Oregon Desert Trail Resupply Planning

ODT resupply

Food Resupply Plan for the Oregon Desert Trail

This post details how I planned my food for the Oregon Desert Trail. I’ll post more on general trail information and planning resources in a separate post. This one is all about where, what, and how much I planned for food resupply for the ODT. I’ll do a follow-up post when I return about how this plan worked out.

Grab a cup of coffee. This is a long one, but hopefully you’ll find it’s jam-packed with useful info.

The following table details where I sent each box, the calorie goals for each day, the specific food I sent, and how that broke down in term of macronutrients (percentages of fat, carbs, and protein), as well as total food weight carried.

The calorie goal for each resupply box is in the top left corner of the table for each location. The actual calories in the box are at the bottom of the table for each section, which is also where you’ll find the macro breakdown and the food weight of the box.

ODT resupply

Determining Goal Calorie Intake

I loosely track daily calories and nutrients with the app MyFitnessPal. To create my calorie goals, I used that data of my current intake and expenditure, coupled with knowledge from previous hikes.

The numbers may seem low considering that I’m 5’7″, have a normal BMI, and I’ll be hiking 25-30 miles per day. However, I made them low for a couple reasons:  1) I’m still recovering from a hypo-thyroid issue, and the thyroid is the master regulator of metabolism, so my current basal metabolic rate (BMR) is lower than it has been in the past. I know this because I track my calorie intake and weight. While some might consider the downside of this being that ‘I have to’ eat less food to maintain my weight, the upside of a currently lower BMR is that ‘I get to’ eat less food to maintain my weight. That’s convenient when you’re backpacking and you have to carry it all on your back 🙂 And reason 2) The time frame (30 days) is relatively short, so I won’t get into full on hiker hunger, and if I do go into a calorie deficit, it won’t be for long.  You’ll also notice that in each box I include several hundred additional calories above the goal amount, just in case.

Macronutrient Percentages

Let’s start by saying that I strongly believe in bio-individuality. Every body is different. Figure out what works best for you. I mean that in terms of both what your diet is made up of, as well as in terms of calories and macronutrients, and in terms of specific foods you do or do not tolerate well. Food quality and a focus on whole foods is the constant and the details are variable.

I’ve found that I thrive when I eat a diet higher in healthy fats, moderate in protein, and slightly lower in carbs. The numbers in this chart show my diet as generally being 50-60% fat, 10-20% protein, and 30-40% carbohydrate. Off trail, the fat number tends to be higher and the carbs lower, but this is how it settled out for the trail and I’m comfortable with that. We’ll see how I feel.

Also, I’m aware that in the table, the macro percentages don’t always add up to 100%. In a couple spots they add up to 102 or 105%. I believe this is due to averaging values for different varieties/flavors of granola, bars, etc. While this is not ideal, the data is still accurate enough to give a good reflection of what the nutritional spread looks like.

Food Planning on a ‘Restricted Diet’ while Going Stoveless

All foods in this resupply plan are gluten free and dairy free. This list does also not rely heavily on grains or added sugars, though there are a few in there. The focus is on including real foods with either no ingredient list or very short ingredient lists made up of recognizable foods. To avoid toxin exposure, most of these foods are organic.

I firmly believe in doing the best you can, and not obsessing about being perfect. While I’m all for eating a high-quality diet on trail, don’t let the idea overwhelm you to the point where you give up before you start. Start where you’re at and any small improvements you can make in food choices and quality will translate into feeling better on trail and supporting a cleaner environment.

 

Supplements & Other Items in Each Box

There are a few items that went into each box that aren’t listed in the chart. This includes maps for each section, wet wipes, and supplements. Oh, and resupply baggies of coarse celtic sea salt 🙂

Supplements I’m carrying: Magnesium Citrate Powder to help with muscle relaxation and sleep; Turmeric capsules to reduce overall inflammation; Vitamin C for electrolyte replacement and antioxidants; and probiotics to maintain optimal gut health.  Not a ton, just the basics.

I also have cordyceps mushroom powder in my morning smoothie mix, along with the coconut creamer, collagen, chia, and spices. The cordyceps is for improved oxygen utilization and endurance. The spices, while not necessarily  supplements, serve similar anti inflammatory and medicinal roles.

Need help planning your own resupply? Learn more here.

ODT resupply

Specific Brands I Carried

In the table, I left most food descriptions fairly general because I want to convey that in many instances you don’t have to choose one specific brand, and you can often find healthy substitutions that are either more available to you or suit your preferences better. I want the focus to be on the overall quality of the food and the idea that you can fuel a long distance hike with whole foods, made up of real ingredients.

The following are the specific brands I carried on this hike. While some of this food was donated to me, these are all brands I had tried in advance and approve of the ingredients and nutrition profile. Trust me, I wouldn’t be carrying them if I wasn’t certain they would fuel my hike properly. Having gone through adrenal and thyroid issues in the past, I’m well aware that my energy and my body are my greatest asset on any long distance hike.

It’s worth it to me to be thoughtful in my food choices, as well as in what brands I support. I like to feel aligned with the brands behind the products I consume to the extent that I can. This also goes for the gear I purchase.

Laird Superfood Coconut Creamer

Laird Superfood Hydrate Coconut Water

Vital Proteins Collagen Powder

Amazing Grass Greens Powder

Nutiva Chia Seeds

Trader Joe’s Almond Butter

Trader Joe’s Organic Tortilla Chips

Supernola Granola

Gorilly Goods Trail Mix

Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bar

Trader Joe’s 85% Cocoa Chocolate

Wild Zora Meals

Sante Fe Dehydrated Beans

Natural Grocers Dehydrated Bulk Veggies

Trader Joe’s Individual Coconut Oil Packets

Kate’s Real Food Bars

Four Points Bars

Trail Nuggets

Cusa Premium Organic Instant Tea

If you want ideas for additional foods on my shopping list beyond what’s listed here, download my free Healthy Hiker Grocery Guide here. 

Without further ado, the data…

calories/serving fat g/serving carb g/serving protein g/serving weight/ serving (grams) servings taken total calories total fat (g) total protein (g) total carbs (g) total weight (g)
Start/eastern terminus (5 days) @ 2000 cal/day = 10000 cal
coffee/tea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
laird superfood creamer 75 3 3 0 4 5 375 15 0 15 20
greens powder, cinnamon, ginger, cordyceps 30 5 7 1 10 5 150 25 5 35 50
collagen powder 70 2.5 1 10 15 5 350 12.5 50 5 75
chia seeds (1 tbl) 60 5 5 3 13 5 300 25 15 25 65
almond butter 190 17 7 7 32 14 2660 238 98 98 448
organic corn tortilla chips 140 8 15 2 28 8.5 1190 68 17 127.5 238
trail mix 200 17 6 12 34 6 1200 102 72 36 204
granola 210 16 14 6 42 4 840 64 24 56 168
bars 260 12 31 10 70 4 1040 48 40 124 280
chocolate 250 20 13 4 2.5 625 50 10 32.5 0
jerky 110 6 10 7 31 4 440 24 28 40 124
beans 130 0 24 7 35 6 780 0 42 144 210
mixed veg 30 1 8 3 13 5 150 5 15 40 65
coconut oil 120 14 0 0 15 4 480 56 0 0 60
spices 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
wild zora dinner 310 7 38 35 85 1 310 7 35 38 85
TOTAL 9715 662 381 736 4.20
Calories from F/C/P 5958.00 1524 2944 pounds
Percent of Total 61.33 15.69 30.30
ROME (5.5 days) @ 2200/day =12,000 cal
coffee/tea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
laird superfood creamer 135 3 3 0 4 5 675 15 0 15 20
chia seeds (1 tbl) 60 5 5 3 13 5 300 25 15 25 65
greens powder, cinnamon, ginger, cordyceps 30 5 7 1 10 5 150 25 5 35 50
collagen powder 70 2.5 1 10 15 5 350 12.5 50 5 75
hydrate mix 40 0 10 0 12 9 360 0 0 90 108
0
almond butter 190 17 7 7 32 14 2660 238 98 98 448
organic corn tortilla chips 140 8 15 2 28 8.6 1204 68.8 17.2 129 240.8
granola 200 16 14 6 42 6 1200 96 36 84 252
jerky 110 6 10 7 31 4 440 24 28 40 124
bars 260 12 31 10 70 8 2080 96 80 248 560
trail mix 210 17 6 12 34 6 1260 102 72 36 204
chocolate 250 20 13 4 2.5 625 50 10 32.5 0
0
wild zora dinner 340 2 32 41 85 1 340 2 41 32 85
beans 130 0 24 7 35 6 780 0 42 144 210
mixed veg 30 1 8 3 13 5 150 5 15 40 65
coconut oil 120 14 0 0 15 4 480 56 0 0 60
spices 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 13054 815.3 509.2 1053.5 5.73
Calories from F/C/P 7337.70 2036.8 4214 pounds
Percent of Total 56.21 15.60 32.28
(MCDERMITT: BUY IN TOWN)
FIELDS (3 days) @ 2500 cal/day =7500 cal
coffee/tea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
laird superfood creamer 75 3 3 0 4 3 225 9 0 9 12
greens powder, cinnamon, ginger, cordyceps 30 5 7 1 10 3 90 15 3 21 30
collagen powder 70 2.5 1 10 15 3 210 7.5 30 3 45
chia (1 tbl) 60 5 5 3 13 3 180 15 9 15 39
0 0 0 0
almond butter 190 17 7 7 32 14 2660 238 98 98 448
potato chips 140 7 17 2 28 7 980 49 14 119 196
bars 260 12 31 10 70 3 780 36 30 93 210
trail mix 210 17 6 12 34 4 840 68 48 24 136
granola 210 16 14 6 42 2 420 32 12 28 84
jerkey 110 6 10 7 31 3 330 18 21 30 93
0 0 0 0
wild zora meal 310 2 32 41 85 1 310 2 41 32 85
beans 130 0 24 7 35 6 780 0 42 144 210
mixed veg 30 1 8 3 13 5 150 5 15 40 65
coconut oil 120 14 0 0 15 4 480 56 0 0 60
spices 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 8435 550.5 363 656 3.82
Calories from F/C/P 4954.50 1452 2624 pounds
Percent of Total 58.74 17.21 31.11
FRENCHGLEN (4 days) @2500 cal/day =10,000 cal
coffee/tea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
laird superfood creamer 75 3 3 0 4 5 375 15 0 15 20
greens powder, cinnamon, ginger, cordyceps 30 5 7 1 10 5 150 25 5 35 50
collagen powder 70 2.5 1 10 15 5 350 12.5 50 5 75
chia (1 tbl) 60 5 5 3 13 5 300 25 15 25 65
0 0 0 0
almond butter 190 17 7 7 32 14 2660 238 98 98 448
potato chips 100 7 17 2 28 10 1000 70 20 170 280
trail mix 210 17 6 12 34 5 1050 85 60 30 170
granola 200 16 14 6 42 4 800 64 24 56 168
bars 250 12 31 10 70 8 2000 96 80 248 560
chocolate 250 20 13 4 2.5 625 50 10 32.5 0
jerky 110 6 10 7 31 3 330 18 21 30 93
0 0 0 0
wild zora dinner 370 8 33 36 85 1 370 8 36 33 85
beans 130 0 24 7 35 6 780 0 42 144 210
mixed veg 30 1 8 3 13 5 150 5 15 40 65
coconut oil 120 14 0 0 15 4 480 56 0 0 60
spices 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 11420 767.5 476 961.5 5.24
Calories from F/C/P 6907.50 1904 3846 pounds
Percent of Total 60.49 16.67 33.68
PLUSH (2 days) @ 2500 cal/day = 5000 cal
coffee/tea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
laird superfood creamer 75 3 3 0 4 5 375 15 0 15 20
greens powder, cinnamon, ginger, cordyceps 30 5 7 1 10 5 150 25 5 35 50
collagen powder 70 2.5 1 10 15 5 350 12.5 50 5 75
chia (1 tbl) 60 5 5 3 13 5 300 25 15 25 65
0 0 0 0
wild zora breakfast 520 36 43 10 92 1 520 36 10 43 92
trail mix 210 17 6 12 34 4 840 68 48 24 136
granola 200 16 14 6 42 4 800 64 24 56 168
bars 250 12 31 10 70 10 2500 120 100 310 700
jerky 110 2 220 0 0 0 0
nut butter 180 14 8 9 32 1 180 14 9 8 32
wild zora dinner 370 8 33 36 85 1 370 8 36 33 85
TOTAL 6605 387.5 297 554 3.18
Calories from F/C/P 3487.50 1188 2216 pounds
Percent of Total 52.80 17.99 33.55
(LAKEVIEW: BUY IN TOWN)
PAISLEY (2 days) @ 2500 cal/day = 5000 cal
coffee/tea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
laird superfood creamer 75 3 3 0 4 5 375 15 0 15 20
greens powder, cinnamon, ginger, cordyceps 30 5 7 1 10 5 150 25 5 35 50
collagen powder 70 2.5 1 10 15 5 350 12.5 50 5 75
choc coconut creamer 35 1 2 0 3 12 420 12 0 24 36
wild zora breakfast 520 38 40 11 92 1 520 38 11 40 92
trail mix 200 17 6 12 34 4 800 68 48 24 136
granola 200 16 14 6 42 4 800 64 24 56 168
bars 260 12 31 10 70 10 2600 120 100 310 700
jerkey 110 6 10 7 31 2 220 12 14 20 62
wild zora dinner 340 7 38 35 85 1 340 7 35 38 85
TOTAL 6575 373.5 287 567 3.18
Calories from F/C/P 3361.50 1148 2268 pounds
Percent of Total 51.13 17.46 34.49
CHRISTMAS VALLEY (4 days) @ 2500 cal/day=10,000
coffee/tea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
laird superfood creamer 75 3 3 0 4 5 375 15 0 15 20
greens powder, cinnamon, ginger, cordyceps 30 5 7 1 10 5 150 25 5 35 50
collagen powder 70 2.5 1 10 15 5 350 12.5 50 5 75
choc coconut creamer 35 1 2 0 3 12 420 12 0 24 36
almond butter 190 17 7 7 32 14 2660 238 98 98 448
potato chips 100 7 17 2 28 10 1000 70 20 170 280
trail mix 200 17 6 12 34 6 1200 102 72 36 204
bars 260 12 31 10 70 7 1820 84 70 217 490
chocolate 250 20 13 4 2.5 625 50 10 32.5 0
jerky 110 6 10 7 31 5 550 30 35 50 155
beans 130 0 24 7 35 6 780 0 42 144 210
mixed veg 30 1 8 3 13 5 150 5 15 40 65
coconut oil 120 14 0 0 15 4 480 56 0 0 60
spices 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 9685 647 362 811.5 4.35
Calories from F/C/P 5823.00 1448 3246 pounds
Percent of Total 60.12 14.95 33.52

Despite my best efforts, this chart is a bit difficult to read. For a copy of the chart, as well as a template for your own resupply planning, click here: ODT resupply.

Questions? Post them in the comments below.

Need help planning your own resupply? Learn more here.

How to Eat Healthy on a Thru-Hike

hiker eating

Of the many tasks hikers must think about before a long distance hike, food is at the top of the list.

Where will you resupply? How much food will you need? What will you eat? How do you choose which food to carry?

Either because they see no other option or because they don’t see the benefits of choosing healthier foods, many hikers settle on the standard diet of highly-processed packaged foods by default.

In this video, I give you a glimpse into what a sample day of eating might look like on trail for hikers who prefer simple to prepare, whole food options for increased energy, faster recovery, and better endurance.

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Trail Food Makeover: How to Eat for Optimal Energy & Endurance

Besides gear, there are few other topics hikers like to discuss as much as food. The ins and outs of resupplying are often one of a hiker’s primary concerns before embarking on any long distance trail. In this 2 part series, we break down the before and after diet changes to optimize performance, as well as compare cost, calorie density, and overall nutrition.

This ‘trail food makeover’ is a collaboration between Chris and Katie. In 2017, Chris hiked the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) eating wh

at most would consider a typical ‘thru-hiker’ diet (i.e. cheap, highly-processed foods). How did he feel? He had days where he felt great, and days where he felt completely fatigued, especially towards the end of the hike. Chris recalls one particularly rough day:

It was barely noon, and he felt lethargic, like he was in “zombie-mode”. He kept pushing through, but finally had to stop for an early dinner around 4 pm. He gorged himself because he was so hungry.

That day was an eye-opener, and he thought, “Man, I’m not doing something right here.” He wasn’t sure whether his resupplies contained enough calories, he lost a lot of weight, and by the end of the trail he was feeling worn down. Read more about his hike here.

Enter Katie. As a nutritionist, health coach, and fellow long distance hiker, Katie understands the specific concerns of thru hikers and the physical demands of a long distance hike on the body. After working through adrenal fatigue and autoimmune issues herself, Katie now helps other hikers fuel for optimal energy, endurance and performance with meal planning, personalized coaching, and through her website.

continental divide trail

Heading into the 2018 hiking season, Chris knew he needed to revamp his trail diet to have the energy necessary for hiking big miles and climbing peaks. His goal was to eat for sustained, consistent energy throughout the day, and to make sure he was getting enough calories, and the right kind of calories, for long term health.

In this post, Chris breaks down what his diet looked like on the CDT, and Katie adds insight into what he could change to eat for improved energy, endurance, and optimal performance.

Chris:

In April of 2017 I was brand new to thru-hiking. I planned to thru-hike the CDT and my preparations were constantly on my mind. One of my biggest concerns was resupply. Would I have to send myself resupply boxes? How much food would I need? What would I eat? What foods would last on trail?

The logistics of food resupply quickly sorted themselves out once I was actually on trail. I spoke to fellow thru hikers who had way more experience than I did. I pieced together bits of their resupply strategies to create my own. (Nobody I met ate what might be considered a “healthy” trail diet). Before long I was carrying a food bag of what might be considered a thru hiker’s traditional resupply: Snickers, cheese, summer sausage, rice sides, chips of varying kinds, and candy.

After 2,000+ miles of hiking, I had dialed in my food plan.  Below is what I ate in a typical day on trail.

Katie:

Remember, you don’t have to completely overhaul your diet all at once. Nor do you have to give up all your favorite foods. Even small improvements, substitutions, and tweaks can make a big impact on your health and how you feel. Below are my suggestions for how Chris can meet his energy goals by adjusting his diet.

continental divide trail desert

Breakfast

Chris:

I typically start my day around 5:30-6:00 am. The night before I usually filled a powerade bottle ¾ of the way full with water, add an instant coffee pouch and a Swiss Miss hot chocolate pouch, then give it a good shake. I’d wake up to a nice, cool, caffeinated drink in the morning.  

I’d also eat a 20-gram protein bar from either Power Bar or Gatorade. This temporarily eased my immediate hunger upon waking. I’d also eat a caffeine-containing Clif Bar (Mint Chocolate or Toffee Buzz). Another part of my morning food intake became cookies, most often Nutter Butters!

Here was the breakfast breakdown:

  • Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate Packet
  • Starbucks Via Instant Coffee Packet
  • Either a Power Bar or Gatorade Bar containing 20g of protein
  • Clif Bar containing caffeine
  • 5-6 Nutter Butter cookies

Katie:

When eating to sustain energy levels throughout the day, I find that many hikers feel best starting the day with fat and protein. By eating a lot of sugar first thing in the morning, you may feel an initial surge of energy as glucose enters the bloodstream, but you’ll soon experience a “crash” as insulin shuttles glucose into cells and blood glucose levels rapidly decline. This is experienced as bonking, fatigue, and hitting the wall. For more sustained energy, consider fat and protein, which do not spike glucose and insulin levels as much, thereby giving you longer-lasting energy without the crash.

For Chris, I suggest cutting back on the sugar at breakfast and increasing healthy fats. By healthy fat, I’m referring to saturated fat and unsaturated fat from whole foods, as opposed to the harmful trans fats found in many commercial products.

Chris can keep his instant coffee drink, but consider having it black, with powdered full fat coconut milk, or even with just half the Swiss Miss packet. He’s doing great by eating a bar with at least 20g of protein first thing. This will help satiate him. Ideally, if he can find one with fewer processed ingredients, he can further reduce inflammation. Finally, rather than reaching for artificial energy with the caffeine Clif Bars and sugary cookies, Chris could save himself stress on his adrenals, and fuel with healthy fats instead.

Makeover:

hiker eating

Snacks/Lunch

Chris:

I’ll start by saying I never had a specific lunch-type meal. Instead, I carried several snacks to munch on throughout the day during several short breaks, rather than taking a longer lunch break. So, from the time I broke down camp until the time I stopped to cook dinner, it was all about a variety of snack foods!

Here is what I snacked on:

  • Chips
    • Ranch Doritos
    • Pringles
    • Cheetos
    • Fritos
    • Frito Twists
  • Bars
    • Nature Valley
    • Power Bars
    • Pro Bars
    • Beef Jerky
    • Slim Jims

Katie:

Most of Chris’s snacks are highly-processed foods, consisting of simple carbs. Many of these foods have preservatives, artificial colorings, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup, which can all create inflammation. This leads to greater fatigue, as the body tries to keep up with the physical demands of hiking all day coupled with the demands of combating chronic inflammation. Also, relying solely on simple carbs without adequate protein and healthy fats will keep Chris on the blood sugar roller coaster of energy swings.

Snacking throughout the day can be a great way to maintain energy, and carbohydrates are essential for fueling a long distance hike; however, I’d suggest choosing more whole food sources, and pairing them with protein, fat, and fiber for stable blood sugar. For chips, look for varieties with less than 5 ingredients, ideally without vegetable oils, such as canola (though that can be hard to find). For jerky, look for grass-fed sources, raised without antibiotics, with no added nitrates, MSG, or gluten.

Makeover:

  • Other
    • Granola, ideally homemade (higher in nuts/seeds, low in added sugars)
    • Nut/seed butters, such as peanut, almond, sunflower, without added sugars or oils
    • Dried Fruit
    • Nuts & Seeds
    • Homemade trail mix, with dried fruit, nuts, seeds, coconut, chocolate chips, etc. (Go down the bulk bin aisle and choose your favorites for endless variety)

trail

Dinner

Chris:

I would tend to stop and cook my one hot meal of the day around 5:30pm. I often ate a Knorr rice side or Idahoan dehydrated potatoes with chunks of cheese and summer sausage. After dinner I’d continue to hike on and treat myself to some candy when I set up my camp for the night.

My Usual Dinner Options:

  • Various Flavors of Rice Sides
  • Various Flavors of Pasta Sides
  • Various Flavors of Idahoans
  • Cheese
  • Summer Sausage
  • Skittles

Katie:
Chris could upgrade his dinners by looking for less processed versions of these staples, which would help keep inflammation lower. Consuming carbs at the end of the day helps restore muscle glycogen, so he’ll be ready to hike again the following day. Having protein with those carbs can further aid in restoring muscle glycogen. Aiming for a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein works well for many athletes. Additionally, I would suggest adding in a healthy fat, such as olive oil or coconut oil, to help replenish calories and aid in satiation. Chris’s diet also contains virtually no fruits or veggies, so I would suggest adding dehydrated veggies to his dinner and/or a greens powder sometime during his day. Dinner is also a great place to add in spices, which can boost the overall nutrition and antioxidant content of his meal. Finally, I would swap out the highly processed skittles, for a dessert such as dried fruit or dark chocolate, which are loaded with the antioxidants your body desperately needs to repair.

Makeover:

  • Rice noodles (just the noodles, without the preservatives)
  • Couscous
  • Instant Potato Flakes (just the potatoes, without preservatives, like this one)
  • Dehydrated Veggies
  • Cheese
  • Summer Sausage (grass fed sources)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Spices such as garlic powder, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, and cayenne
  • Dark Chocolate  (85% cacao or higher)
  • Dried fruit

In part 2, we’ll discuss how these resupplies compare in terms of calories, macronutrients, and nutrition. We’ll discuss the importance of considering both calorie dense and nutrient dense foods and compare common options. We’ll look at the weight of each of these resupplies, and finally, we’ll address the all-important concern of price and budget when it comes to the standard thru-hiker diet versus the healthier thru-hiker diet.

To follow Chris’s progress this year as he takes on the JMT and LT, subscribe to his blog here and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Download a free copy of Katie’s “Eat for Endurance” ebook here for more ideas on how to eat for sustained energy. Learn more about her private coaching, meal planning services, and read more of her articles here. Follow her adventures in the kitchen and in the outdoors on Facebook and Instagram.

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The Danger of Fueling with Faux Foods

wind river cirque of towers

This post originally appeared on The Trek, which you can find here

 

Hikers burn thousands of calories a day, so the quality of the food doesn’t matter, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

When it comes to food on a long trail, the focus is usually on calories and palatability. Little attention is paid to the long-term impact of our food choices on our health and the environment.  I’ll outline 10 reasons to make real food your primary fuel for endurance endeavors, as well as simple steps for how to make the transition.

What are Faux Foods?

Before we can avoid them, we must know how to identify them.

Faux foods are:

  • Foods where real ingredients have been stripped out and replaced with substitutions.
  • Foods that are created in a lab rather than grown in soil.
  • Foods that have an ingredient label containing substances you can’t pronounce.
  • Foods that are produced in a way that’s destructive to the environment.

‘Faux foods’ may not be the most accurate descriptor, as the foods are not necessarily fake, but it’s a good catchall for these foods, and it’s catchier than ‘non-food junk’, so that’s what I’ve settled on.

real food backpacker

What This Means for Hikers

It’s hard to imagine a diet worse in quality and nutritional benefits than the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is an obvious culprit in the U.S. obesity epidemic (affecting 1 in 3 adults) and a strong contributor to the current chronic disease crisis (affecting 1 in 2 adults).

But there is one diet that is arguably even worse, and that’s the standard Thru-Hiker diet. This diet consists primarily of heavily processed, packaged foods, which are loaded with preservatives, artificial ingredients, colorings, trans fats, and excess sugar. Of course, this way of eating developed because hikers need high calorie food, which is light, packable, and tasty, but many are unaware of the dangers of faux foods and the alternatives which exist.

While many hikers can get by on Snickers and Doritos for a few months with seemingly few consequences, junk food has real implications on your energy, your performance, and even the outcome of your hike.

PCT katiegerber.com

 

10 Reasons to Reconsider Your Resupply

1) You Are What You Eat

You’ve no doubt heard this before, but just let that sink in. What you eat literally becomes the components of your body. Do you want to be made up of artificial ingredients that were synthesized in a lab or would you prefer your cells to be made up of real, living things which grew from soil, sunlight, water, and air?

2) Inflammation

The full body inflammation caused by excess intake of faux foods makes us more susceptible to injury and illness. In 2017, injury and illness accounted for 17% of AT hikers quitting their thru-hike attempt. The main drivers of inflammation in a typical hiker diet arerefined sugar and trans fats.

3) Gut Health

Intricately tied to inflammation is the health of the gut lining. Sugar and refined ingredients, as well as several food additives and preservatives, have been shown to disrupt the digestive system – especially when exposure is chronic. This also impairs absorption of the limited nutrients that are being taken in.

4) Slower Recovery

If your body is lacking in essential micronutrients, it takes longer to get back to full speed. Thru-hikers beat their bodies up daily, so fast recovery is key to feeling great day after day.

5) Increased Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease, Autoimmune Conditions, and Allergies

Faux foods are more likely to result in these long-term health conditions that will affect you long after you’re off the trail. Processed foods are also more likely to cause allergies.

6) Slower Wound Healing

Chronic inflammation suppresses your immune system, thereby causing slower wound healing. It’s not uncommon to endure small wounds on trail, and quick healing reduces the chances of developing a serious infection that could end a hike.

7) Blood Sugar Balance and Bonking

Completing a long hike often requires long days. The key to having sustained energy and hiking big miles is maintaining balanced blood sugar by steering clear of highly-refined, processed foods.

8) Mental Clarity & Motivation

It’s often said that thru-hiking success is 90% mental. Whether you agree with that or not, there’s no doubt that the mental game is a huge part of successfully completing your adventure. Steady blood sugar helps you make better decisions and stay motivated over the long haul.

9) Post-hike Depletion

Most hikers are ambitious people with big plans. Rather than ending your hike exhausted and burnt out, it’s possible to recover faster and be ready for your next adventure without having to spend months on the couch in front of the TV. Faux foods lack the nutrients and antioxidants that will help you bounce back faster.

10) Overeating and Carrying Extra Food

Faux foods often have plenty of calories, but are deficient in nutrients, leaving the body unsatisfied. This leads to endless hunger and results in carrying more food than you may actually need.

BONUS:

The environmental impact of our choices is something we all need to be aware of. Industrial, highly-processed, GMO-filled foods increase the profits of mega-corporations at the expense of the environment we love so much.

pollution

5 Ways to Avoid the Pitfalls of Faux Foods

When it comes to eating for endurance, and overall personal and planetary health, I tend to follow a credo more than a specific diet. I don’t like the word ‘diet’ because it conjures up ideas of strict rules and restriction, which is not what I’m suggesting. A credo is more of a set of principles that guide your actions and beliefs.

Think of your food choices as a continuum with a 100% Faux Food diet on one end and a 100% seasonal, organic, unprocessed, local (SOUL) diet on the other end. This framework helps me work towards making better choices when I can, but not getting so caught up in rules and ‘shoulds’ that I give up entirely.

Here are a few of the basic principles and how you can apply them to your next outdoor adventure.

1) Eat more whole, unprocessed foods on trail

Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and dehydrated veggies are all great choices. There are lots of ideas online and you can also check out my free Eat for Endurance ebook for more ideas.

2) Read labels

This will help avoid excessive added sugar, trans fat, and additives like artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, sodium nitrate, sodium sulfate, food dyes, potassium bromate, and MSG.

3) Send resupply boxes to places with limited options

Don’t be stuck eating gas station food for a week because you didn’t plan ahead. You’ll feel gross and you’ll compromise your energy and performance.

4) Make up for micronutrient deficiencies in town

Choose fresh vegetables and salads instead of (or at least in addition to) pizza, burgers, and beer.

5) Make small changes

It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Here are some ideas:

Add in a greens powder, such as athletic greensamazing grass, or organifi each day.This can make up for micronutrient deficiencies on a long hike.

Swap out some candy for dried fruit. If your body is craving quick energy, eating fruit will give you a quick dose of carbs, with enough fiber to maintain blood sugar balance, and without all the added junk. And there are SO MANY options: raisins, cranberries, apricots, blueberries, mango, banana, etc.

Look for chips and other crunchy/salty snacks with as few ingredients as possible. For example, compare the following:

  • Ingredients in Organic Tortilla Chips: organic corn, organic sunflower oil, salt.
  • Ingredients in Nacho Cheese Doritos: whole corn, vegetable oil (corn, soybean, and/or sunflower oil), salt, cheddar cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), maltodextrin, whey, monosodium glutamate, buttermilk solids, romano cheese (part skim cow’s milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), whey protein concentrate, onion powder, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, corn flour, disodium phosphate, lactose, natural and artificial flavor, dextrose, tomato powder, spices, lactic acid, artificial color (including Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40), citric acid, sugar, garlic powder, red and green bell pepper powder, sodium caseinate, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, nonfat milk solids, whey protein isolate, corn syrup solids.

http://www.personaltrainervancouver.com/adventures/attachment/hiking-stock-image/

Start slow and do what you can.

Even making a few small changes is a good step towards fueling yourself for performance and creating a better environment at the same time.

Could Adrenal Fatigue Be Hindering Your Physical Performance?

pacific crest trail

This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.

Is your stamina and endurance suffering? Have you been getting more colds? Do you often hit a mid-afternoon slump? Do you feel anxious, down, and lack the motivation you used to have?

If you had asked me these questions a couple of years ago, the answer would have been a resounding “yes to all of the above.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but through long-distance running and hiking, plus ignoring my body’s feedback, I was gradually developing Adrenal Fatigue.

While there’s a lot of debate within the medical community about the existence and etiology of Adrenal Fatigue, the term is still widely used in popular media and within the general public. Increasingly, “Adrenal Fatigue” is replaced with more accurate descriptors like “HPA (hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary) axis dysregulation” and “General Adaptation Syndrome.” But regardless of what you call it, the condition describes a set of symptoms resulting from the many effects of chronic stress on the body.

More on that in a moment.

What are the adrenals and how do they become “fatigued?”

The adrenals are two pea-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys and are part of the HPA axis, which controls our stress response (aka the fight or flight response). When we encounter stress, whether real or perceived, a series of hormones trigger the adrenals to release cortisol into the bloodstream to make us focused and alert. Heart rate increases and glucose is released to fuel muscles. Once danger has passed, cortisol levels return to normal, insulin takes care of the extra blood sugar that was released, and all is well.

Historically, dangers were short-lived. Imagine the lion chasing the gazelle. The gazelle goes into the flight response, outruns the lion, and then goes back to grazing. The problem occurs when the danger or perceived danger never stops. This is common in our world where stress comes in many forms from physical stress, such as over-training, to emotional and psychological stress, such as concerns over finances and relationships.

lion gazelle
Photo source

Constant stress is not common in nature. The gazelle doesn’t keep stressing about the lion after the danger has passed. When we’re constantly stressed, in addition to having extra cortisol in our bodies, we also pump out extra insulin. This leads to insulin resistance, weight gain and cravings for sugar, salt, and fat.

This results in the HPA axis becoming dysregulated. The HPA axis affects systems throughout the body including thyroid and metabolism, immune function, and hormone production.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Because the HPA axis governs several functions in the body, the symptoms are wide ranging. As anyone who has hiked a long trail will attest to, it is a demanding endeavor, and physical, emotional, and psychological stress is a constant companion. If you find yourself nodding yes to most of these, read on to discover steps you can take to mitigate adrenal stress.

Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Waking up not fully rested and having difficulty falling asleep.
  • Craving sugar, fat, and salt.
  • Hitting an afternoon slump and craving sugar, caffeine, or both.
  • Gaining weight without changes in diet or exercise.
  • Feeling anxious, down, or lacking motivation.
  • Getting sick more often.
  • Experiencing low libido and hormonal issues, such as infertility,
  • Experiencing brain fog, such as issues with memory and focus.

Why are hikers particularly at risk?

Mt Whitney

Adrenal Fatigue exists on a spectrum ranging from adrenal overdrive to burnout and exhaustion.

As mentioned, stress is the driver of HPA dysfunction and that stress can come in many forms. It can be long-term emotional stress, like worrying that you’re not going to successfully finish the trail, that you’ll run out of money, or that you won’t find a job when you get home. It can also be physical stress, like walking 20+ miles daily and maintaining  a poor diet. A disrupted circadian rhythm caused by poor sleep, disrupted blood sugar from eating processed foods and refined carbs, and inflammation from substance abuse, gut issues, chronic illness, bacterial infections, and wounds, among many other factors, can all contribute to the overall stress load of the body.

When you are chronically under-eating and over-exercising, the body goes into survival mode. Your body reduces thyroid production (which plays a large role in metabolism), reduces sex hormones, and increases cortisol while you try to meet the demands of these stressors. Eventually this leads to HPA dysfunction.

The physical stress of a long hike, coupled with the nutrient-poor diet and often low-quality sleep of hikers, sets them up as prime candidates for developing HPA axis dysfunction. Those who set out on thru-hikes also tend to be driven, Type-A personalities who ignore their bodies’ red flags and push through the discomfort.

I know that was the case for me on the PCT in 2014. I actually felt great for the majority of the trail. I didn’t experience any injuries or illnesses on trail. I ate a fairly healthy whole foods diet. It wasn’t until I returned home and tried to start training for my next ultra marathon that I discovered my stamina and endurance were completely gone. Many other symptoms, such as lethargy, muscle fatigue, and hair loss were surfacing as well. After a long process of searching for answers, I discovered I had adrenal dysfunction and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Some of the symptoms were there all along and I’d been ignoring them. My salt cravings, for instance, which gave me my trail name (Salty), are one that come to mind. Frequently experiencing cold hands is another symptom I’d been ignoring. Most of it didn’t hit me until I’d returned home though.

Before you end up with complete adrenal exhaustion, look for these early indicators:

  • You experience a loss in appetite. If you’re normally hungry, then suddenly you’re not, this may indicate that you’re over-stressed.
  • You have an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, even when you’re exhausted.
  • Your mood is off and you’re unmotivated, even though you’re living your dream and hiking through some of the most beautiful parts of the country.
  • You’re really cold all the time (disrupted thyroid function).
  • You’re sore more frequently, long after you have your “trail legs.”

How do I know if I have Adrenal Fatigue?

hammock

There are a couple tests which can be done by an integrative or functional medicine doctor to assess adrenal health. The most common is to check salivary or serum cortisol levels over a 24-hour period to see where there are dips and spikes in cortisol. Additionally, doctors can test other hormones such as DHEA, progesterone, and insulin, as well as immune markers to evaluate the effects of stress on your body.

If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, you don’t need to wait for a test to begin treating yourself. Hikers may be able to improve symptoms with the following approaches:

  • Reduce your stress as much as possible. Uncertainty is a big driver of stress. Set yourself up for less stress by having good health and solid finances before your hike as well as a plan for when you finish. Also, find support on your hike through fellow hikers and staying in touch with loved ones at home. Enjoy your adventure and don’t pressure yourself to hike at a pace that doesn’t suit you.
  • Improve your sleep habits. Sleep is your prime recovery time, and how you sleep is how you hike. Make sure your sleeping pad is comfortable, your bag is warm enough, and avoid stimulants before bed.
  • Regulate your blood sugar levels. Adjust your resupply strategy to include less sugar and more nutrient-dense foods. Include a healthy fat and protein with each meal. Fuel consistently to avoid bonking.
  • Cut back on caffeine consumption. Caffeine can be a major adrenal stressor and it’s easy to overdo it on trail. Many drink mixes contain a lot of caffeine. For more consistent energy, opt for low-sugar electrolyte blends instead to flavor your water.
  • Exercise, but not too much. This is next to impossible for thru-hikers, of course, but you can still listen to your body. If you’re constantly fatigued, give yourself an extra zero day in town. It’s your hike. Take care of your body, so you can finish the trail healthy.
  • Add in adaptogenic herbs, such as Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, or Rhodiola. These can be sent in resupply boxes as teas, capsules, or tinctures. These herbs have a long history of traditional use in various cultures as well as scientific research showing their stress-protective properties. If you’re prone to stress, consider them an insurance policy.
  • Take a daily multivitamin with B-complex and Magnesium. Even when you’re eating healthy on trail, you can run low on key micronutrients and stress depletes them even faster. Again, consider it a nutrition insurance policy. Throw a Ziploc with a few multi-vitamins in each resupply box. They’re not that heavy.

It’s important to note that I’m not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. I don’t diagnose, treat, or prescribe. HPA axis dysfunction is a complex topic and it’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss it in full detail. This article is intended to raise awareness of an issue that hikers may be prone to experiencing, and which frequently goes undiagnosed since symptoms are wide-ranging and often confused with the ‘normal’ discomfort of thru-hiking.

If you want to know more, speak to a licensed medical professional.

If you’re seeking support with other health-related goals, such as increasing energy and stamina, eating well on trail, and preparing for or recovering from your hike, check out my other blog posts or schedule a free discovery session