Published the 11 July 2014
The programme for the weekend has been decided: you're off for a hike in the mountains!
Whatever the hike and its difficulty level, it is important to properly prepare so you can make the most of getting away from it all and relaxing. As with any physical exertion, your body needs a minimum of resources to keep going in the magnificent, but sometimes hostile mountain environment.
1/ Balance your diet
In the mountains, a rich, balanced diet is your first key to success. Eating properly will help you to avoid hunger pangs and fatigue, as well as helping your body to cope with the specifics of the mountain environment, such as the altitude and cold.
Exertion fuel: 60% carbohydrates
Carbohydrates should make up around 60% of your diet. They comprise:
- Slow-burning sugars such as pasta, rice, cereals and potatoes.
They help you to conserve energy that can be used later on when the body requires it.
-Fast-burning sugars are used up by the body straight away. They include sweets and other foods with a high sugar content.
Combat the cold and prolong your energy: 25% fats
Fats are less easily converted to energy by the body, but this doesn't mean they should be neglected. They should represent around 25% of your diet. You are recommended to eat them in a 50/50 balance, as follows:
- 50 % animal fats such as cooked meats or butter.
- 50 % vegetable fats such as olive, sunflower or even soya oil, which are useful for providing you with energy.
To eat in moderation, but still good for you... : 15% protein
Necessary for conserving muscle mass and developing strength and power, proteins are generally the least commonly consumed foods during a mountain hike. They include meat, dairy products and eggs.
2/ Vary your diet and increase your portions
Your diet should above all be enjoyable. To make sure it is, vary the ingredients!
It is also important not to neglect portion sizes. You should remember that we tend to eat more in the mountains, as the body is placed under more strain at high altitudes.
3/ You should prepare for a hike at least 24 hours beforehand!
Skipping a meal the night before or breakfast in the morning would be a real mistake! You need to store the energy you'll need for the next day, principally by eating slow-burning sugars (pasta, cereals,...).
Breakfast is also an important meal. As well as the fun, sociable side of sharing a meal together before you set off, you're advised to eat generous, calorific portions a maximum of 2 hours before you start exercising. A good breakfast might include bread, jam, breakfast biscuits, tea and yoghurt.
Hydration, an essential element for success.
As when you expend any energy, hydration shouldn't be neglected during a mountain hike. It helps you to flush out waste products and compensate for water lost through sweating. Drinking regularly will also keep you going and improve your performance.
You are advised to drink small quantities of liquid regularly every 15 minutes. You can lightly flavour your water, or drink weak tea.
If you're taken by the idea of drinking from mountain streams, beware of water that is too clear... The nearby pastures might have contaminated them with bacteria!
Equally, once you've finished your hike, make sure you drink plenty of water to eliminate toxins. It's also good for preventing cramp!
In short, a correct, healthy and balanced diet, coupled with regular hydration will be a major factor in the success of your hike.
And as they are in the mountains, mealtimes are about sharing and sociability... we wish you all a great hike!