Walking and fuelling for short walks
What do you eat for a short, brisk walk, or for an extra boost to fuel the final few kilometres of a long walk? The short answer is sugar. Sugary foods are easy to eat, quick to digest and result in a rapid rise of blood sugar - which quickly supplies your muscles and brain.
So it is okay to eat sugar during exercise - but some sugars are better than others
Eating a lot of sugar is not usually something a nutritionist would recommend. It helps to rot your teeth and the rapid rise in blood glucose is often followed by a rapid fall afterwards. However, this pattern occurs at rest (for example, if you ate a packet of sweets while sitting reading the paper). If you eat sugar during exercise, the rise in blood is blunted and rebound hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) does not usually occur.
So it is okay to eat sugar during exercise - but some sugars are better than others. Sugars can be:
Intrinsic (where the sugar is part of the cell structure and bound up in the fruit or vegetable) or
Extrinsic (where sugar is added to make cakes, biscuits, ice-cream, breakfast cereals, fruit squashes, jellies, custards, chocolate and sweets).
Both forms of sugar will give you an energy boost, but the intrinsic sugars come in their natural concentration and form (apples, bananas, oranges, pears etc) and with a selection of useful vitamins, minerals and fibre, providing you with a better and more complete nutritional package.
Don't think sugars are the only energy booster. Some starchy carbohydrates are also quickly digested and produce a fast release of glucose into the bloodstream. So while a honey sandwich, ripe bananas and raisins provide a lot of sugar, the bread (white or wholemeal) for your sandwiches is also digested quickly but avoid using a lot of butter or margarine, as this fat will slow down digestion of carbohydrates and delay the energy boost.
If you want to travel light, make sure you start off well-hydrated
Even for short duration activities you need to have enough fluid (either in you, or on you) to avoid dehydration. If you want to travel light, make sure you start off well-hydrated. Aim to drink at least a pint of water in the hour before you set off. Then, if you are only moderately active in cool conditions, you can get away without taking any extra fluids. Otherwise drink at least a pint of water every hour. Alternatively, you can take your sugar boost and fluids in one drink. Diluted fruit juice (1 litre orange, apple, grapefruit or pineapple diluted with 1 litre of water) is a perfect energy boost and hydration fluid, all in one!