Why Am I So Hungry After Hiking (And What To Do About It)

food is very important to avoid hiker hunger

Hiking is an amazing physical activity. It can actually become a part of your lifestyle if you’re going on hikes regularly. The beautiful scenery, scents of nature, peaceful lakes… There are some really magnificent things you’ll encounter during hiking sessions.

Until you start to feel ravenous. After a couple of weeks on the trail, the sudden uncontrollable hunger may overwhelm you. It is the hiker hunger.

Hiker hunger is a temporary condition that can be avoided, and won’t necessarily ruin your hiking adventure. It usually happens on long hikes when hard physical activity lowers the metabolism rate to conserve energy.

So, if you want to continue hiking safe from this hunger beast, you’ll just need a few tips. Today, we are going to provide you with some essential information, and solutions for this very common hikers’ issue.

Table of Contents

What Is the Hiker Hunger?

It may sound like a silly fictional story, but the struggle is real. The hiker hunger is a feeling of bottomless hunger that strikes if not fed every two hours or so. Hikers can eat a large amount of food and still feel like not getting full.

There are even some cases when hikers wake up at night with this urge to eat a large amount of food. The hiker hunger usually starts after a few weeks of hiking, as the crossed trail miles pile up, the risk of uncontrollable hunger increases.

Why Does Hiker Hunger Happen?

The hiker hunger happens because after or during the hard physical activity your metabolism may be lowered to conserve energy. That’s why it is not uncommon to feel extremely hungry later in the day, or sometimes the day after physical activity.

5 Nutrition Tips to Prevent Hiker Hunger

There are a few crucial things to consider when going hiking or backpacking. From knowing how cold is too cold for hiking, to be aware you need to limit the amount of stuff you’re going to pack into your bag.

When it comes to packing your hiking backpack, you’ll need to make sure there is always some food and water in it.

That way you’ll be able to avoid or lessen the feeling of extreme hunger. So, take a look at some useful tips regarding hunger prevention during a hike. 

1. Have a Breakfast

Even if you don’t like having breakfast, consider taking some food in the morning before your big hiking day. You don’t need to force yourself to eat anything you don’t like.

Instead opt for something sweet or savory, something that makes you happy to eat. Try to start your day with a nice mix of complex carbohydrates and fats, even if you eat just a few bites.

Carbs break down fast and provide you with some much-needed energy, and fats help slow down digestion, and that way will keep you satiated longer.

2. The Least Amount of Food With the Most Calories

The limited space of your backpack isn’t allowing you to bring a lot of food on a hiking adventure. But, you will still need a nutritious and high-calorie snack. You won’t be able to take heavy food items, neither the foods that can spoil easily.

Some hikers often choose to bring some chocolate fudge, marshmallows, caramel bits, butter, and peanuts. The truth is a high-calorie chocolate bar can give you good sources of sugar.

And from time to time it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The energy bar burns quickly and gives a source of energy, but it can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash. You can make a simple snack that won’t cause your sugar to crash. 

For example, spread some peanut butter or some other nut butter type between two slices of wheat bread. That way you won’t eat an unhealthy snack, but you’ll gain energy. 

Plus, it’s not hard to pack it into your backpack. If you decide to take a candy bar, go with some minimally-processed bars like Fruit and Almond Bar.

So, for a quick energy boost go for sugars and carbs, but add some of the other types of calories to avoid crashing. Try to opt for dried fruit, candy, fruit snacks, and energy blocks.

3. High Fat Food

When going hiking, you should pack your diet with fats. Consider eating more often but in smaller amounts. Some people recommend eating every 45 to 90 minutes to prevent extreme hunger.

Dietitians say that the average person should get from 20 to 35 percent daily calories from fats. Some sportspersons recommend 46 percent for hikers. 

Fats are known for releasing energy slowly through the day, but they need to be consumed consistently, and by that way, you eat more frequently and avoid hiker hunger more easily. nuts and bananas are great hiking snack

You can take from six to eight snacks a day, two of which are high-fat meals. Some examples of high-fat foods are nuts, honey waffles, granola bars, olive oil packets, tuna packets in oil.

4. Get Some Real Food

If you want to eat something healthy and nutritious during your hiking adventure, you should consider dried fruits. The fresh fruit can also be an option, but you’ll need to make sure they are not ripe yet so they won’t spoil so quickly.

So, when it comes to dried fruit, they provide a lot of energy but also have many health benefits. For example, bananas have potassium that is great for proper muscle function.

Raisins are also a great option if you want an affordable yet high-calorie snack. Forty grams of each of the mentioned dried fruits have 130 calories. You must admit that’s a lot for only 1.2 ounces (42 grams) of fruit.

Consider the fact that manufacturers often put extra sugar so the dried fruit has a better taste for some people. If you can, try some organic versions of dried fruit. These types of dried fruit contain more nutrients and are farmed more sustainably.

5. Consider a Fresh Food

When you ask a hiker what food they are craving, they would probably say fresh fruits or vegetables. The micronutrient compounds found in fresh food are really hard to find in the meals hikers commonly use on the trail.

So, if during your hiking adventure you come across any town, consider eating some salad or fruit. You can also buy some multivitamins in a local pharmacy. 

Try to avoid hamburgers and beer, as this type of food will only temporarily satisfy your needs.

You won’t be able to fix some vitamin deficiencies in one day, but the good thing is that your body can store up fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K for some later use.

Also, you may consider taking some fresh dairy, like yogurt or milk, as they can provide you with important B vitamins.

6. Stay Hydrated

Hiking activity not only requires quality food intake but also a great amount of water. Water can also prevent hunger and dehydration. Chronic dehydration affects about a third of the world’s population.

Experts recommend people should drink at least 3.7 liters of water per day for men, and 2.7 per day for women. If you are practicing physical activity like hiking you’ll need more.

It happens that people who don’t consume enough water can often mistake the pains they are feeling for hunger. So, if you suddenly feel a strong urge to eat something, try to drink some water first.

If the hunger continues after that then you should eat something instead. Also, taking some water before meals can get you to feel full easier, and it might take you longer to feel hungry again.

Besides preventing hunger, water can improve digestion and lower fluid retention. It can also help you flush out excess sodium from your body, which can help you lose some weight if you want.

You can choose some insulated and filtered water bottles, and make sure you have them by your side during your hike.

7. Repair Overnight

You should consume protein throughout the day, but eating some of it before bed gives your body extra time to recover.

Protein helps repair micro-tears in your muscles, and since the body can’t store protein, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting it enough daily.

It is believed endurance athletes should consume from 1.5 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day.

Fiber also plays an important role as an anti-inflammatory tool, so it’s very useful to consume in the evening, so you don’t wake up with a stiff and sore body the next morning.

You could try adding some lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, and sausages to your daily diet, as they are a good source of protein and fiber.

Food Safety Measures

When it comes to food safety be sure to check out some tips for better food storage during hiking.  Always use a cooler, or pack foods in a frozen state with some cold source. Keep your raw foods separate from other foods, and never bring meat, poultry, or dairy products without a proper cold source to keep them safe.

It will be best if you can avoid carrying any raw food at all, so you don’t have to worry. There is plenty of dried food that is easy to use.

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