirmations that prove this are:
“Food is fuel – fill your tank with premium.”
“Your body is a finely tuned vehicle; give it good fuel and it’ll take you to amazing places.”
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