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Food & Nutrition

For several years my trail diet had been almost entirely bar-based — namely, energy bars, candy bars, and granola bars. During my Great Western Loop hike, for example, I ate an average of 11 bars a day, which amounted to about 60 percent of my daily caloric intake. On this hike, however, I decided to change things up in the hope that I would avoid (1) becoming bored with my food and (2) having persistent post-hike cravings for the simple sugars that my body was so accustomed to consuming.

If the terrain is really technical and demanding, I normally do not become bored with my food. Instead, my mind is completely focused on hiking and food is considered just a “means” for CFP (“continuous forward progress”). However, when the terrain is boring, which inevitably happens during a long hike, I’m more likely to get bored with my food, too — my mind naturally shifts to the question, “When can I eat next? And what items are still in today’s food bag?” And I get disappointed that the same-old food items fail to spice up my day.

The post-hike sugar cravings are really tough to manage, and they are perhaps the biggest culprit in the post-hike weight-gain that usually offsets any weight-loss from the hike. Generally I eat healthily in my civilian life, so it feels bizarre to crave candy bars, donuts, and pudding cakes for up to 4-6 weeks after I’ve stopped hiking 200-300 miles a week

It’s now almost 2 weeks since I finished this hike, and I’m pretty confident in saying that the new “menu” was a winner and that menus for future hikes will look more similar to it than to older ones. I never felt bored with my food during this trip — every snack that I ate in a day was fundamentally different, not just a different flavor (e.g. Honey Peanut versus Mocha Chip), and that kept things interesting. Of course, the trip was just 32 days long, not 200+, but I’m encouraged by these results. And it took me just a few days to kick any sugar cravings. I of course treated myself to some ice cream and pie immediately afterwards, but I’m not craving sweets like I normally would after a long hike. And thus far I seem to have been able to avoid putting on all of the pounds that I lost.

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