Forum Index » Food, Hydration, and Nutrition » Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking


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Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 18:41:47 MDT Print View

Any nutrition experts out there? I've been trying to wrap my mind (or stomach, as the case may be) around how bad food affects me on the trail.

I tend to hike at 3 mph over the course of the day and cover 20+ miles. To keep me going, I eat a lot of crappy food and my wife gives me heck for this, claiming that I'm not doing myself any good. But I don't have a sweet tooth and like pounding Cheez-Its, Goldfish, prepackaged crackers, etc. while hiking.

I know fats, particularly the saturated and especially the trans fat varieties, are bad. But when you are hiking at a high metabolic rate, what does this mean? Is that fat just as bad for you? Or does it not really matter (i.e. your body is breaking it down and using it)?

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 19:24:25 MDT Print View

Saturated and mono-saturated fats are good for you.
hydrogenated/trans-fats are very bad.
in other words, natural fats as found in game,cattle,seafood are good. As well as fats from oily plants like olives coconuts and macadamia. All of these are mostly either mono saturated( olive oil) or saturated ( coconuts,macadamias)

All other fats are obtained from a nasty chemical process to extract the oils. Think corn,soy,safflower ect. These fats are very inflammatory. On top of that they are very high in omega 6 fatty acids and ruin your bodies omega6/ omega3 acid balance. This is why so many people are supposed to take omega 3 supplements- because so much foods is adulterated with omega 6 oils (vegetable oil.)
The myth that saturated fats are bad for you was started by marketing campaign by big agricultural industry who found a way to manufacture oils from the cheap tax subsidized crops namely- corn and soy. Government went along with this because they will do anything thats good for industry. It didn't help that vegetarian/vegan special interest groups also jumped on the ideas that eating meat can cause disease and also help a lot in promoting big agras claims.
It will be a long time before this huge billion dollar marketing campaign can be unlearnd by the main stream.
So yes, you can eat saturated and mono-saturated fat with no worries -in fact its very good for you all your cell need it and your whole nervous sytem/brain its anti-inflammatory and many vitamins are fat soluble and cant be used by your body without it.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 19:45:54 MDT Print View

Those fats have more of a long term health effect, probably not important for hiking.

Beef that was fed a lot of corn, like almost all our beef, is long term unhealthy. Many studies back that up. Bad omega 3/omega 6 ratio. Grass fed beef is probably much better, consistent with what you said, but I haven't seen a lot of scientific studies.

Similar thing with other meat we eat.

Yeah - we need to quit subsidizing corn and soy, but we have "the best government money can buy" so this will be difficult. Maybe the "occupy" movement will have an effect.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 19:52:15 MDT Print View

YES, only 100% grass feed pastured cattle have the right omega3/omega6 balance. Its telling that the reason why non grass fed or grain finished cattle have a not so good to bad profiles is because they are feed corn,wheat,and soy!
I just wanted to keep it simple and not get into that!

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Don't believe your wife!!! on 10/28/2011 19:57:11 MDT Print View

I have hiked high mile days on absolute junk. Did a 20 mile morning on the PCT eating only 2 Stehekin Bakery Cinnamon rolls. I have hiked well over 30 mile days on Oreos, chocolate donuts and/or pure Maltodextrin. The key for me is metering in the calories at about 300 per hour. Also, your body wants carbs while hiking! And to those that say you can't maintain it for an extended period of time, I did it for 98 days. Now if I can only stop eating that stuff now that I'M through hiking! YMMV!!!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 21:18:25 MDT Print View

"YES, only 100% grass feed pastured cattle have the right omega3/omega6 balance. Its telling that the reason why non grass fed or grain finished cattle have a not so good to bad profiles is because they are feed corn,wheat,and soy!
I just wanted to keep it simple and not get into that!"

So why isn't this mainstream?

You frequently hear studies that say beef is bad, but it's corn fed beef they're talking about. Why doesn't the government do studies about grass fed beef?

You go to the store and it's hard to find grass fed beef.

If you talk about grass fed beef people think you're a kook.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 21:40:03 MDT Print View

I would think the government isn't interested in what is and isn't bad for you. Free range 100% grass fed beef ( or chicken ect) is better suited to smaller family run operations. The Nixon administration changed farm policy to one that pushed for monopolys to take control of our farms to create cheaper food ( today we call this cheap food "junk food"). clean slower growing healthy beef raised on open fields and feed only grass is more expensive. Its simply cheaper to pen them in dirty feed lots and feed them cheap subsidized grain and keep the disease under control with drugs and hormones. The government has no incentive to undermine these companies profits and bad mouth them. Family farms on the other hand are easy targets, they don't have any lobbing power and no money to defend themselves in court and fight regulations designed to put them out of business.

http://farmageddonmovie.com/

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 21:42:04 MDT Print View

I guess this means we should eat grass fed beef jerky. (I have a dehydrator, so this won't be difficult.)

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Best deyhrator - 10 bucks on 10/28/2011 21:53:26 MDT Print View

I made and use one of these. I got rid of my store bought one since it didn't work anywhere near as good as this one!

http://www.traditionaltx.us/images/JerkyDrierInstructions.pdf

Don't forget coconut oil, eat it straight or add it to other foods to increase the calories.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 21:59:46 MDT Print View

If you shop right you can get nearly everything in a better for you version. For example Goldfish crackers? Consider maybe Annie's instead. That kind of thing. Look for alternatives made with healthy oils. Same with crackers.

Jerky? You can get preservative free versions (frankly the preservatives used are scarier than the saturated fat!).

Again...you just have to make better choices and you can still have junk food that is overall better (even if it is still empty calories...hah!)

As for fats? Avoid trans fats, anything partially or fully hydrogenated (this means avoid things like no stir PB I might add). When it comes to saturated fat not all is equal though - for example coconut and palm oils are high but not necessarily evil - but only when you consume minimally processed versions. What you want is organic virgin oils that are not processed with chemicals. Coconut oil used at say the movie theater is a bad oil - it is highly processed. Animal saturated fat? In moderation truly.

What you do eat does matter but in moderation, moderation! It is the key to controlling cholesterol issues and heart health.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Fats, Saturated, Trans, etc. While Hiking on 10/28/2011 22:24:35 MDT Print View

The only difference between coconut oils is the degree they are heated. Some people prefer coconut oil thats is processed with minimal heat to get a bit more nutrition from them. Other wise its like butter or ghee and is simply more or less purified. Like ghee this makes it have a higher smoke point and less coconut flavor.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
"Now if I can only stop eating that stuff now that I'M through hiking!" on 10/29/2011 01:29:12 MDT Print View

+1000

This is the great problem of thru-hikes. Easy to lose weight eating anything you want. Hard to stop eating once the miles go from 20+ to zero. Thru-hiking between fridge and couch will kill you upon your return.

I agree with Greg, eating junk it's easy to hike many miles.

But the problem is your habits are your habits, and I found my habits cost me dearly upon my return. I kept eating junk and my cholesterol went through the roof.

Dirk

Jeremy B.
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
what about the other 80% of your life? on 10/29/2011 03:39:32 MDT Print View

As Jerry mentioned, the health effects would be generally long term, and thus unless you work as a professional backpacker, it's what you eat in the other 80% of your life that you should be watching. Since you were concerned about fats, I'm assuming you are concerned about heart disease, and here I'd suggest looking at your ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol. (The total count is not really helpful, assuming it's around 200 +/-40 mg/dL. (Yes, I know that looks high.))

To elaborate, the description of fats clogging arteries like bacon grease down a kitchen drain is terribly misleading. I'd describe the current thinking as that oxidized LDL particles damage the cells lining the artery and cause an inflammatory immune response, with plaques being the end result. This is a slow, accumulative process that by its nature builds up over decades; a wild backpacking binge is unlikely to substantially affect its progress. This is also where antioxidants (and HDL) play a role in mitigating the damage, as well suggesting a reason for avoiding foods that cause an increase in the quantity of smaller, more oxidizable LDL particles.

(And that's part of why I generally eat paleo.)

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
choices on 10/29/2011 09:03:27 MDT Print View

Eating some Goldfish crackers on your trip isn't going to kill you and look at the trail diet as a whole. I looked at the package on the "Multigrain Goldfish" (I bought some for my toddler recently while this is not generally something I'd feed my kids). I was shocked that all the fat in these is trans fat. 5% for 37 of the little crunchy fish - so I won't be buying these again. I usually read the labels but was in a hurry and didn't bother until this thread. Lesson learned. We try to avoid trans fat here. It's a personal choice and there are alternatives but on a trip - I wouldn't worry about it unless you have health conditions that warrant concern (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol numbers that are abnormal, etc.)

Here is an interesting article that has some good information on saturated and trans fats that may be helpful.

Dietary Fat, Endurance Exercise, and Health

Now in day-to-day life... part of the reason there is so much unhealthy food out there is because the marketplace supports it. Healthy oils/fats are, generally speaking, more expensive (avocado oil or good quality olive oil vs margarine is an example of this price difference) and many people shop for price/convenience over shopping for what is better for their bodies. Most Canadian grocery stores stock close to 50000 items (even higher in the US from what I've seen going to Meijer and Hannaford's). It's sad to me that price dictates how many people in our countries eat. Take the Goldfish crackers... they were $1. There is also the frame of mind that people can't afford to eat healthy and that's wrong — it just takes planning and a bit of effort.

Here is an example with home cooking... we are a family of 4 (well 3 1/4 if you go by serving sizes). I take a whole free range organic chicken at a cost of $20 and I roast it. We have it for supper. I take some the leftover meat and make a stew with it adding in some chicken stock from what I had saved from another time and frozen. Then the leftover stew becomes a pot pie sort of thing for a third meal (I often freeze it so we aren't eating chicken for an entire week). The carcass is used with carrot, onion, and celery and made into stock which is frozen for future use. The last bit of leftover meat is frozen and used later in soup or chili. The leftover chili gets dried for a wilderness trip. People are lazy and don't want to cook. My Mom and Dad lived through the Depression years and war time and they taught me not to be wasteful and it means I can make healthy choices for my family.

That's also why I cook and dry my own foods the way I do for our wilderness trips (but I'm not a thru-hiker - if I were I'd be mailing foods ahead because of my aversion to pre-packaged fare)... we can have a portion at home for dinner and I can dry the remaining food and pop it in the freezer. In the end, a little work and foresight over the winter, means I have great variety during the other three seasons with minimal effort before a trip.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Coconut Oil on 10/29/2011 09:21:41 MDT Print View

Brian, You can find virgin cold processed coconut oil and butter. I know, I have BOTH in my cupboard and use them. That is the key in buying it - you want it organic and not processed with heat or chemicals. Same with olive oil and any other oil one buys.

Frankly, I am not blowing smoke here. I may not be a nutritionist but I lowered both mine and my husband's bad cholesterol levels BY HALF in 3 months by changing our oils, adding in ground seeds (chia and flax) and adding in more fiber.

Jeremy B.
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
coconut oil on 10/29/2011 11:57:35 MDT Print View

Coconut oil is only about 92% saturated, and is often still hydrogenated. One particular extraction process, RBD ("refined, bleached, and deodorized"), gets nearly all the oil, but requires further processing.

The dangerous types of trans fats (yep! they too come in different kinds) are a side effect of partial hydrogenation, and appear to be trouble even in very small amounts. This "trouble", from a cholesterol perspective, is an decrease in HDL and an increase in the small, dense LDL particles that contribute to heart disease. (While saturated fats raise LDL levels, the increase is mostly in larger, "fluffier" LDL particles.)

So, Sarah's concern is valid. I'm also not at all surprised at the 3-month change; swapping out grains (a whole different topic!) and unhealthy fats can cause significant blood lipid changes in only a few weeks. The problem for most people is identifying which ones count as "unhealthy", particularly as oversimplifying issues (e.g. cholesterol=bad, LDL=bad) can often lead to incorrect ideas taking root.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
cholesterol on 10/29/2011 12:31:34 MDT Print View

I've always avoided coconut and palm oils because of cholesterol concerns with partially hydrogenated products (family history of severe heart disease). We use mostly avocado and olive oil here... if I use oil at all. I have a sprayer that I use to "atomize" the oil when I need a bit in the pan and that reduces usage considerably.

The other big factor that some people forget about cholesterol is the positive effect that exercise has on HDL cholesterol. A person can have a normal LDL cholesterol level but may have a very low HDL and significant gap between the LDL and HDL values is something to keep an eye on.

Seeds and whole grains coupled with increased physical activity can provide a significant reduction in cholesterol levels as can quitting smoking.

Jeremy B.
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
LDL subtypes on 10/29/2011 21:54:47 MDT Print View

Hi Laurie,

Because LDL particle size matters much more than the calculated LDL number, a low fat diet resulting in reduced LDL levels at the expense of an increase in the small dense LDL particles may appear healthier while not actually reducing risk. (Conversely, saturated fat that raises both HDL and the "large, fluffy" LDL levels may reduce risk even if the HDL/LDL ratio doesn't improve.)

The trig/HDL ratio, besides being a stronger predictor of heart disease, also serves as a good warning indicator for that LDL subtype.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
triglycerides on 10/30/2011 05:56:22 MDT Print View

The triglycerides are a scary one!

Being diabetic puts me at really high risk coupled with family history and, thankfully, I've managed to reverse the need for medications and transform health with lifestyle/diet. I have backpacking and paddling in the wilderness to thank for that (I figure getting into this saved my life) not to mention the motivation of being a Mom. Falling in love with the outdoors keeps me in sync at home and gives me to push to keep up my day-to-day fitness.

I try to look at the whole picture and keep fat, sodium, refined sugars and such to a minimum and I generally pay close attention to hidden sources. Fortunately, I'm the only one of my siblings who doesn't have heart issues or any issues with cholesterol, blood pressure and the like. It's sad really. That said, I grew up with a parent who was an early bypass patient in the 70's and who had a coronary at age 44. I remember him using the nitroglycerin patches when I was about 10. I was 17 when we buried Dad (he was only 67 and basically died in my arms). My siblings had already grown up an moved out by the time Dad started taking his health seriously. My sister, 21 years my senior, is in need of a bypass and has a vein issue preventing that. My brother, 13 years my senior (or something like that - I always forget with him) needs a heart transplant but he's a very heavy drinker, morbidly obese, and smoker so that's not going to happen. It's like looking into a crystal ball at the future. The one that scared me the most was my nephew though. He's only 29 days older than I am and we are both in our very early 40's. When he was 38 he had two heart attacks and a double bypass. All three of them have mentioned that they have high triglycerides. The whole heart disease thing scared the crap out of me. I'm determined to be as unlike my family as I can. What bugs me most is that they seem resigned to a fate and won't even try to do anything about their health. All three of them give me a hard time about the whole fitness and diet thing especially when I often bring my own food when I go to visit for a weekend. The last visit resulted in the "can't you just eat the cake and take a little insulin?" I can't tell you how disappointed it makes me that they have that mentality.

As you can see my "education" in a lot of this comes from seeing the effects first hand. When I told my sister I was having my triglycerides, cholesterol and all that tested last year I indicated that I was a little worried. She told me I could improve the test if I avoided all the bad foods for a good two weeks. "That's what I do", she said. I was appalled. Um... I'd rather have an accurate result and not try to fudge the numbers even if it were possible. When I asked her why she'd do it that way the reply was basically that she didn't want a lecture from her doctor. Oh brother.

Anyway... I'm getting to a point here (albeit with the very scenic route) - I really do appreciate these discussions and find that I learn from them (and they remind me how important this all is). So... thanks for that everyone. I know we've strayed from the topic quite a bit but I just wanted to let you all know that this kind of discussion is helpful.

Now back to Goldfish... Sarah mentioned Annie's (which I plan to check out next time I am at Whole Foods). I dp make homemade cheese crackers and also flax crackers (I should go back to that actually). What other alternatives are there in the stores?

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 10/30/2011 06:06:25 MDT.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Goldfish . . . on 10/30/2011 19:27:40 MDT Print View

Thanks to all for the great answers and insights. I'll be on the lookout to avoid trans fat . . . and try to find taste alternatives to Goldfish and their ilk.