Calorie efficiency?
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Andrew C
(BrokenArrow) - M

Locale: Southeast
Calorie efficiency? on 06/18/2013 16:00:00 MDT Print View

I'm not sure if anyone has posted about this although I looked. Is there an efficient way to divvy up calories on multiday hikes? I've always just tried to take at least 3,000 calories per day with calorie dense and protein rich foods but some days have a lot more calories than others. I thought about calorie efficiency if it really matters in hiking or if it's just whatever you put in you'll use eventually. I've had days where it seems like I have no energy at all and I've had days where I have a substantial amount of energy left over after hiking and I feel like I'd be wasting it regardless of the amount of miles I've put in. I thought I'd check to see what the BPL community had to say about this and I hope it's not a dumb question. Thanks.

Broken Arrow

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Calorie efficiency? on 06/18/2013 17:24:35 MDT Print View

How many hours on the trail and how many miles per day?
How many days out?

Andrew C
(BrokenArrow) - M

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Calorie efficiency? on 06/18/2013 17:46:51 MDT Print View

A buddy and I are gonna do 15 to 20 miles/day for 10 days. About 12 hours a day including breaks. I was thinking stack the higher calorie dinners and stuff for the days we think are more strenuous. We're going from Neel gap for 10 days and get a shuttle back to my truck at Neel.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Yes and no on 06/18/2013 18:19:25 MDT Print View

Yes, it will can make a huge difference in performance in how and what you eat. When hitting mileage above about 30mpd you will likely hit the wall if enough of the right calories are eaten. In general your body is looking for carbs to use as fuel. In spite of what you have read here and elsewhere high calorie density food is not going to be the lightest carry. High calorie foods are also high in fat. So why not carry high fat foods. Because you are most likely carrying all the fat you need on your body that you will need to convert to energy. So a much more efficient food carry is likely the same food weight or less in carbs and some protein for recovery.

Here are real life examples from recent trips that I have done. While my mileage is significantly higher the same concept still applies. Vermont AT, 42 mile day. Time to hike 14 hours @3mph. Total calories consumed 4500. Every hour I ate or drank 300 calories of very high carb food and drink, mostly pure maltodextrin. This provided my body with all the carbs it could process and I relied on body fat for about 4000 additional calories. Based on extensive monitoring of food intake intake and weight loss on multiday high mile hikes I know that I burn about 200 calories per mile on typical AT style terrain ( about 10k elevation gain in the 42 miles.) I will typically burn about a pound of fat per high mile day and have been able to sustain this up to five days, haven't yet tested beyond that. I also did a healthy dose of protein at the end of the day for recovery. At no time during this day or the following day did I have a lack of energy.

As far as your trip, I have hiked or trail run the section you are doing doing 40 plus mile days. It has high elevation gain similar to the section described above. But with your lower miles you won't have to be as exact in metering in you calories or worry as much about optimal efficiency. If I were doing this section I would likely take the 3000 calories per day. Keep high carb during peak hiking times. I have not seen ANY difference between types of carbs, be it sugar, Malto or grains. I suspect it is due to the fact that I meter in the calories and don't take many if any breaks. This doesn't allow my blood sugar to spike and lead to a sugar crash. Without knowing your weight or body makeup I would target 200- 250 calories per hour. You are not doing monster mileage which leads me to believe that you are either taking a lot of breaks or moving at a slower pace. Either of these will reduce your calorie expenditure and also allow your body to burn fat as a higher percentage of your energy needs. Then finish your day with protein for recovery.

Again, do not look simplistically at calorie density as a measure for food. It is a prime example of stupid light and a mistake that I followed for a couple of years before a couple of wise folks on this board set me straight. To say that advise changed my hiking is an understatement, it literally changed my life by allowing me to hike the PCT in a very short window that I had open. Good luck and enjoy the AT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Calorie efficiency? on 06/18/2013 18:21:39 MDT Print View

fat 9 calories per gram

protein and carbs 5 calories per gram

eat a little more fat than normal - put a little envelope of olive oil in your dinner

eat a few less calories at the beginning of trip when you have body fat to use

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Calorie efficiency? on 06/18/2013 18:22:52 MDT Print View

"I've had days where it seems like I have no energy at all and I've had days where I have a substantial amount of energy left over after hiking and I feel like I'd be wasting it regardless of the amount of miles I've put in."

"... 15 to 20 miles/day for 10 days"

Given your level of effort I'd guess you energy swings are a function of calories consumed while on the trail. You won't have a lot of "excess" calories, but if you do they will go to restoring worked parts versus "building reserves for tomorrow. Same is true for dinner.

Once you are on the trail, especially after Day 3 you need to keep a constant flow of calories going in or you end up in "slow" mode.

I'd try to figure out how to get a constant 100 - 200 calories per hour during your hiking time. Without that you will start to sag. Depending on your level of fitness and trail speed you can get between 25% to 50% (exceptional) calories from body fat, but only if you are eating the carbs to metabolize it.

Doing long training hikes will help you recognize the signs of low calories if you push hard and long. Otherwise you're using the low stress "calorie cushion" that won't be there after Day 3 on the trail.

Edited by greg23 on 06/18/2013 18:36:06 MDT.

Andrew C
(BrokenArrow) - M

Locale: Southeast
Thank you on 06/18/2013 19:11:11 MDT Print View

This has all been extremely helpful and it all makes perfect sense. I'd like to get up to the 30-40 mpd range by next year's AT thruhike so some practice with proper food preparation and of course physical training will definitely help. Are their any specific foods that anyone suggests? I've pretty much gotten my food for this trip and I think a lot of it is pretty good. My breakfasts are granola with dehydrated milk and poptarts. Snacks/Lunch are GORP, Pay Day, gummy worms, and a protein bar. Dinners are the Hawk Vittles meals. Something I wouldn't be able to afford on a thruhike but I had a little extra money and I liked the one I tried on the trail last year. I am definitely going to look more at the stuff I've ignored like fats and carbs for future trips. Thank you.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Thank you on 06/18/2013 19:34:22 MDT Print View

Andrew,
"Are their any specific foods that anyone suggests?" -


It's all out there, but it is scattered and hard to find.

Use the search function and start with "calories per day". That should give you some insight.

Search for "calorie deficit".

From those results you'll find many other useful threads.

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
Re: Yes and no on 06/18/2013 20:51:29 MDT Print View

" I have not seen ANY difference between types of carbs, be it sugar, Malto or grains. "

at the rate you travel, it sounds like whatever fuel you dump in "falls into a pre-existing hole".
thusly, it hardly matters what goes down the hatch, it's already spoken for.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Yes and no on 06/18/2013 21:01:36 MDT Print View

Well put Peter.
@Hiking Malto(??) Gre...You are an animal.

Eli Zabielski
(ezabielski) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Re: Re: Re: Calorie efficiency? on 06/20/2013 13:31:12 MDT Print View

"protein and carbs 5 calories per gram"

Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram.

http://www.nutristrategy.com/nutrition/calories.htm

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Calorie efficiency? on 06/20/2013 14:05:06 MDT Print View

oops - old age is a b**** - those neurons are atrophying

daniel B
(dbogey) - F

Locale: East Coast
Check Article from Hammer Nutrition on 06/20/2013 15:48:33 MDT Print View

Do a search for "The Endurance Athlete's Guide to Success" by Hammer Nutrition. There's good info in there. Its a 144 pages long. PM me and I can email it to you if your not able to find it.

Also check out the book "Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of over hydration in endurance sports" by Tim Noakes. Very informative and will have you rethinking your hydration strategy.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Check Article from Hammer Nutrition on 06/20/2013 16:06:31 MDT Print View

...search for "The Endurance Athlete's Guide to Success" by Hammer Nutrition".

By Hammer Nutrition, a company that sells nutrition. They do OK with the basics, but get a bit carried away when it comes to micro-nutrients and electrolytes.

Calories used versus calories "in the bank" plus calories consumed is the short course. It's not rocket science.

Temper their sermon with a few other sources, threads here on BPL, and a little common sense, and you'll do OK.

Edited by greg23 on 06/20/2013 16:10:07 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
hammer info on 06/20/2013 17:11:05 MDT Print View

"Temper their sermon with a few other sources, threads here on BPL, and a little common sense, and you'll do OK."

Well put. It is a combination of good science and marketing hype. It is an excellent starting point for endurance nutrition.