Staying hydrated and full of calories is important for any hiker. In the winter, it’s important to intake more calories because your body burns more calories attempting to keep your body warm and moving. It’s estimated depending on the temperature outside, your body weight and your clothing and gear, that you can burn anywhere between 100 to 500 extra calories an hour when hiking in the winter.
When determining what to eat, it’s important to understand biochemistry. First, there are carbohydrates which are quickly broken down into blood sugar which is then used by your muscles for energy. These are the best source for reliable quick energy. However, if you eat too much of them in the winter, you run the risk of them being used to quickly and causing a “sugar crash”. To prevent a “sugar crash”, it is also important to eat fats. Also, fats take longer to digest and provide energy, the energy lasts longer without the risk of crashing. Another important thing to eat is protein, although this doesn’t provide you with “quick energy” but helps provide amino acids to rebuild muscles.
Suggest breakfasts for a winter hike include:
- whole wheat toast with peanut butter
- oatmeal or hot cereals
- greek yogurt with granola
- cheese, fruit, and nuts
Your body will take longer to digest the protein and fat so it’s important to have these in the morning so you are not hungry immediately after hiking. However, it is still important to have some carbs to get your metabolism started in the morning.
We do not recommend stopping to eat lunch as you don’t want to be waiting in the cold for too long. We recommend grazing while hiking and fueling on more cheese, nuts, fruit, and rice crackers.
That night when you are finished with your hike, it’s important to replenish the nutrients that were lost throughout the day. A hearty dinner consisting of pasta, rice, bread, cruciferous vegetables, beans, and lean protein will restore stored fats and glycogen.
It will also be important to stay well hydrated as water helps break down the food which will, in turn, give you energy. Even though it might be cold out, you are still sweating which causes a loss in water. There’s a statistic that says if you are 5% dehydrated your metabolism can slow down 20-30%. Dehydration symptoms include:
- loss of appetite
Transporting water in the cold is difficult due to the potential for it to freeze. However, there are many brands of bottles that are meant to be used in the winter months. Keep in mind, caffeine and alcohol are a diuretics and may aid in dehydration. We do not recommend drinking either before or during the hike. But we do recommend hot chocolate and thinking you are in relaxing in Miami Beach!