Walking and fuelling for long walks

Walking and fuelling for long walks

How to eat well and keep up your energy levels for walking all day.

Along with water and oxygen, your body's most constant and basic requirement is energy. That energy is measured in kilocalories (often referred to as just calories, but look out for the metric equivalent, which is kilojoules). The more energetic you are, the more calories you burn. However, eating for long-term energy is not as simple as just replacing calories. Your body can burn both carbohydrate and fat to provide calories, but the energy released from these fuels is very different.

Think of carbohydrate as jet fuel - which is quick to burn and provides instant energy. So your body uses mainly carbohydrate to fuel strenuous activities such as climbing, walking uphill or scrambling. Unfortunately, you only have a small reserve of carbohydrate (stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles), enough to fuel about 2 hours of hard exercise. Once your glycogen stores are depleted, fatigue sets in. Eating for long-term energy means topping up your carbohydrate fuel and the only way to do this is to eat carbohydrate foods.

Eating plan for long term energy

Before you set off, make sure your carbohydrate (jet fuel tank) stores are full. Eat large portions of pasta or rice with tomato or vegetable sauce (rather than meat or cheese based sauces) the night before. Top up with more carbohydrate the next morning. There are plenty of high carbohydrate breakfast foods ...

  • Wholemeal toast with honey, jam or marmalade
  • Bagels
  • Porridge cooked with raisins and banana to sweeten
  • No-added sugar muesli (choose the varieties with dates, dried apricots for sweetness or add honey to sweeten, if you must)
  • Stewed apples and prunes with natural yoghurt
Take some high carbohydrate foods to eat during the day. For example, banana and honey sandwiches, pasta or homemade potato salad provide a mixture of fast and slow release carbohydrates. It may not always be possible to stop to eat, so foods such as fruitcake, malt loaf, dried apricots, figs and dates are easy to eat on the move.

Running out of fluid is as likely as running out of carbohydrate fuel on a long challenge. Take hot fruit based drinks in a flask during the winter. These will help to maintain your core body temperature, provide fluid and sugars for energy. Try organic ginger cordial or concentrated apple juice (with added fresh root ginger) diluted with hot water. If you suffer from poor circulation, ginger helps get blood to your fingers and toes - very useful on those long winter walks.

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