Avoid the Wall: Eat Right and Travel UltraLight

Published: Tuesday - 05/19/2015 - by Randy Ramsdell

Food and nutrition are always an issue on hikes when expending lots of energy during biking, hiking or any strenuous sport or activity or if you are camping but find yourself a long distance from a grocery store. There are some really good sources of food you can bring that are high energy and light weight which will be invaluable in these circumstances. I thought it apropos for this ultralightlife.com to write a short article about this subject which should provide some helpful ideas.

For breakfast, oatmeal can hardly be beat - " Oatmeal has a high soluble fiber content, is high in complex carbohydrates, is a good source of protein and has a low glycemic index, which provides a sustained release of energy into the bloodstream—imperative for runners. Oatmeal offers your body a regular dose of Vitamin B and is rich in minerals and antioxidants. It's credited for maintaining the good level of cholesterol in the body and is known as one of the most nourishing foods for the body, especially for athletes." -- By Alana Brager | For Active.com

You could check out some of the organic dehydrated foods from Backpackers Pantry such as Organic Bananas, Raisens, Oats and Quinoa or their Organic Omelete. I haven't tried these but it is encouraging that they have an organic line and really, using dehydrated foods works well for those long distance ultralight hiking/camping adventures.

When prepping before the trails, the first thing that I pack are nuts: cashews, peanuts or any type you like because they are packed full of high energy goodies. I bring them along for any long distance mountain bike ride or long hike where eating will be is necessary and really, it is probably a good idea in general in case the trip does not go as planned. Also mix in dried fruits such as raisins, pineapple or whatever you like. Nuts here, there and everywhere - cheap high energy source. I include these for any 2-4 hour trip.

Bananas are another good food to take along and I have had to eat bananas for its potassium several times to mitigate calve / leg craps. Whenever you start feeling a calve cramp and it gets increasingly worse, suspect a potassium deficiency and eat a banana or multivitamin. These cramps can start hours later. Your legs may start to develop cramps due to electrolyte loss. The cramps will slowly develop and worsen by the minute but shortly after of eating a banana, the cramps will slowly subside. Really interesting how the body responds to the nutrients in a single banana. I also carry multivitamins for this very reason.

There are good 'on trail' type packaged foods as well. The Glu Energy Foods come to mind for a quick energy boost. It contains sugars such as Maltodextrin ( a type of sugar created by breaking down starch ) and glucose which provide energy to help get you over the hump. I've 'used' these many times and it seems to work but won't substitute real food in my opinion. If you are about to bonk, slurp down some GLU.

One thing you will deal with on extended high energy burning outdoor activities is hitting the wall which is characterized by feelings of dizziness, nausea, and/or blurred vision. I have also read that this is caused by the reaction of the body when it converts from burning food ( when depleted ) to burning fat. Once the food is gone, energy has to come from somewhere and the 'somewhere' is in fat cells. This is when supplemental high energy foods really help.

When the event/trip is over and you are sitting at the campsite, you probably are going to be very hungry. But you are out there, camping and need a good meal. I have eaten quite a few dehydrated foods from Mountain House and Backpackers Pantry My favorite from Backpackers Pantry was the Tamale Pie. but it appears it is no longer carried. Maybe they will add it back into the mix because, apparently, people have complained. I also liked Louisiana Red Beans and Rice and their Mac and Cheese. Both of the two companies have really good food and a must when considering weight and convenience.

There you go. A starting point to avoiding the wall, carrying more with less weight. There are so many things to cover regarding ultralight adventuring, nutrition and all things in this general subject, but I have done well keeping things simple, light and using foods that are high in calories. Happy trails - Peace