Dine & Dash

outdoor nutrition tips

Nutrition tips for big outings.

Outdoor recreation is at its most abundant during the summer. We can hike, bike, climb, fish, paddle—you name it. One of the worst things someone can do is miss out on an experience due to lack of energy and poor recovery. Follow these tips to avoid bonking during your favorite activities and recover faster to decrease the number of rest days needed, so you can spend more time playing outside.

Eat Your Breakfast
Everyone has heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but why is that? Imagine your body as a car: you wouldn’t head out on a long drive with the needle on empty. Your body works in the same way—it needs fuel to perform and carry you throughout your activities. Having breakfast replenishes glucose and stabilizes blood-sugar levels after not eating all night, allowing you to go longer, farther, and faster than if you perform on an empty stomach. At breakfast (and at all meals), make sure you have a protein, carbohydrate, fat, and fruit/vegetable source to ensure balance and proper nutrient intake. There are many fun ways to spice up breakfast such as loaded pancakes, an egg scramble with toast, or a hefty burrito.

Eat Before Exerting
Making sure you’re fueled before your activity can be as easy as having a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich or an energy-packed bar. To ensure that your body has the energy it needs to not lose steam halfway through your hike or climb, as well as avoid cramping, eat a meal two to three hours before your activity or grab a snack consisting of simple carbohydrates (fruit, granola bar, applesauce, fruit snacks) 30-60 minutes beforehand.

Pack Snacks
Your body burns a lot of calories during physical activity, so refueling along the way is an important factor in keeping energized. Whether hiking, biking, climbing, or paddling, consistent fueling along the way will help keep your performance high and recovery quick. If you’re engaging in physical activity for longer than an hour, refueling with carbohydrates such as gels, pretzels, Oreos, candy bars, fruit snacks, applesauce packets, and/or granola bars is important. Your body digests and absorbs carbohydrates quickly, making this a great source of fuel along the way. Remember, like your car, the body needs consistent fuel to get you to your final destination.

Refuel and Recover
Eating after an activity is just as important as eating before. Recovering with a snack or meal within 30-45 minutes after the activity is ideal to help restore muscles and replace your body’s stored energy, so that you’re quickly ready to go again. This should consist of a carbohydrate source to replace liver and muscle glycogen, along with a protein source to build and repair muscles that were just worked. Good options for post-exercise fuel are chocolate milk, pizza, cheese with fruit, or a PB&J.

Typically, with exercise comes sweat, which means you have some rehydrating to do. Through sweat, we not only lose fluids, but also electrolytes. One of the easiest ways to stay hydrated is to drink about 5-10 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes of activity. Make sure to hydrate leading up to your activity to avoid becoming dehydrated, which can lead to cramping and lethargy. Drinking water consistently through the day before a big outing is recommended, and supplementing with a carbohydrate and electrolyte-rich sports drink during strenuous activity will help ensure proper hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to improve performance and keep your energy levels up, all day long.

Tana Meyer is a registered dietitian, focusing on performance nutrition, with Northern Nutrition Group.