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Since most of us are used to feel full on our day to day lives, we're unaware of its effect on our overall mood and physical performance. Because hiking demands more physical activity than our daily lives, it's particularly important to break this cycle and have a plan to feel full as much as possible.
Even if we're able to perform physically most demanding hiking/camping tasks, we'd better do them comfortably as most of us here hike for personal enjoyment. Feeling satiated is one of the most important factors to improve your overall mood and physical performance during hiking.
- #A sidenote here: I'd highly recommend you to check out REI's informative meal planning chart before you read further.
And, calorie intake is single-handedly the most important factor when it comes to feeling satiated. Unless your TDEE is very low, or you can pack unusual amounts of food, or you'll be "hiking" for 10 minutes before you camp at night and return home the next morning (which is called picnicking), feeling hungry to a degree is inevitable.
This post is devoted to minimize that hunger with smallest serving sizes.
High calorie intake the previous day
This tip differs from others as it isn’t implemented during hiking but before that.
In the introduction, I said "when it comes to feeling satiated, calorie intake is the most important fact.”
A calorie is a unit of energy. Calorie intake, on the other hand, is a rate; such as "2000 kcals a day", or "500 kcals a meal" and it’s very closely related with satiety.
Let's say Bob is going to go hiking and he calculated his TDEE to be around 2000 kcals/day, and he more or less eats that much everyday. To feel satiated, his daily average calorie intake should be around 2000 kcals everyday. Of course there are thousands of other factors which some will also be mentioned in this post, but as a rule of thumb, if he eats more he’ll feel more than full, if he eats less he’ll feel hungry and if he eats the same amount he’ll feel borderline satiated.
The important word here is average. If Bob (TDEE: 2000 kcals/day) eats around 2500 kcals the day before hiking, he basically allows himself feel satiated while eating that less (500 kcals less, which means 1500 kcals of daily calorie intake) on his hiking day and still feel satiated.
You will burn additional calories during hiking (duh). Depending on pack weight, gender, distance, terrain inclination, bodyweight and many other things, a leisurely hike will burn between 300-600 kcals per hour. That's it makes eat that more the day before hiking.
This is the easiest and most effective tip to feel full especially during 1-2 nights of hiking & camping.
Go for calorie dense foods
Calorie dense foods provide you the highest energy with the smallest serving possible. Highest energy is important because you're trying to feel full, and smallest serving size is important because you're trying to minimize the weight and volume of foods you'll be carrying.
A good example of high calorie density foods is nuts. They contain high amount of fats and hence, calories.
As long as they're not processed, you can go after any food you like. Here are some common choices.
Implement intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating usually implemented by gym enthusiasts.
Main benefits are optimized fat loss & muscle gain, increased energy levels inside the gym, better focus when fasting, simple calorie counting...
...and increased satiety feeling.
For many people "optimized fat loss & muscle gain" are considered as the results of other benefits of IF. Because IF is a way of eating and not a diet. Besides meal timing, nothing else changes.
So how do you do it?
You basically eat your last meal of the day around 8-9 hours after your first meal of the day. Then you fast for 16 hours - and next day you start eating the same time you did the previous day.
Usually skipping breakfast is recommended because of its convenience for most people - and I'm one of them. Most days I eat my first meal around 11 am and last meal around 7 pm.
First few days can and will be a little painful for you since your body will take time to adapt. I recommend eating in IF pattern at least 2 weeks before hiking if you want to see its benefits on your satiety.
Breakfast of most cultures in the world are centered around foods heavy in carbs. It's because they spike your energy levels fast since they're digested quickly. As a result your mood, willpower and satiety are boosted.
However, carbs boost you only for a short period of time. After an hour or two, you're going to start feeling lazy and hungry again since all the energy obtained is used very fast and your body is again left with nothing quickly after. You'll reach for another carb source and this cycle will repeat itself.
On the other hand, digestion of foods that are rich in proteins and fats take much longer. When you choose them over carbs, you're going to feel good and full around 4-5 hours. That's why centering your first meal in the day around those foods will help you feel satiated a lot.