Few things can be more exhilarating than heading out for a snowshoe or hike into the stillness of a beautifully blanketed winter wonderland. Before venturing out, it is important that you properly feed your body the right nutrition before you go and during your outing. Winter aerobic activities burn up massive numbers of calories, so keeping yourself refueled is essential. Select foods bountiful in carbohydrates with a little bit of protein. Carbohydrates are the powerhouse energy source to keep you moving efficiently as well as improving your mental alertness. Protein also provides an energy source but its key role is to aid in supporting your muscle exertion.
For proper fueling, avoid eating a heavy, calorie-laden meal during your excursion. It will make you sluggish, tired, and not too thrilled about finishing your route. So how do you get the right balance of winter hiking nutrition to keep you energized? Read on.
1. Before Heading Out
Make sure you give yourself a power-packed head start with a hot breakfast loaded with healthy carbs and a little protein. Here are a few options:
- Oatmeal or overnight oats topped with apples, raisins, and nuts
- Scrambled eggs or omelet with fresh vegetables
- French toast made with whole-wheat bread topped with fruit
2. Snack Frequently
Pack plenty of snacks. You’ll need them to refuel when your energy starts to lag.
When traveling by foot in the winter, whether you’re on boots or snowshoes, you don’t want to slow down. Moving is what keeps you warm. Make sure you have enough easy-to-reach snacks to keep yourself powered up. The following are all good winter hiking nutrition snack ideas:
- Protein bars and energy bars
- Trail mix
- Oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies
- Check out some of our DIY recipes for trail snacks too!
3. Don’t Forget Water
Colder temperatures lessen your desire to drink water. However, it is critical to remember to replenish fluids while your body is exerting energy. Any intense activity can quickly cause dehydration, and wintertime sports are intense. Your body will need to hydrate often so plan on drinking water at least once every hour that you’re hiking or snowshoeing.
- Carry water in a lightweight bottle. If it’s especially cold out, make sure the bottle is insulated so your water doesn’t freeze.
- Keep the bottle where you can easily reach it while you’re moving.
- Bring water-purification tablets in case you need to use creek water or snowmelt to fill your bottle.
4. Lunch Options
On an all-day hike or snowshoe trip, you need to stop and take a lunch break to give your body the energy it needs to successfully complete your adventure. As stated before, avoid eating a big and heavy meal as tempting as it may be. Prepare foods that are easy to eat as not want to waste time preparing food allowing yourself to get cold. Lastly, start moving as soon as you finish eating.
What can you pack for lunch? Something filling but easy to digest is your best bet. Also, make sure it’s easy to handle and doesn’t require cutlery.
- Peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread.
- Hot soups like minestrone, chicken noodle, or vegetable lentil soup (if you have a thermos)
- Bean and rice burritos
- Sandwich wraps
- Check out our quick & easy recipes for hiking snacks too!
5. FORGET these Foods
Some foods don’t do well when they’re squashed into a pocket or backpack or hauled across miles of frozen tundra. Leave these items at home:
- Fruits, because they bruise easily.
- Vegetables, especially tomatoes.
- Alcohol, because it’s just a bad idea.
6. Hot Drinks
If you haven’t used your Thermos or insulated jug for soup, use it to carry a hot beverage that will give you a physical and mental lift when you start to lag. Caffeinated drinks are preferable. A hot drink will also make your cold lunch more satisfying.
If you don’t normally add milk to your hot drinks, consider adding some milk or nondairy milk for the additional nutrients and calories. Some great choices include:
- Hot cocoa
- Coffee or a flavored coffee drink
- Green tea or chai tea
- Hot milk with a shot of coffee in it
7. Bring Extras
While you’re packing, throw a few extra snacks into your backpack beyond what you’ll need for the road. In the worst-case scenario, having some extra food will get you through an unexpected delay or a change in the weather. It could even save your life.
8. Get Out and Enjoy
Packing easy-to-carry, healthful food for your winter trek isn’t complicated. These foods are lightweight and easy to eat while you’re on the move. They’ll keep you fueled without weighing you down.
Stay warm, fuel up with winter hiking nutrition, and then get out there and enjoy all that winter has to offer..