Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Andrew Skurka's Eating Habits

Now we'll look at the eating habits of another well-known long-distance hiker -- Andrew Skurka. Excerpts from articles are given below.

His daily diet consists of two Balance Bars and a Clif Bar for breakfast; a snack every two hours for the next 12 hours, alternating between Snack A, a Balance Bar and a candy bar, and Snack B, exactly three ounces of Pringles and three ounces of mixed nuts; and a dinner of instant mashed potatoes rolled up in a tortilla followed by three ounces of Hershey's Dark Chocolate. The rationale? It's light and easily packable. To offset the caloric deficit he builds up in the wilds, he gorges on eggs, bacon, cookies, and peanuts whenever he reaches a town, usually every few days. 

2. Notes from "Nutrition and Cuisine" article from Skurka's site

  • Eats energy bars during the day and has one easy-cook meal in the evening, cooked on an alcohol stove. 
  • The best energy bars are high in calories, favor complex carbohydrates over sugars, contain adequate fat and protein, and are fortified with vitamins and minerals.
  • "Breakfast and snack bars [i.e. not energy bars designed for sports performance] can be another healthy staple in a backpacker's diet. I say "can be" because it entirely depends on the bar. Many contain over-processed granola and sugars; and they offer few vitamins/minerals and little fiber. Instead, look for bars with whole grains, nuts and berries, and good sugars (e.g. honey, not corn syrup). Particularly avoid Pop-Tarts and Milk 'N' Cereal bars, which set you up to crash-and-burn."
  • Candy bars "are heavy in fat, which helps to mitigate the crash-and-burn effect of their simple sugars; and some contain a fair amount of protein, particularly those that contain peanuts or peanut butter. All candy bars are not well suited to the backcountry: some are thin (and break too easily) or awkwardly sized; others cannot be eaten on-the-go; and some come with cardboard sleeves that create more trash for you to carry. My favorites are Fast Break's, Kit-Kat's (but only the Big Kat bar), Nutrageous,' Baby Ruth's, Pay Day's, and Snickers'. I avoid thin chocolate bars (like Hershey's chocolate, Krackel's and Kat Kit wafers), bars with cardboard sleeves (like Mounds and Take5's), and chocolate candies (M&M's and Whoopers)."
  • Hot dinners include: "angel hair pasta, coos-coos, dehydrated and freeze-dried meals, and instant mashed potato burritos. These meals strike a good balance between simplicity and sustenance." 
  • Eats about every 2-2.5 hours during the day, starting with a breakfast of about 600 calories. Each snack is 300-500 calories. 
  • Daily caloric intake is roughly 4000 calories a day, which maintains energy, but is not enough to maintain body weight. So he binges in town.
  • To maintain vitamin and mineral levels, "make energy bars (almost all of which are fortified) a regular part of your diet; eat dried fruits and legumes if you are willing to accept their inconveniences; and take a multivitamin, which can't hurt, though they might not help much either, as most studies have shown only marginal benefits. In trail towns, stock up on fresh fruit and produce, ideally before you hit up the local burger joint and lose your appetite."
  • Says that the cost of "fattening up" before a hike usually outweighs the gains. 
  • Apparently recommends getting about 35% of one's calories from fat. This is consistent with other sources, which recommend 35-40%.
  • Recommends aiming for 125 calories per ounce of food (440 per 100 grams); other, somewhat more "liberal" sources recommend aiming for 100 (350 per 100 grams)
Now compare that information with his actual meal plan for the Great Western Loop

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