Let’s face it, you cannot bring your entire pantry with you on a hiking trail. Can you picture yourself stopping in the middle of a hike in order to cook your favorite pasta? That’s hardly possible because not only you will need a lot of ingredients, you will also have to have certain kitchen tools. So what’s the next best thing? Energy food and drinks, of course.
Energy in Small Packs
Food and drinks are essential to keep a person going, whatever he is doing. This is especially true when you are doing something strenuous, where performance should be at its peak, such as hiking, running, cycling and climbing. In these instances, you need more than sustenance; you require regular infusions of energy. The good thing is, that energy food and drinks specially designed for active people are now available in the market. They are proven to provide more energy than traditional food and sports drinks.
Types of Energy Food and Drinks
Here are the most common options for energy food and drinks.
- Energy Bars: High-carb, low-fat and low-protein, these foods provide more endurance when consumed before and after any strenuous activity. Some are made from organic ingredients while others are made from unprocessed ingredients, such as nuts, seeds and fruits.
- Gels: These syrupy products have the benefit of easy digestibility. Most gels have caffeine or sodium to boost energy and combat fatigue.
- Bites, Chews, and Snacks: Some gummy bears and jelly beans are actually designed to give energy. Bites and chews are very easy to digest, though not as easy as gels. For hikers who need salt, there are many snacks that are specially formulated for them.
- Sports Drinks: Sports drinks contain electrolytes, or minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which help in bodily processes that involve the heart, nerves and muscles. Some sports drinks are also made to contain high amounts of protein.
Pros and Cons of Energy Food and Drinks
Portability: Energy food and drinks come in handy packs and sizes, making them easy to carry anywhere. They can even be stowed in the small pockets of daypacks and backpacks as well as clothes’ pockets. Energy-giving fruits, such as bananas, for instance, will only end up being mashed when transported in backpacks.
Convenience: Since energy food and drinks are specially formulated for a certain group of people performing a specific task, you can be sure that it contains all the nutrients that are needed in one convenient packet.
Digestibility: Active people can expect their bodies, particularly their stomachs, to be exposed to a lot of movement that would normally create digestion problems. These energy food and drinks are made to be gentle on the stomach.
Long Shelf Life: Aside from being packed in sealed packets, these types of food and drinks do not require special care or refrigeration to keep them fresh. They can stay for days at the bottom of your backpack and still be edible.
Weight Gain: Many people make the mistake of using energy food and drinks as meal or snack substitutes. They should only be consumed when necessary, since routine consumption could also mean weight gain. Remember that energy bars are basically concentrated doses of calories and carbohydrates, so eating many of them will not be properly absorbed by the body and become stored as fats.
Dehydration: Energy food should be consumed with generous amount of water. Therefore, you should make sure you are constantly hydrated.
Unrecognizable Ingredients: Watch out for the ingredients of the energy food or drink. Don’t make the mistake to eat or drink them when you are allergic to some of the ingredients.
Blood Sugar Spikes: Some energy food and drinks contain a lot of sugar that consuming too much of them could cause drastic increases in the blood sugar levels. Take them in moderation.
Making an Informed Choice On What To Eat And Drink
To avoid any complications or problems arising from choosing the inappropriate energy food and drinks, you should be more mindful in making your choices. Here are some considerations you should make.
- Activity Level: The more strenuous the activity is, the more energy you will need. The length of time the activity will be performed should also be taken into account because the longer it is, the more energy you will need.
- Diet Needs and Restrictions: If you have special dietary needs or restrictions, take them into consideration. If you are supposed to watch your carbohydrate intake, choose energy food that contains less carbs. If your metabolic rate requires high calories, choose those energy bars. If you are supposed to watch your sugar intake, go for those that use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Check out the nutritional information so you would know exactly what you will be getting from the food and drink.
- Allergic Reactions: Take note of your allergies. Some people are allergic to nuts, so if you are one of them, steer clear of energy bars that contain nuts. Other ingredients could also trigger different types of allergic reactions so it is important that you go over the label before buying anything.
One thing you should remember is that these energy food and drinks should never take the place of proper meals. These are merely to boost your energy, to make sure you are at the top of your game. Do not rely on them for your complete nourishment. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t pay much attention when choosing them. The fact that they are supplements should make you more wary or circumspect in your choices.