What should you eat before doing a walking activity? Nutritional tips

Heather Campbell
 min read

What should you eat before doing a walking activity?

What should you eat before doing a walking activity? Nutritional tipsTo get the best out of walking, it’s a good idea to find out what are the best nutrition choices. The right nutrition will enhance your efforts and fuel your walks.

As a whole, the best nutrition would include a good mix of carbs, fiber and proteins before, during and after walking long distances. Whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables are all excellent to give you enough energy to turn your walk from a chore into a delight.

Let’s talk carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, and nutrients and what foods are good for hikers.

What should you eat before doing a walking activity?

Carbohydrates and nutrition for hikers

In order to walk, you need sufficient energy. The most important fuels for your body are carbohydrates and fats.

Carbohydrates have the advantage over fats that they are quickly absorbed into your body.

So during a hike, you’ll benefit more from carbohydrate-rich foods than fat-rich foods.

Carbohydrates can be divided into sugars, starches and dietary fiber.

Examples of sugar-rich products are candy, soda, and fruit. Starch is found in bread, pasta and rice, among other things.

Sugars or starch?

Starch is a better form of carbohydrate than sugar in a healthy diet. Foods that contain starch also often contain other valuable substances such as fiber and vitamins.

Products high in sugar (such as candy) usually contain few other substances. Therefore, we often speak of “empty calories.

During a longer exercise, such as a walk, you have more use for sugars than starch.

After all, you want to replenish your energy as quickly as possible and absorb sugars into your body the fastest.

Dietary fibers

Dietary fiber is also a carbohydrate but it is not soluble. They are important for proper bowel function and movements, but they do not provide direct energy.

Foods high in fiber include grain products, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

How many carbohydrates do you need per day?

Overall, 40 to 70 percent of the energy from your daily diet should come from carbohydrates.

A calculation example: Suppose you need 2000 kilocalories of energy per day (this depends on your height, age and activity, among other things).

Then you need 800 to 1400 calories from carbohydrates.

Did you know that the more active you are, the more carbohydrates you need?

Which foods have carbohydrates?

Products high in carbohydrates include pasta, bread, brown rice, potatoes, and fruits such as bananas, sodas, cookies and candy.

You can usually tell how many carbohydrates are in a product from the label on the package.

Carbohydrates during your hike

If you exercise a lot, you need more carbohydrates. With extended exercise, such as hiking longer than 2 hours, it is important to replenish your energy supply along the way to avoid a dip.

Suitable carbohydrate-rich foods during long hikes include bananas, granola bars, bread with sweet toppings, and so on.

Ingest enough carbohydrates after your walk

It is also important to eat enough carbohydrates after a long hike to recover properly.

Especially during a multi-day hike such as a three-day one, it is necessary to consume a carbohydrate-rich meal in the evening, for example a plate of pasta or rice.

What if you are on a diet?

Suppose you are on a diet or have a condition requiring you to adjust your diet (such as diabetes or obesity).

In that case, you may need to adjust the recommended amount of carbohydrates. Get advice on this from a dietician or other expert.

Tips for hikers, by hikers

  • Do you have type 2 diabetes? Then walking combined with fewer carbs can work wonders. Discuss this with your doctor and/or dietitian and possibly go for a walk with a walking group. This may reduce your need for insulin injections and cause you to take less pills.
  • It can be a good idea to eat a big plate of hearty oatmeal beforehand. You can comfortably rely on that for 10 miles on a hike. It also provides warmth, especially useful in colder seasons. And the carbohydrates are gradually converted to the sugars your (muscle) cells need.
  • Also, always make sure to drink enough during your walk.

Fiber: how important is it for hikers?

Dietary fiber is not the first nutritional topic you think of when you go hiking.

But just how important is fiber and what exactly does it do? Read on for the benefits of fiber for hikers.


There is fiber in our diet. This is a collective term for a group of carbohydrates from plant foods that are not broken down in the intestines but are essential for healthy digestion.

In addition, fiber provides a feeling of satiety after eating and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

So fiber is indispensable for healthy digestion.

Attention: People who suffer from a condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, may actually develop symptoms when eating (too much) fiber.

Types of dietary fiber

Important sources of fiber include:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Potatoes.
  • Whole-grain cereal products (whole grain pasta, bread, couscous, brown rice).
  • Legumes and nuts.

So, with a varied diet, you get fiber from different nutrients. And that’s good.

In fact, there are many different types of fibers, all with unique properties.

To avoid getting too technical, we’ll just explain fermentable and non-fermentable fibers here.

The fermentable fibers are used as nutrition by bacteria in the colon and by the intestinal cells themselves.

This releases gases and acids that are important for a good immune system. Thus, pathogens have less of a chance of causing damage.

This fiber also helps slow down your digestion so your body has every chance to get the nutrients from your food.

The fibers that are not broken down by bacteria are called non-fermentable fibers. These absorb moisture and give the stool a flexible structure resulting in a good bowel movement.

Non-fermentable fiber is found primarily in grain products, such as whole-wheat bread.

By the way, it is important to drink 0.5 gallons of fluids daily. Because without sufficient hydration, these fibers cannot absorb moisture.

If you’re not drinking enough water and eating too much fiber, you’re running the risk of constipation and hard stools.

Effect of fiber on bowel movements

A lack of fiber in the diet can pose health risks as already described above.

But a lack of fiber (or not drinking enough) can also cause problems with bowel movements.

Do you suffer from thin stools or diarrhea? Then change your fiber intake to whole grain products and leave out products like white pasta and white bread.

The fibers act like a sponge and improve the structure of the stool.

Even if you have diarrhea, it is important to drink more than enough because you lose a lot of fluids through defecation.

Constipation (clogging) can also result from not having enough fiber in your diet or not drinking enough (an abdominal massage can stimulate the bowel movements in this case).

As a result of constipation, you’re on track to developing hemorrhoids or fissures.

Think of some fiber cereals to eat before doing a walking activity.

High-fiber food on the go

If you are going on a long walk, high-fiber foods are easy to take with you. A container with unsalted nuts, (dried) fruit, snack vegetables or a few sandwiches for lunch can be easily put in your backpack.

Of course, don’t forget to bring plenty of water. When you make an effort, you also lose more moisture through perspiration.

If so, drink more than the daily prescribed 0.5 gallons of water.

Easy to measure if you have drunk enough: get on the scale before and after your walk (select a scale that fits your weight and body).

If you are lighter than before the walk, then you have lost that weight in moisture. So refuel!

Tips about walking and high-fiber nutrition

Do you regularly suffer from difficult bowel movements and does this hinder you while walking or even keep you from going for a walk?

If so, the following tips can undoubtedly help you:

What should you eat before doing a walking activity:

  • What should you eat before doing a walking activity? Don’t skip your breakfast. Start the day with a high-fiber breakfast. With that, you wake up your bowels that have been on low alert all night and by doing so, you create regularity.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and water throughout the day.
  • Put on your walking shoes regularly. Exercise is very good to help get and keep digestion going.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Suffering from constipation? Eat a ripe banana! Bananas are full of fiber, which actually fixes constipation rapidly when combined with adequate fluids.
  • Swap white foods such as white bread for whole-grain products such as whole-wheat bread.
  • Some high-fiber foods (e.g., black beans) may cause flatulence or stomach cramps if you engage in exercise immediately after eating them. It is best to not eat these before doing a walking activity.

Proteins in food for hikers

Step into a gym or fitness center and you will often see athletes there with large plastic cups with protein shakes.

Proteins are important for building and repairing your muscles. But how much protein do you need as a hiker?

And what food products are high in protein?

The function of proteins

Proteins, like carbohydrates and fats, are nutrients. Proteins provide not only calories but also amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks for the protein in our body cells.

All tissues in our body, such as muscles and organs, are made up of cells. These body cells contain protein.

Your body cells are constantly renewing themselves and in the process your body breaks down protein to replace it with new protein.

So proteins are very important for your body.

How much protein do you need?

Your protein needs depend not only on your body weight but also on your age and on your activities and occupations.

If you exercise intensively, you need more protein, especially strength athletes because they put a lot of strain on their muscles.

On the other hand, walking is not a very intense sport. Protein shakes are therefore also unnecessary for hikers with a normal diet.

However, make sure you don’t get too little protein. Too little protein and your muscles recover less quickly after a walk and you will experience muscle pain.

It is especially important to consume enough protein if you are training for longer (multi-day) hikes.

Did you know that with a normal diet, you don’t need protein shakes as a hiker.

Which foods contain proteins?

You have plant and animal proteins. Plant protein sources are food products such as bread, cereals, legumes and nuts.

Animal proteins are found in meat, fish, milk (products), cheese and eggs.

Plant proteins contain fewer essential amino acids than animal proteins.

Therefore, if you are a vegetarian, you need more protein. A good source of protein for vegetarians is soy (tofu, tempeh).

Tips for getting enough protein

With a healthy and varied diet, you get enough protein.

Fish, meat, egg, legumes

Alternate between animal and vegetable proteins. Instead of meat or fish, you can eat tofu, legumes, egg or nuts, for example.

Legumes are very healthy because they contain other useful nutrients in addition to protein. Brown beans and lentils are just two examples.

Unprocessed meat (chicken breast, steak and minced meat) is healthier than processed meat (sausage and hamburger).


Semi-skimmed and low-fat dairy products contain as much protein as whole dairy products but less fat.

Before doing a walking activity, you may want to try some healthy cereal with skimmed or semi skimmed milk.

Don’t eat or drink too much dairy that has a lot of added sugars.

Quark contains a lot of protein.

Eat a bowl of cottage cheese with fruit after a brisk walk.


Nuts contain a lot of protein, so have a handful of nuts instead of a cookie as a snack.

Attention: Nuts contain many calories, so again, don’t eat too many of them.

Choose unsalted nuts because otherwise you will ingest a lot of salt.

What nutrients do you need as a hiker?

If you hike a lot, you obviously want to be as fit as possible. Therefore, getting enough nutrients such as vitamins and minerals is important.

What nutrients are extra important if you hike a lot? And when do you need to replenish them?

Why vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins and minerals play an important role in a lot of different processes in your body. These build your bones, help your muscles work well and release energy from your diet.

Therefore, adequate vitamins and minerals are indispensable, especially if you have an active lifestyle.

Important nutrients for hikers

Magnesium for your muscles and nervous system

Magnesium has multiple functions. For example, it helps metabolism, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the functioning and relaxation of your muscles.

It also helps to keep your bones and teeth strong. Magnesium is found in grain products, soybeans, green vegetables (spinach), and nuts.

Calcium for your bones, muscles and nervous system

Calcium (lime) plays an important role in bone formation and helps keep bones strong. As you age, calcium absorption decreases.

Women in menopause experience decreased calcium absorption due to hormonal fluctuations. In men over the age of 70, calcium absorption is also reduced.

Calcium is found mainly in dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

It is also found in nuts, legumes and green vegetables such as broccoli and Chinese cabbage.

Vitamin D for your bones and muscles

Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in your bones thus vital for maintaining strong bones. It is good to take vitamin D and calcium at the same time so that both substances can reinforce each other.

Vitamin D is produced through the skin under the influence of sunlight. So, especially in the winter, pay extra attention to sufficient intake of vitamin D.

When do you need supplements?

Vitamins and minerals are normally obtained from your diet. Therefore, make sure you eat as varied a diet as possible.

The amount of vitamins and minerals you need varies from person to person depending on age, gender, and diet (for example, whether you eat vegetarian).

Sometimes it may be necessary to supplement the amount of vitamins and minerals with a dietary supplement.

Did you know: As a woman over the age of 50, you should pay attention to the intake of sufficient calcium and vitamin D (through dietary supplements).

Above the age of 70, this also applies to men.

What should you eat before doing a walking activity? Conclusion

You don’t need to eat anything special during a hike, but you will need a good mix of carbs, fiber and proteins before doing a walking activity.

It’s the same balance during and after walking long distances.

We hope this post has given you some ideas to ensure that your body is well fueled with the necessary nutrients provided by nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

You may also be interested to read our other walking-related posts:

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More