what to eat before hiking

What to Eat Before Hiking: Tips for Optimal Performance

If you are wondering what to eat before hiking, we’ve researched the topic and condensed it down to a digestible amount.

Should You Eat Before a Hike?

When it comes to going on a hike, many people prefer to eat something beforehand to provide their body with the energy and nutrients it needs to power through physical activity.

Beyond having the essential hiking gear, it’s imperative to take into account how you are fueling your body.

However, some people may choose to hike fasted, meaning they don’t eat before their hike.

So it largely comes down to personal preference and knowing your body.

If you do decide to eat before your hike, it’s best to have a balanced meal about 1-2 hours before you start hiking.

This gives your body enough time to digest the food and turn it into energy.

A good pre-hike meal should contain carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Carbohydrates can be found in things like whole grains, fruits, and veggies.

Lean proteins can be found in foods like chicken, fish, and beans.

And healthy fats can be found in things like nuts, seeds, and avocados.

If you prefer to hike fasted on an empty stomach, it’s important to listen to your body and make sure you feel comfortable and energized.

Some people find that hiking fasted can help them to burn fat and improve their endurance, while others may feel lightheaded or sluggish without food.

If you do choose to hike fasted, it’s still important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and during your hike.

How Much Should I Eat Before a Hike?

The amount of food you should eat before a hike depends on a few factors such as your body weight, the length and intensity of your hike, and your personal dietary needs.

However, as a general rule of thumb, you should aim to eat a balanced meal containing complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats about 1-2 hours before your hike.

That’s unless it’s your preference to hike when fasted.

The exact amount of food you need will vary depending on your individual needs and preferences.

A good starting point is to aim for a meal that is around 300-500 calories for most people.

However, larger or more active individuals may need more calories, while smaller or less active individuals may need less.

When planning your pre-hike meal, try to focus on foods that are easy to digest and won’t sit heavily in your stomach.

This can help to prevent discomfort or nausea while hiking.

Some examples of good pre-hike foods include

  • Oatmeal with fruit and nuts.
  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread.
  • Quinoa salad with veggies and grilled chicken.

What Should I Eat the Night Before a Hike?

The night before a day hike, it’s a good idea to focus on eating a well-balanced meal that provides your body with the essential nutrients it needs to prepare for physical activity the next day.

Here are some tips on what to eat the night before a hike:


Eating carbohydrates the night before a hike can help to store energy in your muscles and liver, which can provide fuel for your hike.

Good carbohydrate sources include whole grains, fruits, fresh vegetables, and legumes.


Protein is important for repairing and building muscle tissue, which can help to prevent soreness and fatigue during your hike.

Good protein sources include lean meats, fish, tofu, beans, and legumes.

Healthy fats

These help to provide sustained energy and can help to keep you feeling full during your hike. Good sources of fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil.

Some good examples of pre-hike meals include:

  • Grilled chicken or fish with sweet potato and roasted vegetables
  • Brown rice with tofu or tempeh, stir-fried vegetables, and a peanut sauce
  • Whole grain pasta with tomato sauce, lean ground beef or turkey, and a side salad
  • Quinoa salad with grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, and avocado

It’s also important to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water the night before your hike to stay hydrated.

Aim to drink at least 8-10 cups of water throughout the day and avoid drinking alcohol, which can dehydrate you.

What to Eat Before Hiking, the Morning of.

Eating a healthy and balanced breakfast the morning of a hike is crucial to fuel your body for the physical activity ahead.

Some good examples of pre-hike breakfasts include:

  • Oatmeal with fruit and nuts.
  • Whole grain toast with nut butter and banana.
  • Greek yogurt with berries and granola.
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies and whole wheat toast.

Hydration While Hiking

Staying hydrated while hiking is crucial for maintaining your health and performance on the trail.

Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated while hiking:

Bring enough water with you: Bring at least 2-3 liters of water per person, depending on if it’s a long or strenuous hike. Use a hydration pack or water bottles to make it easier to drink water on the trail.

According to Trailhiking.com, half a liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. This increases with activity and intensity, and always err on the side of caution.

Drink water frequently: Take small sips of water frequently throughout your hike, rather than drinking large amounts all at once. Aim to drink at least 8-10 ounces of water every 30 minutes.

Here is a good rule of thumb to calculate the time taken for a hike.

Add electrolytes: If you’re hiking for more than a few hours or sweating heavily, it’s important to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. You can do this by drinking sports drinks or adding electrolyte tablets to your water.

Pay attention to your body: Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water, as this can be a sign that you’re already dehydrated. Keep an eye out for other signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, headache, dizziness, or dark urine.

Plan your water sources: If you’re hiking in a remote area, make sure you know where your water sources are and plan accordingly. Treat water from natural sources, such as streams or lakes, to prevent waterborne illnesses.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you and should be avoided while hiking. Stick to water and electrolyte-rich drinks instead.

Recommended Foods for Hiking

Choosing the right foods for hiking is important for providing your body with the fuel it needs to keep you energized and sustained on the trail.

Here are some recommended foods for hiking:

Complex carbohydrates: Foods that are rich in complex carbs, such as oatmeal, whole grain bread, and brown rice, can provide sustained energy for hiking.

Lean protein: Lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, tofu, protein powder, and beans are important for building and repairing muscles during and after hiking.

Healthy fats: Foods such as nuts, nut butter, seeds, avocado, and olive oil provide essential fatty acids that are important for energy production and can help you feel full and satisfied on the trail.

Fresh fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help support your immune system and keep you healthy.

Choose fruits and veggies that are easy to pack and eat on the go, such as apples, bananas, carrots, and cherry tomatoes.

Trail mix: Trail mix is a great snack option that combines complex carbs, fats, and protein in one convenient package.

Make your own trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and whole grain cereal for a healthy and filling snack.

Energy bars: Energy bars can be a convenient option for hiking, as they are lightweight and easy to pack.

Look for bars that are made with whole food ingredients and are low in added sugars.

Jerky: Jerky is a lightweight, high-protein snack that can be a good option for hiking. Look for jerky that is low in sodium and preservatives.

Food to Avoid for Hiking

There are certain foods you should avoid before hitting the trail.

Here are some foods to steer clear of before a hike:

  • High-fat or greasy foods: Foods that are high in fat or grease, such as fast food or fried foods, can be difficult to digest and can lead to stomach discomfort during your hike.
  • Spicy foods: Spicy foods can also cause stomach discomfort and heartburn, especially if you’re not used to eating them.
  • Sugary foods: While a small amount of sugar can provide a quick energy boost, too much sugar can cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling sluggish and fatigued.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol can dehydrate you and impair your judgment and coordination, making it unsafe to hike.

Instead of these foods, focus on eating a balanced meal that includes carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Stick to foods that are easy to digest and won’t sit heavily in your stomach.

Wrap Up

Nutrition is a tricky topic.

Most of our bodies work in relatively the same way but we all have our own preferences and habits when it comes to food.

What work for me may not work for you, but generic knowledge about food and your individual preferences should steer you in a good direction.

For this topic, you can do a lot of good by avoiding the bad.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to eat a meal or a snack before a hike?

Whether to eat a meal or a snack before a hike depends on the length and intensity of your hike, personal preferences, and your digestive system’s response to food.

It’s best to eat a balanced meal or snack that includes complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and fats 1-2 hours before your hike.

How long before a hike should I eat?

It’s recommended to eat a balanced meal or snack containing complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and fats 1-2 hours before a hike.

This gives your body enough time to digest the food.

If you’re planning to eat a larger meal, you may want to allow for more time to digest before hitting the trail.

It’s important to listen to your body and adjust your food intake and timing based on your personal preferences and your digestive system’s response to food.

Is it ok to hike while fasting?

Hiking while fasting can be safe for some people, but it depends on your individual health and fitness level.

Fasting can lead to low blood sugar levels, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, and decreased performance.

Some people who are adapted to fasting or who have experience with intermittent fasting may find that they have enough energy to hike while fasting.

If you’re considering hiking while fasting, it’s important to listen to your body and be aware of any signs of low blood sugar or dehydration.

It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and electrolyte-rich drinks.

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