Caloric Considerations

May 30, 2018

Where does one even begin with regards to meal planning for the AT?  I've heard tales about "hiker hunger" in which thru hikers eat everything in sight.  To hopefully avoid putting shear junk in our bodies I'd like to be as on top of our nutrition as possible!

 

The biggest concern is getting ENOUGH calories. So many hikers are said to consume approximately 5,000 calories PER DAY! Scott Jurek, who set the speed record for the AT in 2015, consumed approximately 7,000 calories per day and still lost 20+ pounds! The average weight lost on the AT is 30 pounds. With this in mind, it is important to make sure we are fueling ourselves appropriately, but we needed to start with thinking about how many calories PER DAY we should each be consuming.

There are SO MANY VARIABLES in determining calories needed that it is really difficult to pinpoint an exact target number. Based on fitness level, age, and knowing your body/how hungry you get, we made a rough estimate for calories needed per day. From this target number we will then make tweaks once we are in the field. We will eat a lot in towns and on resupply days, but it is also important to have a “constant drip” and not just wait until you hit towns to pack on the calories. Hiking is different than running or cycling in this regard. It doesn’t make much sense to carb load since our effort will be so much longer. Another consideration is that Men will burn through fat a lot quicker than women while thru hiking, which means that Jamie will need more calories than I will.

I researched a few methods for determining caloric need per day and based off of these numbers we came up with a rough target.

Jamie: BMR (basal Metabolic rate = sleeping) = 1696.25 cal/day (this is the amount of calories jamie needs to survive. 


BMR x 1.9, which means a LOT of strenuous activity. Thru hikers are somewhere between x1.9 and x3 depending on hours hiked & effort level (6-8 hrs vs 10-12 hrs)
So,
x2 = 3,392 cal/day (min)
x3 = 5,089 cal/day (max)
------------------ OR --------------------
Avg male of 150 lbs loses ~500 cal/hr when backpacking
8 hours (20 mi @ 2.5 MPH)
= 4,000 cal burned
4,000 cal + BMR = 5,696 cal needed (20 mi day)
10 mi day: 4 hours = 3,696 cal/day needed
15 mi day: 6 hours, = 4,696 cal/day needed
------------------ OR --------------------
https://captaincalculator.com/health/calorie/calories-burned-backpacking-calculator/

 

*150 lbs, climbing hills w a load of 21-40 lbs, for 8 hrs = 4754 cal burned

*150 lbs, climbing hills w a load of 21-40 lbs, for 6 hrs = 3565 cal burned
*150 lbs, climbing hills w a load of 21-40 lbs, for 4 hrs = 2377 cal burned

Based on this research, and Jamie’s general feeling about how much food he will need each day, we decided to aim for ~4,000 cal/day PLUS any supplementing from towns.

Jackie: BMR = 1,286 cal/day

x2 = 2572 cal/day
x3 = 3,858 cal/day
-------------------- OR -------------------
Avg female of 115 lbs loses ~300 cal/hr when backpacking
8 hrs (20 mi @ 2.5 MPH)
= 2,400 cal burned
2,400 + BMR = 3,686 cal needed (20 mi day)
10 mi day: 4 hrs = 2,486 cal/day needed
15 mi day: 6 hrs = 3,086 cal/day needed
-------------------- OR -------------------
https://captaincalculator.com/health/calorie/calories-burned-backpacking-calculator/

*115 lbs, climbing hills w a load of 21-40 lbs, for 8 hrs = 3644 cal burned
*115 lbs, climbing hills w a load of 21-40 lbs, for 6 hrs = 2733 cal burned
*115 lbs, climbing hills w a load of 21-40 lbs, for 4 hrs = 1822 cal burned

Based on this research + my general feeling about how much food I will need each day, we are aiming for me to be between 2,500 and 3,000 calories per day PLUS whatever else we get in towns.

With our calorie targets determined, we planned our meals accordingly and will surely make tweaks in the field once we are actually out there! This is all just guesswork, so we’ll see how far off our estimations are :)

 

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