Tips for Walking – Food and Energy

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve learned a few things about preparing for and enjoying a good long walk, so I thought would I share some of that knowledge. Hope it helps.

What?: When I’m out for a walk, especially one of more than an hour or two, I’ll often take snacks with me and sometimes will take a full-on picnic lunch. Because I’m also trying to eat healthily before and after I go out, I pay attention to the snacks I enjoy. No two people’s dietary needs are the same, of course, so listen to your body and to your health care providers’ advice. I’m just saying this is what works for me.

Tips: Where, when, how and why

Avoid sugary/salty snacks. I try to avoid things like cookies, chips, nachos, etc. pretty much all of the time in any case, and I especially don’t want to include these as snacks on a hike. They just make you thirsty and while they may be calorie-dense, they are usually nutrient-light. You can do better – save these for the occasional cheat treat.

Mix and match proteins and carbs. When you’re burning energy on a hike, a mix of protein and carbohydrates will keep you fuelled. Think about lean protein sources like hard boiled eggs, or healthy choices like raw nuts and seeds, smoked fish, lean dry hard sausage, hard cheeses, etc. You don’t need a lot, but you do need some protein. As for carbohydrates, whole grains and raw fruits and veggies are great – whole wheat bagels, unsweetened oat cakes, a handful of raw carrots, an apple, and a nice ripe tomato – these all make a tasty snack and combined with a small handful of raw nuts/seeds and a hard-boiled egg you’ve got a light lunch to keep you going.

  • Be careful with energy bars and energy drinks. I use them too, like most people, but not as my primary energy source. I usually keep an energy bar in my back pack as an emergency source of calories. My main snack will be something more everyday, like a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese along with a piece of fruit. As for energy drinks, I avoid them unless it’s really hot – I prefer just plain water, but sometimes in the heat I need energy but I’m too hot to eat food, so carrying a chilled small (500 ml or less) energy drink can help me get over the hump. Besides, energy bars and drinks can mean wasteful, non-recyclable packaging which is bad for the environment.
  • Invest in green packaging. A few years ago, my wife found a company that makes storage packaging made of beeswax-coated cloth. This is reusable for months, keeps things fresh, and when it’s time to move on it’s biodegradable (or makes a great back-country fire starter). Other options include reusable silicone jars or bags or tubes, or just plain parchment paper. By having some of these items in the home, you can package healthy snacks and avoid plastic, with the bonus that you know exactly what’s in it.
Reusable, resealable silicone pouches
Reusable beeswax cloth for wrapping snacks
  • Eat well before you go out. For most of my walks, especially under 2 hours, I simply eat a proper breakfast or lunch before I go. For me that means carbs like oatmeal or whole grain breads, some cheese or smoked fish or a hard-boiled egg, and some fruit, and perhaps some yoghurt if I want some extra protein.
  • Cool down with a healthy snack afterwards. When you get back after a long walk and need some refreshment, reach for the fruit bowl. An orange is refreshing and helps to rehydrate you. If you still need something more, then move on to things like bananas, some raw veg, or a handful of nuts or seeds, or similar proteins. Your before and after snacks should be just as healthy as your walk snacks.
  • A picnic can be fun. The longer the walk I’ve planned, the more I’ll think about a proper picnic. That often includes a homemade sandwich, fruit and/or raw veg, and a little sweet treat like some dried fruit. It can also include dinner leftovers like salads or pasta or grilled meats, and I’ve sometimes used an insulated thermos to take a hot lunch like soup or chili or chowder. Just remember, all that stuff adds weight to your pack.
  • Carry out your crap. It drives me up the wall to be out on a lovely nature trail and come across an energy bar wrapper or worse, fast food packaging. If you’re bringing something to eat on your walk, then carry out the waste afterwards at least as far as the next garbage bin. The only exception, maybe, is an apple core or something similarly biodegradable, but even then it’s better to hike these home because these items often just result in habituating wildlife to people and creating a people=food association, which leads to raccoons, skunks, etc. prowling near trails and garbage cans.
  • Typical snacks for 6-8 hour hike
    • morning snack – a banana or a bagel
    • lunch – a homemade sandwich (how about cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickle on whole wheat bread), along with fresh fruit and/or veg
    • afternoon snack – about 50-100 grams of raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds with about 25-50 grams of dried fruit
    • just in case snack – an energy bar

Disclaimer: All opinions contained in this post are my own. I’m not a nutritionist, physiotherapist, or doctor. Take my advice as given – caveat emptor.