Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Why do I gain weight after a hike?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 06:34:34 MDT Print View

Why do I gain ~2-3 lbs after an extended day hike?

I weigh 242 lbs. I have lost 17 lbs in the last few months at about 1.5-2lbs/week and I have another 50 to go. I find that after a 10+ mile day hike on the weekend I typically gain 2-3 lbs that I eventually lose over the next week, but when I hike every weekend, I'm not losing that weight + the 2lbs that I used to.

On Saturday I hiked for 8.5 hours in the New England humidity and burned >5000 calories according to my polar HRM. I sweat profusely. I drank 4 liters of water, ate a sandwich and three granola bars + a Subway buffalo chicken sandwich + Coke on the way home. My diet since then has been under my caloric allotment for the day (typically consuming about 1600, allotted 1920). Sunday I was up 1 lb, Monday I was up by 3 lbs total, and on the third morning since the hike I'm still up by 2 lbs total. I'm slightly dehydrated and know that will cause some weight retention.

What causes this retention when the calorie burns are significantly greater than intake? Is it all due to water retention/stool retention?

Is there something I could/should be doing differently?

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 06:59:50 MDT Print View

Water and poo retention. You can never trust your weight until it has settled a couple of days later.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 07:33:13 MDT Print View

happens to me every time also.
I just view it as a normal part of the process (hope its normal).
like Greg said, don't weigh yourself till several days afterwards.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 07:43:04 MDT Print View

Same here

I eat a lot more when I get back. I eat less if I have to carry my food.

Congrats on losing the weight and good luck on the rest, it's so difficult

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
sodium on 07/16/2013 07:57:12 MDT Print View

Most normal backpacking food is chock full of sodium. As malto said, lots of water retention. If you have the typical burger, beer and fries type meal post-hike, that is also usually high in sodium.

I find if I weigh myself on Wednesday post-backpacking weeekend. I am a lb less than say Friday.

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 07:58:15 MDT Print View

" I eat less if I have to carry my food."
LOL. That's funny. I too notice a direct correlation!

It would seem that the body couldn't operate at such a caloric deficit over time without it showing up more rapidly on the scale.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 08:56:21 MDT Print View

You need to pay attention to the sugar, sodium and fat content, maximize the fiber and go for more complex carbs. Just looking at calories is a weak measure of your food intake.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 08:58:23 MDT Print View

"It would seem that the body couldn't operate at such a caloric deficit over time without it showing up more rapidly on the scale."

Or, the opposite, we normally eat way more than necesary - food is too plentiful - but I enjoy it : )

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 09:56:47 MDT Print View

Congrats on all you've accomplished so far!

Long-term, more exercise plus a calorie deficit and you will get there. Use an app to track calories and exercise - it makes it like a video game - if you're honest and tweak your behavior for a better "score", it really helps you be conscious about each choice.

Short term, food can pile up in your gut and bowels.

Short term, you can retain water due to salt, dehydration, or altitude ( I gain 3-4 pounds at 8,000 feet hiking or from taking 6 jet flights in 2 days. It takes me two days to pee it away. I notice the first day or two out I almost don't pee. Back home, I pee and pee.

If you are exercising, you are burning fat but putting on muscle. A pound of fat represents more calories than a pound of muscles. So calorie-neutral eating while exercising at a higher level and you will weigh more (but look better) as you lose fat and get toned up. Your strength to weight will improve greatly. Maintain that exercise, and later the weight will come off as you lose more fat. Also, your performance on the trail will skyrocket - you've essentially been training with a heavy-weight pack on at all times, but over the next months you'll lose that excess weight. A 10-20 pound pack will seem trivial in comparison.

Don't weigh yourself every day (and fret about being a pound up or down). Weigh yourself once a week. Track food and exercise all day each day. And trust that "conservation of energy" works - fewer calories over time and you'll lose weight.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 10:32:35 MDT Print View

Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes

less sugar, white flour, white rice, and potatoes - spike insulin, then plunges making you eat more

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 10:57:23 MDT Print View

also, not only water retention from salt and bad things. but, as you get stronger, and the fat goes away, it is replaced by muscle (very heavy).
as you get more cardio, and make enough horsepower to hurt yourself, your body will build more and more muscle (to a point), and thusly it may "seem' that you are "not loosing weight". but you are. sort of. you are losing fat.

cheers,
v.

ps.
xhitcan the coke. it's ALL bad.

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Why do I gain weight after a hike? on 07/16/2013 19:31:26 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the encouragement.

I gained about 30 lbs after tearing my ACL and during the early part of recovery. I've been slowly improving, logging calories in LoseIt and exercise using PolarPersonalFitness (what an awful web utility!).

If the weight loss is essentially water/stool retention, is there a way to remain neutral during/after the hike through a combination of drinking more and finding an electrolyte balance? I've been reading through a number of old threads here regarding electrolytes and it sounds like the theory is all over the map and you just might need a Ph.D. to unravel it....

How do you balance carb intake with energy expenditure? In early days I knew I needed carbs so I ate a LOT of high-carb trail snacks--and legitimately gained weight each hike that didn't come off. Ideally I'd like to consume few calories so as to burn as much fat as possible without bonking. Is there some way to calculate the minimum calorie threshold (obviously tempered by the actual energy level on the trail)?

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Weight lose and electrolytes on 07/16/2013 19:49:03 MDT Print View

Two subjects related to hiking that I know a bit about. Electrolytes mixes usually contain sodium so that will not minimize your post hike yo yo. As far a weight lose. I can dial in a pound of body fat lose per day of hiking. Granted that will be a 30 + mile day but the concept is this. Eat only the carbs that your body needs for energy and minimize the fat intake. What? Sounds counter to every gram weenie approach to BPing food. Here's the theory. Your body can provide a lot of energy from stored body fat. Utilize this to the max. Intake carbs to keep your glycogen level from "hitting the wall". After doing this for a couple of years I have this dialed in very accurately. It will take you a while to find the right balance. Also, as your fitness improves you will find that your body becomes more efficient at burning fat and you will likely need fewer eaten calories to hike a given distance. Again, you will learn the signs. At this point I eat 100 calories of very high carb food per mile, about 300 per hour. I would reco starting with maybe 80 per mile. If you are doing shorter days then try to eat your normal daily intake but just shift it to high carb. Try it and see what happens. This assumes of corse that you don't have health issues that would make this a bad idea. Also, there is one downside that would need to be managed. I have found that I go into food feast mode on my return and it takes some effort to not undo the gain from the weekend.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Weight lose and electrolytes on 07/16/2013 20:32:53 MDT Print View

I can vouch for Malto's approach working because I witnessed a friend (a very fit dog-mushing, soccer-player 40-year-old) before and after the Iditarod sled dog race. Going, going, going for 16-18 hours a day (the dogs rest half the time, but not the musher), and he eating a ton but burning even more calories. He lost three belt notches in 16 days and you wouldn't have thought he had anything to lose. Despite brownies and pizza and hot meals whenever he could, he clearly was burning off (and living off of) body fat.

If there'd been a grocery store on every corner for the last 200,000 years, we wouldn't have evolved to store body fat. But there used to be lean times and fat was the fuel in the tank to get through it.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
Examples of high carbohydrate meal plan for fat loss? on 07/20/2013 22:08:57 MDT Print View

Malto, could you give some examples of what you would eat on a typical hike day? I'm having some trouble visualizing what sorts of snacks would be 1) easy to carry 2) low in fat, high in carbs. Nuts clearly would be out. Simple carbohydrates or complex? I have to eat gluten free, dairy free as well.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Examples of high carbohydrate meal plan for fat loss? on 07/21/2013 06:36:57 MDT Print View

Diane,
"Malto", as in maltodexterin.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
maltodextrin--really? on 07/21/2013 12:33:50 MDT Print View

When I look up maltodextrin, it's described as a thickening food additive that is flavorless, and has basically zero calories, vitamins, or other nutrients. It's used to bulk up food and improve texture. It's described as 4 calories per gram, and easily broken down to energy. But that doesn't sound like much of a calorie source. It also sounds like GI distress in the making, although the ultimate in "low residue".

That and only that? nothing with fiber?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: maltodextrin--really? on 07/21/2013 12:39:39 MDT Print View

Like lots of other carbohydrates, it has about 100 calories per ounce. I would not call that zero.

It is sort of like sugar, except it is slower-burning.

I use maltodextrin as an energy additive to lots of other recipes.

--B.G.--

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: maltodextrin--really? on 07/21/2013 12:41:29 MDT Print View

Diane,

Read Here, and remember that you are reading information put together by a marketing company. It's good info, just a bit slanted.


No fiber, no protein, no fat. Does not sustain life.


But in powder form - Perpetum is a light weight way to carry a lot of calories, plus some protein, a few electrolytes, and other stuff.

"Malto" buys 50# bags of the base and mixes his own. And he eats "real" food as well.

Some UltraCyclists use malto exclusively for coast-to-coast racing.

It's not for everybody, but if you are a competitive distance person, it has a place.

Personally, I like Lays potato chips (repackaged from a can) and Chex Party Mix. Add 4 or 5 PowerBar "Harvest Energy Bar", or ProBars, and it is easy to eat 1800-2000 calories while on the trail. Then use dinner, a 2 AM snack, and breakfast to round out calories, protein, minerals, vitamins, fiber, etc.

Edited by greg23 on 07/21/2013 13:02:29 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: maltodextrin--really? on 07/21/2013 12:55:18 MDT Print View

"Personally, I like Lays potato chips (repackaged from a can) and Chex Party Mix."

I make Chex Party Mix according to the standard recipe, except that when I am heating the soy sauce, I spoon in some maltodextrin just to boost the calories.

--B.G.--