Nutrition for your hikes and treks
The Dolomites welcome you in all their glory all year round, however longer hikes and treks are feasible in the summer months only. Now is the time to make the most of the splendid landscapes and exceptional routes amid stunning passes, pastures and exciting trails.
It is vital for any hiker to adopt the correct nutrition habits before, during and after any hike, as that is the only way you will avoid any fatigue or exhaustion.
The first thing you’ll have to bear in mind is that the calorie consumption of a hike is roughly three times as higher as the one of a day spent in the office. This does not mean overindulge in rich, fatty foods, but careful planning is key.
What nutrients do we need the most? Carbohydrates. We will need energy for longer periods, so complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, oat) are de rigueur and will make up 50% of our nutrition before and during our hikes. Muscles also need sugar to perform at their best, so we should include some of them. We are not talking about sweets or cakes, but rather nuts or dried fruits.
When energy levels fall, our body relies on energy reserves, i.e. fat. A hiker’s diet should contain about 20% fats, ideally plant-based (such as oil of various types). The natural fat we carry round – love handles, for instance – is surely a reserve, too, however our body needs great effort and a considerable quantity of oxygen to use it.
Proteins (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese) are important to keep energy levels up, giving the right amount of amino acids to build cells and contribute to their regeneration. The percentage of proteins should make up 30% of a hikers’ diet.
Vitamins also play a vital role, such as the ones belonging to the B group (found in various quantities in pulses, wholemeal cereals, eggs, dried fruit, cocoa, potatoes) which help avoid fatigue, or vitamin E (found in vegetable oils, whole wheat, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. – it improves the use of oxygen – and vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes and potatoes, which builds a strong immune system.
One mistake most people make when getting ready for a hike is to forget that preparation starts the night before. A good dinner is essential: it’s carbohydrates galore and do not forget to include vegetables and fruit. Drink plenty – you should drink at least 1,5 litres every day, regardless of what you do – but try and avoid a second course, so as not to overstress your body.
Breakfast is your golden meal: it should be rich and balanced, as it will give us most of the energy resources for the entire day. It should not be eaten too close to your starting time, and should include bread, jam, dried biscuits, fruit, tea, yogurt and cereals or muesli. Once again, complex carbohydrates are better than simple ones, and you will feel your energy levels will be constant.
During your trek or hike, remember to constantly reintegrate fluids lost during perspiration. The same rule applies, so aim for 1,5/2 litres per day. If your effort is long and sustained, you can choose to add some minerals – you can find them at the chemist’s, but avoid sugary options. It is also ideal to snack on something every hour, such as power bars, chocolate, fruit, nuts or biscuits.
You may opt to stop at one of the marvellous malghe, though try not to overindulge in heavy meals and, if possible, opt for a sandwich – with ham or breasola which are easier to digest, and a little parmesan.
In the evening, it is time to replenish all your energy levels. Meat and cured hams are not ideal, as they will enhance the uric acid load, which has been produced during your physical activity. A hearty soup with pasta or rice is your preferred option, even more so if it includes pulses, which are a good source of proteins.
In addition to making your meal more pleasant, a glass of red wine is a natural antioxidants thanks to its flavonoids.
Vitamins can be reintegrated with fruit and vegetables, while glycogen reserves can be replenished with bread, potatoes, rice, polenta, biscuits or cakes.
As far as fluids are concerned, opt for natural mineral water, fruit juice, tea or chocolate, while try and avoid coffee, as it is diuretic and may enhance your mineral loss, and alcohol, as they alter your thermoregulation.
Does it all sound complicated? Well, it’s easier than you’d think.
Just follow these basic guidelines and you’ll enjoy your hikes even more. Don’t forget that Ciasa Salares offers some astonishing food experiences in its excellent restaurants. You won’t find a better place to reintegrate the energies spent during your day. Be adventurous; explore the Dolomites and its stunning scenery. You will be rewarded and will treasure your quests at length.