8 Food Habits To Follow While Trekking

Eating meals on treks is a challenge to many. Your body works out so much that you are tempted to gorge on all food available. Yet, over-eating could work against you while trekking. So how does one strike a balance? Here’s a quick guide to help you make smart food choices while trekking.

Trekking is a high, calorie-consuming activity – that’s a no-brainer. “But what I’ve noticed is that many trekkers get overwhelmed with the amount of exercise that they are suddenly doing on treks and tend to feel that the quantity of food being served is inadequate,” says Prathima Chabbria, mountain coordinator at Indiahikes.

The idea here is to replace the calories lost, not feast. You don’t want to feel like a bloated bean bag when you have miles to go uphill, do you?

“One needs to consume the right kind of calories. Carbohydrates do boost energy, but more than the amount, one must ensure that they eat the right kind of carbs. Complex carbohydrates like broken wheat (dahlia) are ideal, since they get released slowly into your system and this will help sustain you for a longer time,” opines Manish Pasad, Chief Operations Manager and former Trek Leader at Indiahikes.

Cooking your own food while trekking is a good idea PC: Milind Tambe

So how do you decide what’s good for you and what’s not? Here’s a list of 8 food habits to follow while trekking.

1. Eat a healthy wholesome breakfast – it can set you up for the day. Avoid early morning caffeine cravings; they lead to dehydration.

2. Lunch and dinner must consist of carbohydrate-rich food and whole grains. They digest slowly, giving you more stable energy during the day.

3. Keep some dry fruits handy – it’s a good fix to keep your energy levels up.

4. Sugar candies and cream biscuits are a big no-no. They tend to give you a sore throat on high altitudes.

5. Drink at least 4-5 litres of water through the day (this requires practice). It will prevent muscle cramps and keep you hydrated. Also, water contains oxygen, which can compensate for the low oxygen levels in high altitude treks.

6. Proteins take a longer time to digest at high altitudes due to low oxygen levels. Avoid eating non-vegetarian food. You can consume egg instead. This will prevent sore muscles and helps replace broken-down muscle protein.

7. Avoid chocolate and energy bars. They definitely give you a sudden boost of energy, but because they almost entirely rely on sugar and corn syrup it results in an unhealthy peak and drop energy cycle. This will give rise to hunger pangs after a while.

8. Steer clear of alcohol before and during the trek. Alcohol leads to dehydration that could trigger Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) during a high altitude trek.

“It becomes very difficult for trekkers to suddenly change their food habits on a trek, especially because they are sweating it out so much,” says Arjun Majumdar, founder of Indiahikes. “Conditioning your body to get used to similar levels of physical activity and diet before you start your trek is critical. Problems usually arise when trekkers try to condition their bodies while on the slope. Preparation should be done prior to the trek, not during it. Get used to the dal-chawal, sabzi roti diet and stay away from any kind of junk a week before you start trekking.”

Most of us lead sedentary lifestyles that lack physical exertion and a healthy diet. Such habits lead to difficulties at high altitudes. Want a good Himalayan trek experience? Try tweaking your eating habits a wee bit and it’ll work wonders.

Cover photograph by Milind Tambe.

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8 thoughts on “8 Food Habits To Follow While Trekking

  1. Hii Nisha,

    I find potato in most of the meals in IH treks. While potato is a good source of carbs, it also triggers acidity..

    So, is it really okay to consume potatoes on high altitude treks? I have faced a lot of gastric problems in the past myself, given the fact that I’m a south Indian and my diet hardly has potatoes!

    I sincerely tried eating them before my trek so that I get used to them.. however, that did not really help!!

    1. Hi Spoorthi, we do serve other carb rich food apart from potatoes. Since transportation plays a major role on the mountains, potatoes make it up to our list since it is easier to transport them. We also provide Split peas, channa dal, masoor dal and cornflakes among plenty other options. I think you can swap the potatoes for these in case you still suffer form acidity.

  2. Hi,
    I wanted to know about winter treks i can go on with my friends in feburary in uttrakhand and himachal and what all things we require and budget ?i want to do it independently with my friends.i have also done amc from jim/ws phalgam with ‘A’ GRADE.

    1. Hi Navdeep,
      You can go to Kedarkantha, Brahmatal or Dayara Bugyal in February. If your friends are also experienced trekkers, you could even try exploring Roopkund in winter. Budget and things required will be similar to a non winter trek. In addition, make sure you all carry gaiters since there will be snow. If you have micro spikes, that will be an added advantage. Carry your id cards with an extra copy with you since most of these places have forest checkposts and require an id copy to be submitted.
      Once you reach the base for any of these treks, definitely check with the locals about water availability on the trail before proceeding up.

  3. Please suggest some easiest trek for my family. I am 58 years, my wife 55 yrs and daughter is 26 yrs. my daughter is Down’s syndrome and can not walk very steep and maximum 2-3 km in a day that too very slowly with breaks. Can supporting mule for her transportation be arranged. Also we need only English toilet. Month of travel is sept. or oct. Please suggest.

    1. Hi Pandhi,

      I would suggest you go on the Valley of Flowers trek. It has ample lodges along the way which can cater to the English toilet provision. This trek also has a lot of local mule providers up for hiring, who can help you out. I am sending you contact info of one of our local staffs who can help you with this.

  4. This post is really nice and informative. Thanks for the sharing. Considering trekking nutrition, water plays an important part of it. How much water to carry is a tricky question. One should think on the weather, sources of water in the route, personal weight and more. If you need water to cook your food and you rely on the water you carry, it means additional weight. During the plan and mapping, verify water aspects. whether you have places for water refilling so you can use water purifiers, desert area or a snow place. If regularly you advised drinking around 2 liters of water a day, during the active hike you should consider of having 1 liter of water every two hours, more or less, and depends on those factors we covered.

    For more details, please visit at https://mountainoteslcc.com/nutrition-tips-for-backpacking-and-day-hikes