Let’s face it, as backpackers and long-distance hikers, we can’t get all of our nutrition from what we eat. Taking additional supplements helps the body recover quicker from the stress and strain of hiking, give you more energy, and improve your overall health. Some long distance hikers avoid carrying supplements simply because it adds more weight to their pack. Others make it a habit to ensure they stay happy and healthy along the trails. Neither hiker is wrong. Humans long ago completed long distance treks without safety kits, shoes, shelter, and certainly no supplements. However, just because this is possible, does not mean it is recommended.
If you consider supplements an important part of your everyday life, likely this mentality will carry-on with you on the trails. With increased physical exertion, a not-favorable diet, and exposure to many foreign elements, supplements can only help instead of hurt. These six supplements will help ensure you cover all your bases when tackling a hiking trip.
Getting high quality fats on any long-distance trail is difficult. Additionally, muscular and joint inflammation is a common occurrence when hiking. While a good ‘ole ibuprofen may seem like the right answer to solving the problem of joint pain, it can have adverse side effects such as damage to the stomach lining if too many pills are taken. Fish oil, which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, helps prevent inflammation and helps eliminate stiffness and pain. One thing to watch out for with fish oil is oxidation, as exposure to heat can damage the fats and actually make the harmful instead of helpful.
Hikers need a high-calorie diet to help them sustain their energy and momentum. Unfortunately, many of the foods that hikers consume encourage the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. Probiotics have been proven to be helpful for immune support and to help protect you against the diet you have to subject yourself to on a hiking trip. Many probiotics need to be refridgerated so be certain to look for pills that do not require this.
Taking a daily multivitamin can help protect your body against many serious illnesses such as heart disease and osteoporosis, and even the not-so-serious illnesses like the common cold and infections. When your body is weak and tired after a long hike, it is most prone to illness. Taking a daily vitamin while long-distance hiking can help prevent these illnesses from occurring. Aside from combatting illness, several studies show that taking a daily multivitamin leads to an increase in energy levels. Just what the doctor ordered for a long hike.
When you were a child, you likely were told by your parents to drink your milk to get your daily dose of calcium. Calcium isn’t just for children or the elderly. In fact, women start losing their bone density in their twenties. If dairy isn’t a regular part of your diet (or you are a vegan), calcium is a supplement to take on the trails. It keeps your bones, teeth, and muscles strong and your nervous system functioning at an optimal level. GNC Calcium Plus 1000 also provides immune-bolstering Vitamin D and muscle-regulating magnesium.
You know that fruity taste in your sports energy drinks? This is Electrolytes, and because some are lost when you sweat, it is imperative to replenish them when you exercise. As you can assume, you sweat a lot when hiking and therefor lose a lot of electrolytes. Electrolytes help your body control fluid balance and muscle function. Water is great, but even drinking an adequate amount of water can’t replace the electrolytes lost during a hike. Look for electrolytes that have less sugar to feel your best on the trails.
A healthy intake of protein is key in regulating metabolism, repairing tired muscles, and boosting your immune system. A general rule of thumb is that 12 to 20 percent of your daily calories should come from protein. Otherwise, you risk your body breaking down muscle tissue instead. Protein can come in many different forms. You don’t need to whip out your skillet and cook a chicken breast on the trail. Instead, you can opt for protein powder to get your protein fix and keep your body operating in beast mode. Opt for a whey protein which is not only budget friendly but also muscle-growth friendly. Plus it tastes delicious.
Keep in mind that I am not a nutritionist or a doctor. All of these supplements should be run by your primary care doctor prior to taking. What I do have is a passion for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and experience taking all of the above supplements. I can confidently attest to them helping amplify my physical performance while also keeping me healthy and happy during my hikes.
Do you have any supplements you take while on a hiking trip that you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!