Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nutrition on the trail

Every year, lots of people hit the PCT with grand plans to maintain good nutrition. I was no different. The trouble is, it won't matter out there. You'll be so hungry you could eat anything, and you will.

Some highlights (lowlights) from my own experience:

Hummus and crackers make an excellent lunch. A little olive oil in the hummus gives you good calories. A little hummus goes a long way, so it's light and you can stock up and bounce it ahead to keep yourself stocked. I always had ample energy for most of the afternoon after a good lunch of this stuff.

But, when it ran out, candy. Yep. For over a month I ate candy for lunch.

Why? First it was mosquitoes. It's likely you won't experience the mosquitoes that I did because I was in Oregon in July and you'll probably be there in August. But with all those mosquitoes, I could not sit down and stir up my hummus and then eat it. I could not sit down. I had to pace around while I ate. It was easier to eat something portable. So all the candy I would bring for dessert starting becoming my main meal. I could pop peanut M&Ms down the trail under my headnet. M&Ms didn't melt, either. And they didn't require me to seek out scarce water, which how it gets once more in Oregon. Cookies worked out well, too. Since I loathed to stop and rummage around in my pack, giving the bugs ample time to bite my butt cheeks through my pants, I stopped eating peanut butter, too. Lunch went in my pockets before I left my tent in the morning, and the easiest thing to put in my pockets were cookies and candy. I also carried one packet of instant pudding each segment. If I was lucky enough to find cold water in a relatively mosquito-free area to make it, it would be my last resort toward unquenchable hunger. Sometimes nothing I ate would stop the growling. Nothing but a pudding bomb in my stomach.

Breakfast started slipping from its more nutritionally lofty perch toward Fig Newtons and various kinds of bars. Mostly this is because I started getting tired of the things I ate. Also, in Oregon the water was too warm for cold cereal and milk. It was really hard to choke that down.

Dinner stayed as good as I could do. But I fail to see how any of the dehydrated things I cooked could be as nutritious as a real dinner. It's full of chemicals and it's very scary to think that a lot of it was stuff normal people make for dinner every day. I did my best to add real cheese (as real as that stuff in single serving plastic wrappers can be) and once in a while I carted around a head of broccoli or a giant leaf of chard. A drop in the bucket.

In town though. Oh the miracle of refrigeration! Yogurt never tasted so good. Breakfast was full of protein and fat. Stacks of pancakes with omelets on the side. Four halves of English muffin each with its own egg, plus all the sides, and oh what the heck, how about an ice cream sundae for dessert. And the all-I-can-eat breakfast buffets where I did indeed eat all that I could.

I spent a full zero day in Ashland. First I craved fat so I ate bagels and cream cheese and giant muffins with hunks of cold butter added to them. I did the whole pint of ice cream thing, too, which was rare for me. Then I started craving protein so I went out for Indian food and got some kind of platter of dead animals and ate the entire thing. Then, finally, I craved fresh food and got some kind of salad-type meal.

But it was back to cookies, candy, bars, pudding and macaroni and cheese once I hit the trail again. This went on through the mosquitoes and then into the rain, as the rain also made me not want to stop and sit down to mix up some hummus or rummage around in my pack.

It was awful but it was the only way I could survive out there. Oddly, it didn't seem to matter. It still boggles my mind that I could eat so poorly and still churn out a daily marathon. I crossed the Canadian border after months of junk food, feeling invincible and strong. I am completely baffled.

Thank goodness it doesn't last forever. You can fix your diet once again when you get home.

1 comment:

  1. Check out chia seeds - they are light and highly nutritious.