What to Eat on your Summer Walks

24/07/17

By Nicky Jacquiery

In my last article I wrote about the importance of staying hydrated when out walking and the dangers associated with not drinking enough. Here I’m going to continue the theme of summer health and look at what to eat in order to stay healthy and get the most out of your walks over the summer months.

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If you’re lucky enough to have been out walking on one of the few hot days that we’ve had this summer, you’ll know how energy-sapping walking in the heat can be. Walking, especially a full day’s walk, requires fuel to supply our body with the energy it needs to keep us going. Add heat to the mix and walking suddenly feels much harder than it should. Just as when it’s cold you need to eat to maintain your energy and keep warm, likewise when it’s hot you need to eat to maintain your energy to keep cool. Walking on a hot day inevitably means that you’ll be exposed to direct heat, since you’re unlikely to find a route that is in the shade all day. If it’s a hilly and strenuous route, your body will have to work on overdrive to control its temperature and all that extra effort will make you feel lethargic. Also, don’t forget that tiredness is one of the main symptoms of dehydration, so it’s important to drink as well as eat enough.

Most of us are used to eating three meals a day, perhaps with snacks in between. If you intend to be out walking for a full day in the heat, it’s advisable to re-adjust your eating habits and eat little and often. Not only does this keep your energy levels topped up, but it also means that you can stop regularly. Unlike in winter when you probably won’t want to stop because of the risk of getting cold, use these breaks to your advantage and find a shaded spot to rest out of the sun and cool down.

Think about the length of your walk and the weight of your food. If you’re out for the day and you intend to cover a reasonable distance, you don’t want to be weighed down by too much heavy food. Opt for food that is relatively lightweight, will give you the energy you need and won’t go off in the heat. It’s a matter of personal preference as to which foods you choose, but ‘real food’ is best. By ‘real food’ I mean actual food, rather than energy gels. You’ll probably survive the day eating gels, but your body won’t thank you for it. As these tend to contain a lot of sugar, you’ll experience highs from the sugar rush that will give you short bursts of energy, followed by lows or energy slumps that will leave you feeling tired. Pack food that releases energy slowly which will keep you going throughout the day. You may want to carry some quick energy releasing foods as well, such as the odd bar or sweets, just in case you need something towards the end of the day to give you that extra oomph!

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The list of foods below gives you an idea of what I take with me. This is a good start on which to base your personal menu depending on your individual tastes. Clearly you’re not going to carry something that you don’t like to eat, even if it is recommended!

  • Some kind of trail mix that includes dried fruits. I make my own as this is much cheaper, and it means you can create a mix tailored to your preferences. I like a mixture of textures, as well as a combination of flavours that aren’t too sweet. My trail mix contains raisins, apricots, cranberries, toasted coconut flakes and different seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Sometimes I put chocolate chips in as well, but if it’s hot then these can melt and create a sticky mess!
  • Although I like egg sandwiches, I don’t tend to take them if it’s really hot because of their tendency to go off in the heat. Besides, they can make you very unpopular with your fellow walkers because of the smell! I avoid salad when it’s hot because tomato and cucumber that contain water can make your sandwiches soggy. Humous and marmite are good options.
  • I know these are not the healthiest of foods, but if I’m out walking all day and expending lots of energy, I tell myself it’s okay! I enjoy crisps because of the salt, and as I don’t like nuts, a packet of crisps is the next best thing.
  • Cheese oatcakes. These contain a lot of energy, but can be quite dry, and some would say tasteless! I opt for the cheese ones when I’m walking as these contain more flavour. They’re ideal for those occasions when you can’t carry toppings for your oatcakes that easily. Sometimes I carry cheese slices, but again you need to think about how well these will keep in the heat. I know you can buy cheese in a tube, but personally I’m not that keen on it.
  • Hot cross buns or fruit bread. These are energy rich and satisfying.
  • Bananas contain potassium to help keep cramp at bay, but be careful how you pack them as they tend to bruise easily.
  • I like ‘9-Bars’ because of the mixture of seeds and fruit, but there are many different makes and varieties available.
  • Chocolate bars, especially caramel wafers. These don’t seem to melt as much when it’s hot and they’re nice and chewy!
  • I prefer hard-boiled sweets that I can suck slowly if I feel I need an energy boost. Jelly babies and wine gums seem to be other favourite choices.

Foods that contain a lot of water are a good idea to keep you hydrated and to help prevent cramp, for example fruit, and especially harder fruit that is more likely to survive being packed in your rucksack. You might also want to think about using a hydration bladder rather than a bottle. The handy tube means that you’re more likely to sip as you go along and consequently, you’ll drink more. I don’t normally carry a flask in summer, especially if it’s a really hot day, but I know people who do because they cannot survive without their tea or coffee fix!





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