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how many calories per pound per day do you eat?
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Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
how many calories per pound per day do you eat? on 07/31/2010 19:16:10 MDT Print View

I've seen a lot of discussion here on how much food to bring, but it tends to be inconclusive. Considering that food can easily be half your pack weight, and that this site is all about lightening up, it seems like it would be really helpful to get some quantitative data on how much people actually eat. I get the impression that individuals vary enormously in this respect, but it would still be interesting to see what the range is.

Considering how many of us here are gram-counting spreadsheet nuts, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's got accurate data on how many calories he's actually consumed on hikes.

Clearly bigger people need more food, so rather than calories per day, it would be more useful to see calories per pound of body weight per day.

On short hikes, your body may actually be running on the last meal before you hit the trail and the first meal after you get off the trail. So if you have data for longer hikes, that's more useful.

If you're eating at cafes along the way, discarding some food in hiker boxes, dumping food after you exit, etc., then obviously you want to make an effort to take that into account.

Anyone got figures to share?

I'll start the ball rolling:

18 cal/lb/day (an 11.5 day-trip, averaging 19 miles/day; lost 4.5 lb of body weight by the end of the trip)

15 cal/lb/day (typical for me on shorter, less strenuous trips, hiking more like 12 miles/day)

-Ben

Edited by bcrowell on 07/31/2010 19:17:11 MDT.

Derek Goffin
(Derekoak)

Locale: North of England
how many calories per pound per day do you eat?" on 08/02/2010 03:58:40 MDT Print View

I do not know how many variables matter but
I did 17 days of the Pyrenean Haute Route camping and carrying 50 to 25 pounds in a rucksack and say 3 pounds of clothes, carrying more than my share of food and tent. We were doing the Ton Joosten guide book days approximately. I do not know how long they are but they are arduous long days with lots of altitude gained and lost (1500-2000 m gain per day) I weigh 154 pounds. I lost 2 pounds bodyweight. I carried 3300 calories per day. I only eat one uncarried extra meal although it was big and 2 bowls of soup. I had one day travelling home before I weighed myself. 2 pounds fat is 908 grams = 8172 of calorie deficit. my carried all in weight is 154 plus 3 plus say 37= 194 pounds. 3300/194= 17 calories per pound carried. Calorie Deficit is about 2.5 calories per pound carried. Say stuffing myself at the one sitting plus 2 soups is an extra 1400 calories/17 days/194 pounds 0.4 calories/pound carried/day.
So I think the answer to your question is 20 calories per pound carried per day for me doing the haute route.

edit Ben as you lost 4.5 pounds in 11.5 days that is about 1600 calorie per day deficit. You have not given your bodyweight plus in my opinion clothes weight plus average pack weight so I cannot apportion these 1600 calories per day to get calories expended per day per pound carried

Edited by Derekoak on 08/02/2010 07:47:31 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
how many calories per pound per day do you eat? on 08/02/2010 09:59:44 MDT Print View

I have calculated trips using caloric density of my food items carried but as of late I prefer a method which allows me to walk into a grocery store (or grab from my pantry) a selection of items based on their dry weight instead.

Your loss of 4.5 lbs over an 11.5 day trip sounds dangerous. According to my colleague and self-proclaimed nutrition nerd, Chris Wallace the maximum acceptable weight loss over a seven day period is about one pound.

For information regarding calculating food to carry using it's dry weight refer to a forum thread by long-time backcountry guide, Mike Clelland:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=16633

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
How many calories? on 08/02/2010 10:03:33 MDT Print View

+1 with what Sam indicated. Dropping 1 pound in a week is a decrease in calories of approximately 3500 over that week, or about 500 a day. This is body weight comprised of fat and muscle and not just water weight. This is also an average and will depend on basal metabolic rates. Losing 4plus pounds is effectively starving.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: how many calories per pound per day do you eat? on 08/02/2010 10:13:26 MDT Print View

To clarify, 1 pound per week is the commonly accepted safe amount of weight one should lose when dieting, etc.

I'm around 143 lbs and eat 3k+ cals per day in the front country. That's roughly 21 cals per pound of body weight and I don't gain at this. Depending on my activity I might even lose a little.

On short backcountry trips I have a tendency to undereat and make it up in town. As an example, on this past weekend's WS1 trip I carried around 1.1 lbs of food per day. I figure it was around 2200-2400 cals. I will be carrying more food on the upcoming WT1 trip since we will be out for several more days and I don't have the spare bodyfat to supplement a lack of food on anything more than a weekend trip. We will also be covering more miles at higher elevations. I'm leaning towards 3500 cals/day which will be somewhere around 1.6-1.75 lbs/day of food. It seems heavy but I don't want to crash in the middle of the trip.

Having said all of that, nutrition varies so much from person to person there isn't any commonly accepted amount of calories per pound (or any other similar calculation). It's all trial and error.

Michael Cockrell
(CAL-EE-FOR-NIA) - F

Locale: Central Valley, Lodi-Stockton, CA
Calorie & hydration comsumption on 08/02/2010 10:14:58 MDT Print View

I have used Hammer Nutrition materials for all my hikes, races, etc.

They have a great "Knowledge" library on how to decide your calorie & hydration formula.

The biggest "wrong" theory is the amount of calories & hydration needed -vs-desired.

Here is a link to their discussion on fueling:

http://www.hammernutrition.com/knowledge/the-10-biggest-mistakes-endurance-athletes-make.1273.html?sect=essential-knowledge-section

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: how many calories per pound per day do you eat? on 08/02/2010 15:04:25 MDT Print View

I get lower numbers, but i'm small: 11-14 cal/lb/day. What you should do is get all the responses and plot cal/lb/day versus body weight. I'd be interesting to see the dependence...

Usually I take about 1500-2000 per day (about a pound of food) so at 135 that's the 11-14.

Edited by erdferkel on 08/02/2010 20:13:33 MDT.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
weight loss; results so far on 08/02/2010 17:48:19 MDT Print View

Interesting info -- thanks, all!

The 4.5 lb of weight loss over 2 weeks is a very rough figure. I stepped on the scale wearing clothes, and didn't make any effort to check if it was the same amount of clothing before and after. I think the amount of water and food in your body can also vary quite a bit. A liter of water in my belly would be 2.2 lb. A day's worth of food in my belly would be roughly 1.5 lb. So with fluctuations and uncertainties of that size, I wouldn't even claim that the 4.5 lb of loss was statistically different from zero.

@Derek: I guess there are at least two different ways that one could define this figure: (1) calories per day per pound of body weight, and (2) cal/day per pound of total weight, including body, pack, and clothes. #1 was what I was originally stating and asking for. I can see how there could be arguments in favor of #2, but it would be a different thing. My body weight is about 135 lb, and my skin-out weight on the 11.5-day trip probably averaged about 20 lb, so by method #2, the figure would probably be about 16 cal/day/lb.

Compiling the numbers people have given so far, by method #1, here's what we have. Each line is cal/lb/day by method #1, followed by body weight in lb.

Ben: 15-18, 135 lb
Chris: 16-24, 143
Derek: 22, 154 [*]
Christopher Shive: 17, 180 [**]
Chad Miller: 17, 235 lb [**]
Tohru: 11-14

[*] recalculated as (3300*17+1400)/(17*154) to make it method #1
[**] http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=16633

The results so far seem to be strongly clustered in the range from 15 to 20 cal/lb/day. To me, this seems a lot more useful than pounds per person per day, which people in these two threads have reported as varying wildly from 0.75 to 2.

Tohru wrote: "What you should do is get all the responses and plot cal/lb/day versus body weight. I'd be interesting to see the dependence..."
I don't see much of a trend in the data so far, but a lot of us are clustered around the same body weight. What's yours?

@Sam: That's an interesting thread you pointed to! Accounting for food by weight is definitely more convenient than doing it by calories, and that's the method I use a lot of the time. The thing is, the caloric density of food really varies a lot, so if we're trying to reach definitive conclusions here, IMO it's more useful to cut down on the number of variables by using calories. I used to achieve a much higher energy density with my food until someone here on BPL pointed out to me that a healthy diet should have proportions of about 50-35-15 calories from carb-fat-protein. Forcing myself to do that significantly lowered the energy density of my food, from about 2100 cal/lb to about 1800 cal/lb.

Edited by bcrowell on 08/02/2010 17:56:09 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: weight loss on 08/02/2010 17:57:33 MDT Print View

Carb/Fat/Protein ratios vary a ton and there is no specific one that's healthier than another. Some people can eat a high fat diet and have no ill effects, etc.

A lot of it comes down to activity type as well. For fast miles I'd want mostly carbs but for long, slow miles I'd eat more fat.

I'm an outlier on the amount of cals I need for my bodyweight because of my activity level. You'd have to capture that data as well along with age, sex, etc. to make a decent conclusion.

Edited by simplespirit on 08/02/2010 17:59:35 MDT.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: weight loss on 08/02/2010 18:19:33 MDT Print View

I agree with Chris. There is no "ideal" ratio of carbs:fat:protein, and age, gender and muscle mass, amongst other things, makes it difficult to have a universal calculator. My diet tends towards fairly equal ratios of C:F:P, sort of like a zone range. But I can run just as well on proteins and fats as I can on carbs, so YMMV.

David Lutz
(davidlutz)

Locale: Bay Area
"how many calories per pound per day do you eat?" on 08/02/2010 18:31:27 MDT Print View

This is an interesting thread, an all-new topic to me.....I would like to learn more......

I was on a trip recently and lost 5 lbs from noon on Friday to noon on Monday after covering about 43 miles. There was a lot of elevation gain/loss.

I'm 6'-0" tall and started the trip at 166 and have been at 161 ever since returning. I weigh every day at the same time, right as I get into the shower.

I brought (and ate) 1.5 pounds of food per day. I've been sort of feeling a little run-down since I got back.

I eat a reasonable quantity of food in my everyday diet, but it's not as balanced as it could be. For exercise, I play soccer 3-4 times a week and spend about 3 hours on my mountain bike every two weeks or so. That's it.

Any thoughts or advice?

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: "how many calories per pound per day do you eat?" on 08/02/2010 19:31:30 MDT Print View

+1 on the thanks for starting this thread. I don't worry too much about meal planning for overnighters, but for 2 days or more, I try to pack 3200 calories per day, and to get about 120 calorie/oz, so I end up carrying just over 1.5lbs of food/day. I developed this method mostly thru sporadic reading of this forum, and that it turns out that 120-130 calories/oz worked out well for the foods I like to bring.

I'm 35, 5'10" and weigh 175lbs, so 3200 calories a day would be ~18 cal/lb/day. I probably lose a little weight which I certainly don't mind on an overnighter.

I'm reading this thread with interest, as I'm planning on my first thru-hike in October, 168 miles in 9 days. I'm not worried about my physical conditioning, but at that length and mileage nutrition is going to be a big factor, one I've never taken as seriously my pack weight, and I don't want a bad diet ruining a good hike.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Carbon Copy David on 08/02/2010 20:03:26 MDT Print View

Just completed a 3 nighter with about 5K in elevation change. Eat just under 1500/day and ended up losing about 5lbs. on that trip. I was 6'2" 195lbs.

Normally, my trips are higher miles/days with 5k+/day in elevation gain. On trips like that I target 4k/day and still end up losing weight.

Two years ago, I thru-hiked the JMT in bit less than 10 days eating 3k/day and lost almost 15 lbs on that trip. That would suggest a calorie burn rate of about 8k/day. This matches other estimates that I have seen.

For my PCT hike next year I am targeting 4k/day with an average calorie density of 125cal/oz. In addition I will do the usually food fests at trail towns every 3-5 days. I plan to do the trail in 100 days, averaging 28.5 miles/day. What will be interesting to see is what my final weight ends up being. I suspect all upper body muscle mass will be lost and I will end up at 170-175.

I started taking a homemade (and much cheaper) equivalent of Hammer Perpetuem to consume during the peak 5 hours of hiking. I take 1500 calories which gives me 300 calories per hour. I have found this to be a much easier way of making sure I get enough calories in me to not bonk going over some pass.

Edited by gg-man on 08/02/2010 20:04:08 MDT.

JASON CUZZETTO
(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "how many calories per pound per day do you eat?" on 08/02/2010 22:50:59 MDT Print View

This is the hardest thread for me to understand. I did appriciate this weight savings idea from my BPL course. Chime in if I got this wrong. But I thought each meal was 4-6 ounces and between 400 and 600 callories. But it seems to me this might not be correct???

Michelle Daher
(michelle@kopisch.com) - F
Re: how many ounces of food & fuel per pound of body do you CARRY each day? on 08/02/2010 23:26:14 MDT Print View

What about going without fuel or hot rehydrated food? I'd like to get rid of this added weight. Anyone going completely w/o fuel? Is this possible? I would have to give up coffee on trail...& I'm willing to make my own foods to pack along. I could go Muir-like and take just a cup of tea and a biscuit--how far does that get us nowdays?

I am left behind on a JMT hike cause I have a bad back and I want to figure out what will work for me. My last trip I had a 30 lb pack (w/water) and managed fine (my hubby carried food and tent for me but only for 50 miles, then I had to bail out). I wanna go farther! I have to reinvent the packing wheel though since my husband loves his hot packaged meals.
Mom of Daniel, wife of Manfred
~Michelle

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: how many calories per pound per day do you eat? on 08/02/2010 23:47:32 MDT Print View

> To clarify, 1 pound per week is the commonly accepted safe amount of weight one should lose when dieting, etc.

This rule of thumb is for normal in-town weight-loss diets. As far as I know, one of the main reasons is that, given normal metabolic calorie requirements, you cannot lose much more than that and also be eating enough food to have anything like a balanced diet. Run the math yourself and see.

Clearly that line of reasoning does not apply if you are in a situation where your break-even caloric need is 5,000-6,000 calories per day.

Does anyone know why the 1#/week limit should still apply in the higher energy use environment?

--MV

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Is there any reason to believe the relationship is linear? on 08/02/2010 23:55:27 MDT Print View

I will grant that heavier people tend to burn more calories -- for one thing they are lifting more weight up the hills. For another, the heavier person (assuming both in good shape) has more muscle busy burning those calories.

I am, however, skeptical that all calorie use is proportional to body weight. I see no a priori reason to expect a 145# woman, a 145# man, and a 250# man to all need the same number of calories per lb -- even if all are in similarly good physical shape.

-- MV

Edited by blean on 08/02/2010 23:56:31 MDT.

Brian Senez
(bsenez) - MLife

Locale: New England
re: how many calories per pound per day do you eat? on 08/03/2010 06:02:30 MDT Print View

I am currently preparing for a 300 mile section hike through NH and VT on the Appalachian Trail. I weigh 160lb and will carry 4200-4300 calories per day. This comes out to 26 calories per pound per day. I will be on the trail for 16 days averaging about 19 miles per day. This hike will be in late September and I will have a little under 3lb of clothing.

In 2006 I thru hiked the AT southbound in the winter. Finishing in February I weighed 149lb and was consuming just under 7000 calories per day. Almost 47 calories per pound per day!

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Is there any reason to believe the relationship is linear? on 08/03/2010 10:33:50 MDT Print View

"I am, however, skeptical that all calorie use is proportional to body weight. I see no a priori reason to expect a 145# woman, a 145# man, and a 250# man to all need the same number of calories per lb -- even if all are in similarly good physical shape."

Actually, I don't know what to expect, which is why this might be interesting. Basal metabolic rate is supposed to scale linearly with weight and height, and inversely with age:
wikipedia on BMR
But that's for someone who's not moving, I would agree with you that heavier people may have to work harder to hike the same distance/elevation gain. An additional complication is the ambient temperature. One person who 'sleeps warm' may burn more calories while asleep than one who 'sleeps cold' etc.

Edited by erdferkel on 08/03/2010 10:35:29 MDT.

terry a thompson
(terry588) - MLife

Locale: West
Re: re: how many calories per pound per day do you eat? on 08/03/2010 11:34:12 MDT Print View

Brian,
how do you manage to carry that many calories per day? what is the weight for your food per day? what type of food are you carrying?

thanks, Terry