The moment your stomach starts rumbling and your energy levels take a nosedive, your instinct’s to comb through your snack stash for whatever — be it a sugar-filled granola bar or bag of pretzels — excites your tastebuds. But if you’re trekking up a mountain or through a secluded pine tree forest, you’ll need to be a little more strategic with your snack choices — and when you eat them in the first place.
In fact, hikers should consider eating a snack every 60 to 90 minutes between meals, depending on the intensity of the hike, says a food planning expert. “This is because a hiker can be at risk of burning through their glycogen stores — aka hitting the wall or ‘bonking’ — within one to three hours of hiking if the body isn’t fueled adequately,” she explains.
These glycogen stores — or the stored form of glucose (a type of sugar converted from carbohydrates) in your liver and muscles — act as a reliable source of energy while you exercise. The more intense the activity, the more quickly your stores are used up. But if your glycogen stores get too low while you’re exercising, your muscle cells can’t produce enough ATP. The result: You feel run-down, fatigued, and more inclined to lie down for a nap than to climb that next peak.
To keep your energy high throughout your trek, she recommends loading up on hiking snacks that boast a balance of carbohydrates, which provide the body with that essential glucose; fats, which act as slow-burning fuels that keep your body moving after you metabolize the carbs; and protein, which help build and repair muscle, she says.
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