One of the greatest challenges I have ever faced is trying to figure out what I would STILL want to eat after hours of sweating, laboring, and working core muscles during an endurance feat. Several factors must come into place:

  • How much room do you have to carry food and water?
  • How long of an event is it (a few hours or a few weeks)?
  • Do you run the risk of being stranded without rescue for an extended period?
  • Are there resupply points along the way or is it you, nature, and that Lifestraw you laughed at when your mom gave it to you “in case”?
  • How much do you REALLY like peanut butter?

Okay maybe not that last one (even though PB spread is one of the better calorie banks) but you get the idea, You must consider the trip before you can look at the nutrition. Currently I am planning a series of sub24 to four day bikepacking trips, and between the two ends of that short spectrum, my planning changes a fair bit.

Small differences in conditions can make big differences when planning

To give you a visual, HERE are two lists of my meal planning for two separate events, One being a “short” 10 hour race with 14k feet of elevation over 16 miles and the other being a 4 day/ 3 night backpacking trip.

Both require a fair bit of experience to complete, but as you can see, the 10-hour race nutrition set-up consists mainly of sugar-based, carb-heavy snacks, a few pieces of jerky, maybe some electrolyte drink, and water (lots of hot, plastic bladder-flavored, mud-coating-your-mouthpiece water). The backpacking trip, on the other hand, is based around the assumption that water sources will be available to replenish supplies, through potable or filtered sources. This allows you to carry the same volume water as the short trip and can afford you more room for food, BUT be careful not to underestimate how much water you need. Worst case situation for bringing too much water on a hike is you stay hydrated and experience the “call of nature” more frequently. Worst case situation for not enough water is…you know…being dead, so, water it is!

When looking at the image of the backpacking meal plan, the lack of sugar-heavy items should be evident and the presence of more “savory” food items should be visible. Items heavier in proteins, lipids (fats), fiber, and foods containing other nutrients (vitamins and minerals) your body requires to sustain, repair, or construct muscle and bone during times of extend stress, will be featured more prominently in other meal plans and preferably at the lowest possible moisture content available, casually known as the processes of dehydration or freeze drying. Freeze drying uses a freezing process to force water into expanding beyond the limits of the cell walls that food is compromised of; then once set under a vacuum seal, the free water is evaporated through sublimation (solid to gas). Dehydrating, on the other hand, requires a higher temperature and can alter the flavors and textures due to higher heat used in the drying process. Either way, these will alleviate several challenges that are presented during extended trips: How do I get more stuff in the same amount of space, make it weigh less, and be more resistant to spoilage? The answer for all three is take out the water.


You want your vitamins. It’s just a fact. If I was lazier I would leave it at that but I like to be thorough; my friends say I just over-explain stuff till it’s dead. Every chemical reaction your body undergoes is due in part to vitamins: allowing you to see, move, metabolizes amino acids properly, not poop like a rabbit or a dog that ate trash, you get the idea. Some vitamins can be dissolved in water and the rest are fat-soluble. The water-soluble ones are the B vitamins (there are a few if you’ve never looked at a box of cereal and they can have alternative names such as Niacin and Folate) and Vitamin C (FA’ THA’ SCURRRRVY). These water-soluble vitamins, unfortunately, have little storage within the body and need replenishment daily.

lemon pirate

#display stock photos and ms paint

The fat-soluble ones, A, D, E, and K, are able to be stored within the fatty cells of the body (hence the “fat-soluble” designation) and are not as easily depleted as the water-soluble vitamins. This knowledge allows, with proper advanced planning, the ability to find foods that can have reduced moisture while retaining some amount of vitamin content.

With any type of preservation technique you will lose some amount of vitamins, so if you can find fresh food along the trip, it’s generally advised to save your freeze-dried corn for when you’re stuck under an overpass and have so time to kill in a thunderstorm. Eat fresh foods whenever you can, and take fruits and veggies as many as you can afford or fit in free spots. IF you feel the need to supplement with some type of multivitamin, a powdered type that is mixed into a liquid and dissolved completely MAY absorb more efficiently than some gel-coated or other type of pill which requires the digestion process to be absorbed. According to the US Pharmacopeia, pills must dissolve within 30-45 minutes after ingestion or risk not being fully absorbed by the blood stream.

If you noticed my ambivalence about the topic of multivitamins, cool, it’s due to the fact that eating a varied diet to meet your nutrient and caloric needs is the BEST option. Adding a potential bomb of large doses of vitamins in addition to/in replacement of that varied intake usually does not end in the intentioned way and can increase the chances of reaching a vitamin’s point of toxicity (most vitamins have a point where too much is a bad thing).

Disclaimer: While all the information is presented as fact, based on tested, repeatable, results, any personalized meal planning should be done with your personal health professionals that you have a history with. The data presented is a broad overview lacking in personal specifics for an individual reader which can greatly change an outcome of a diet on someone (for example someone with Diabetes SHOULD NOT use the meal plan I use, but someone who is wheat-free is safe to eat everything.)


Next post. Carbs versus Lipids, and the subject of Fiber: how to poop in a hole.