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How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude?
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Ben F
(tekhna) - F
How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude? on 05/28/2012 22:10:52 MDT Print View

I've heard that for people who don't live at altitude the adjustment period can increase your BMR anywhere from 6-24% (yeah, kind of a huge range), do you guys pack for that accordingly? I mean, I pig out anyway, but I'm not sure I want to carry more food unless I have to.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude? on 05/28/2012 22:45:34 MDT Print View

I lose appetite at high altitudes (10,000 feet and above), so I pack less food for the first 4 or 5 days. Of course I can always afford to lose some weight!

I don't know if pigging out before the trip so you have a few extra pounds to lose is a good idea or not.

. .
(CzechClown) - MLife

Locale: JMT/PCT
How much more food or is it less food used at High altitude on 05/28/2012 22:55:31 MDT Print View

I agree with less food is eaten at High altitude, at least my appetite is suppressed at Higher Altitude or so it seems.

Don A.
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude? on 05/28/2012 23:37:55 MDT Print View

I've also experienced a loss of appetite at the beginning of trip at altitude. It seems that about the 3rd or 4th day I start sucking calories at a more normal rate. I just wish I felt secure enough to pack accordingly. I've gotten better at it with experience but still occasionally over-pack and eat more than I really want too at the beginning. At about day 12 all bets are off and if there is food I'll eat it.
At around day 20 on the trail the food fantasy's strike if I haven't had a resupply in town. My most creative one was a desire for an extra large pepperoni pizza wrapped around 2 cheeseburgers. I'm glad I didn't act on the impulse when I did get into town.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: How much more food or is it less food used at High altitude on 05/28/2012 23:42:37 MDT Print View

Yeah, that reflex is definitely common. Appetite suppression is, I think, associated with hypoxia. But at least initially, your BMR increases. So your body is hungrier, despite you not feeling it. You're actually in pretty serious calorie deficit.

Abrupt exposure to elevations greater than 10,000 ft (3,050 m) is frequently associated with symptoms of altitude illness. Altitude illness is a combination of symptoms, including headaches, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, and malaise. The combined effect of these symptoms is usually a profound depression of appetite and reduction of food intake, just at the time when the climber needs energy the most. Climbers that anticipate the consequences of altitude-impaired appetite may at least minimize the secondary consequences of the cachexia of altitude: reduced energy intake, depleted muscle glycogen stores, negative nitrogen balances, and loss of critical lean body mass.

Gradual acclimatization to progressively higher altitude exposure is the best preventive medicine for high-altitude sickness. Unfortunately, it is not always practical or possible to delay ascent to altitude. Rescue workers frequently must travel abruptly to high altitudes to perform critical tasks. Prior acclimatization is not always possible. Abrupt transportation from sea level to high altitude may be accompanied by debilitating altitude sickness symptoms, including altered mood, appetite, and performance. These uncomfortable symptoms usually increase in intensity for periods of up to 48 hours after altitude exposure and then gradually lessen. Unfortunately, it is usually during the first 48 hours at altitude that critical work must be accomplished. The strenuous activities associated with work or recreation at altitude, plus an initial increase in resting metabolic rate and the lack of adequate food intakes almost invariably result in an initially negative energy balance. Altitude illness can limit volitional activity, but energy expenditures of experienced and motivated climbers who are acclimatized can be quite high, depending upon the activity level achievable under hypoxic conditions.

Edited by tekhna on 05/28/2012 23:43:29 MDT.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude? on 05/28/2012 23:44:25 MDT Print View

Don, I think you're doing the right thing in eating more than you want to at the beginning.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude? on 05/28/2012 23:48:56 MDT Print View

I agree. There is generally a small decrease in appetite for the first few days, but your work output may be high. As a result, you may lose weight in those first few days. That finally stimulates increased appetite to maintain weight, but not to gain back what you first lost.

When you go above 16,000-18,000 feet, not only does your appetite amount change, but also the types of food.


Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Re: How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude? on 05/30/2012 16:02:03 MDT Print View

I wholeheartedly agree with Bob above. When you hear "I lose a lot of my appetite at high elevation" people mean for a few days. If you go on a weekend trip at 12k, you'll eat less. If you go on a 2 week trip, you'll eat less for 2-4 days, then eat ravenously.

I plan on 2500 kcals for the first 2 days (I'm 6'3" 220) that I plan to force feed myself because I won't be hungry enough, then 3000 every day after that. I think last year on the JMT I planned for 1.8 lb of 125-150 kcal/ounce food, had leftovers at first, then ran out of food maybe a day early (I was going very quickly, so luckily that worked out). It's really hard to guess these things, but a lot of longer trips (no offense to you triple crowners) like the JMT you'll find food bins at resupply points with extra in them free for the taking, so that'll help you either as a waste-collector or as a "free food, yeah!".

Edited by Trout on 05/30/2012 16:02:49 MDT.

John Peterson
(skik2000) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
loss of appetite on 05/30/2012 17:55:48 MDT Print View

I'm definitely in the minority. My appetite never really decreases at altitudes in the lower 48. Maybe if I kept a sea level food log vs 11,000' food log there would be a difference. But I can guarantee you that when I get to my camp @ 11,000' I'll be eating all the hot food I can find.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How much more food do you pack for trips at altitude? on 05/30/2012 22:42:33 MDT Print View

If you go back in history to 1953, John Hunt was leading the British expedition attempting to climb Mount Everest. Since Hunt was a former military man, he had the expedition food planned out like a military campaign. His climbers kept moving their camps higher and higher, and the cooks tried to keep up. After they got far above 22,000 feet or so, the appetites began to wane amongst most of the climbers. Enough of that, and their energy levels began to wane as well. The exception was the young New Zealand beekeeper by the name of Ed Hillary. When the other climbers lost their appetites and could not eat their shares, Ed cleaned up. He managed to keep his appetite going full-throttle, so he managed to keep his energy level high. Then, some days later, he and Tenzing were standing on the summit.

I think part of the moral of the story is that you might need to force yourself to eat, even if your appetite is lacking. It helps if you have some food that is so dearly your favorite that you can eat it under any conditions.


. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 05/31/2012 14:33:26 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/17/2015 10:42:40 MDT.

Thomas Fischer
(hankmeyer) - F
Drinks and Energy-Gel on 05/31/2012 15:38:04 MDT Print View

It really depends on the Time you are there.

I did cross the Thorong-La with 5416 with the Yak-Attack Bike-Race.

We were "only" a few days ofer 3000m and I really couldn't get enough food. Soo I took some Energy Gel's and they worked before I got into the hypoglycaemia.

Biggest problem was more the freezing of the camelbaks. So Try to get enough to drink because Hiking the half day without getting anything to drink is REALLY not helping.


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Drinks and Energy-Gel on 05/31/2012 16:56:18 MDT Print View

I have found that carbs work better than fats and proteins at realy high altitudes, say 5000 meters plus. Metabolizing food requires oxygen, and fats and proteins require more of it for their metabolization. Glucose, the basic unit of carbohydrate contains half of the oxygen required for its metabolism in embedded in the molecule. Things like mashed potatoes, instant rice, and sports drinks go down really easy and provide a lot of quick energy. This is not to say don't use any fat or protein but, rather, shift the emphasis to carbs. I think it also helps to go in with a few extra pounds of body fat that can be utilized on demand without requiring digestion, if you can supply the carbs to feed the Krebs Cycle. I also think the same principle applies when you are ascending to altitudes over, say, 10,000' relatively rapidly. My 2 cents.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 05/31/2012 17:09:29 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/17/2015 10:41:47 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Eating at elevation on 05/31/2012 20:26:02 MDT Print View

My experience...... I can't. But I have been able to drink at elevation. Building on toms comments, if I were going from low to high elevation such as the Sierra, I would still target my full daily calories but I change the composition. I would lean heavier on my maltodextrin mix because I know I can drink it even when I wont eat the yummiest of foods. One other point, try not to restrict your calories due to loss of appetite. You likely will need the calories more at higher elevations than at lower. I learned this the hard way on the Sierra High Route.