All this talk about calories....

Posted by: phat

All this talk about calories.... - 07/19/08 09:54 AM

got me vaguely interested. I've never attempted to calorie count my backpacking food,
I've just known over the years how much I will eat, and adjusted to ensure I don't come
back with too much food (while allowing a small reserve for the unplanned).

I've heard much banter about calorie requirements, etc. So I'm wondering how much
others are taking and actually eating.

A typical through to a "hard eating lots" day for me looks something like this:

2 packs instant oatmeal: 250 Cal
2 landjaeger sausages 310 Cal
1 snickers bar 266 Cal
1 clif bar 250 Cal
smoked almonds 200 cal
dried apricots 30 cal
1 dehydrated dinner 700 Cal
2006 Cal

long hard day
2 pop tarts 400 cal
3 landjaeger sausages 470 cal
2 snickers bars 532 cal
1 clif bar 250 cal
smoked almonds 200 cal
dried apricots 30 cal
1 dehydrated dinner 700 cal
1 soup or hot chocolate 112 cal
2644 cal

I drink tea and coffee as well, black, and I'll leave that as 0 cal.

From experience I know if I take more, I just walk out with it. Yet, I see all these "experts"
on the internet (sic) saying a 160 pound male hiking 10 miles a day needs 3500 to 4000 calories. I think if I actually tried to eat that much food while hiking I'd barf it all up - and I like to eat!. It's not a case of I'm lightening myself on my food and living on my evolutionary ties to the walrus - I just don't eat any more than that on the trail. I don't feel like it! So - what's up with this calorie nonsense?
Posted by: JAK

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/19/08 12:34 PM

I eat about the same, but somewhat less in fats and more in carbs.
Very similar though, especially in winter where I might add bacon.

I've worked out all the theory but in practice I like to lose weight while hiking, so I have no idea what the maximum is that I might be capable of eating and digesting and burning while hiking without losing weight. My main staples are Skim Milk Powder, Honey, Tea, Oatmeal, and Dried Currants; with Almonds, Dried Soup Mix, Lentils, and Beef Jerky adding some variety. When I hike with my daughter I haven't quite figured out how much to bring for her, so tend to go overboard. Try to keep it healthy though. I now pack about 1 pound/day in summer and up to 2 pounds/day in winter, when travelling alone. With my daughter I would add 1 pound/day but end up packing alot out. She likes Mr. Noodles and Tuna pouches and citrus powder drinks. Also granola bars and fruit to goes, but I try and limit those to two a day. I eat more with her because of the leftovers, but still manage to lose weight while hiking. I lose up to a pound of fat per day when hiking alone. Probably half that when hiking with my daughter.
Posted by: sarbar

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/20/08 07:51 PM

What you take in is pretty normal <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

The only difference would be if you were doing say, a 4-6 month trip of 20+ miles a day - after the first month many would have eaten through their "winter padding". That is when the calories go up sharply.
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 02:38 AM

This is the first trip I have ever added up my calories also, was just curious. In my younger days, my hip bones would be sticking out pretty bad after just a eight day trip. Now that I am in my 50's, I just can't eat as much, especially at dinner. I am down to the single serving freeze dried dinners. I can see that I should eat more energy food during the morning before I make my destination for the day.
Posted by: JAK

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 04:29 AM

Might take me a couple of months. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: GrumpyGord

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 09:58 AM

I am always amazed at how different many folks view hiking food than I do. My food tastes are just plain barbarian. I just want to eat something and get on with it and I am not a bit interested in a gourmet experience, at least not if I have to prepare it. My usual diet comes out to about one pound per day and I do not know if I am loosing or maintaining my weight while hiking. Folks have told me that I look like I lost weight but since I am not sure what I weighed before I left I am never too sure. I have gone on 2 week + trips and I seem to survive just fine. I am sure that if I were to go on longer trips I would have to pay more attention to my food. All the talk about getting enough carbs, fat etc. strikes me as being irrelevant on short trips. Most of us could live on pop tarts, mac and cheese or bread and peanut butter for two weeks and not suffer any ill effects. I am not putting down the folks who view this differently than I do but for me planning and preparing food is the least enjoyable part of any trip. YMMV
Posted by: JAK

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 10:31 AM

Have you tried one of those new Camelbaks with the intravenous drip? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

Seriously though, I am not into gourmet either, but I do try and eat alot healthier when I am out there, and that's not hard to do in my case. It is pretty simple and basic, mostly oats and milk and honey, and lentil soups at night, but its nice to know that if I eat everything I bring I will be much better off than if I stay home where I can be tempted to raid the cupboard or fridge every night or hit a fast food joint every day. If I was a little more disciplined at home I could probably be a little more spoiled out there, but its an opportunity for me to get away from all that. Pop tarts? Not a chance. If it's no oats, its crap. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 11:55 AM

Those of us with no winter padding have to eat a lot from the start. I have tracked my calories for many years and I need 2,600 calories per day to maintain my weight (115 pounds). I do not take emergency food and often walk out the last day with no food and on about half the trips try to cut down to 2,300 calories per day to save weight. And I do not consider my pace fast or my days arduous. I usually only am on my feet 6-8 hours a day. At the end of the season I usually end up about 110 pounds and my family members think I look like a prisoner of war.

I find that my calorie inake really goes up when I do long trips - more than a week. When I do three 10-day trips in a row only coming out to pick up more food, I really get an appatite.
Posted by: midnightsun03

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 03:34 PM


Caloric "need" is based on many things, including age, amount of existing body fat stores, fitness, etc. The metabolism of a triathelete - and their associated caloric needs - is going to be very different than the average weekend warrior. Those of us with almost no body fat require more caloric input when exercising, whereas those with a good supply can get by on fewer (the reality is probably that those with a "good supply" of fat are eating more calories than their metabolism requires in a given day). True basal metabolism - i.e. the amount of calories one needs to get through a typical day, not exercising - is measured in a laboratory. It can be estimated, but if you exercise on a regular basis and still tote around extra fat, then the estimate may actually come out high.

It is a good observation when you say that you just don't want to eat any more than what you do eat - you're body is probably requesting what it needs, and calling it quits at excess. Walking/hiking doesn't actually burn that many calories, so you probably don't really need that much more than "normal" unless you're doing long bouts of sustained aerobic activity like swimming or biking or flat out running (as opposed to "jogging"). Winter activites are a different story - for a variety of reasons, the body just needs a ton more calories in winter.

Posted by: hikerduane

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 06:42 PM

<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> Hilarious remarks. As Jim would say, <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> Not only do I not feel like eating that much for the evening meal, it starts losing its flavor about the time I am done, even out in the wilds, where everything is supposed to taste good and you would never touch the stuff at home.:)
Posted by: midnightsun03

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 07:02 PM

I was interrupted about a million times while trying to write my previous post... I realize after re-reading that I forgot to write something important.

It is said that the average person needs about 2200 calories a day just to meet their typical daily functional needs. This is "average." A person tends to eat about 2100-2800 calories a day, depending on the fat content of what they eat. Obviously adding lots of snacks or eating high fat meals will increase that, but I suspect that most people here probably eat reasonably healthy for the most part, and aren't manging down 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day on fast food meals and junk food. So, those who eat reasonably but are still battling the bulge are most likely dealing with a slower metabolism and a "typical" intake of 2200 calories may be "overeating" as far as their bodies are concerned.
I watched my ex gain 50+ pounds over the course of a few months. His doctor at the time told him he must be eating 4,500-5,000 calories a day to gain that much. We did a rigorous food diary and he was taking in ~2,500 calories a day. Turned out his thyroid had gone wacko, and his metabolism was very slow. So don't feel bad if you eat a reasonable diet and still have weight that you don't need... not everyone has a "typical" metabolism, and biochemical issues may make it difficult to lose the weight, even if you're trying. Not to say you shouldn't try, but just to say that you don't have to be an over-eater to be overweight.

Posted by: phat

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/21/08 09:26 PM

Trust me, I'm just curious about the "4000 calorie" statement. because I do fine with
a lot less - I suppose if I weighed half as much as I did there might be less of a reserve there. But I don't hike for weight loss (even though it may happen then), and I don't much worry about biochemical issues - since I can lose weight if I don't eat <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> - My weight is simply because I don't have the willpower around stress, pizza, and bread as I do to put one foot in front of the other in the outdoors. Plain and simple. Stupid really, but then again if I were a completely rational being I wouldn't be any fun at all.
Posted by: JAK

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/22/08 11:10 AM

I wonder if sleeping in a cooler room with less bedding might help.
Posted by: sarbar

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/22/08 06:13 PM

I wonder if sleeping in a cooler room with less bedding might help.

If so I'd be anorexic skinny <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> I sleep in summer with just a sheet and a fan pouring cold air on me. And them reserves are still hanging on. Sigh!
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/22/08 06:34 PM

One of the best things about BPing is eating anything you want to <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />. In the past I have eaten dirt (freeze dried food), but now I really like to carry fine food. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> It really makes camping a lot more fun cooking a rabbit or a ribeye over a camp fire. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> Count calories - never did it my life - aint starting now. As long as I have a pound of choclate a day I'm fine.... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: Dimitri

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/27/08 10:20 AM

Yet, I see all these "experts" on the internet (sic) saying a 160 pound male hiking 10 miles a day needs 3500 to 4000 calories.

I know I plan around and DO eat at least 3000+ calories a day when hiking. While ~2500 calories is a normal daily intake for me.

Posted by: chaz

Re: Anyone care to guestimate my calories? - 07/27/08 10:57 AM

I am 5'11" and weigh 170. I take with me and eat twice what you do and feel I'm being moderate. Wow! I would feel like I was being deprived of life giving sustinance. I don't count calories but a typical day would be.

Breakfast Mountain house eggs
Pack of instant grits.
Short stack with maple surple.
Two cups of instant coffee w/ 2 packs sugar and creamer.

Snacks Gorp with M&M's & cashews
A snickers bar or 2
Dried fruit
Half a baq jerkey
Sports drink

Lunch Cheeze and Crackers with some dried sauage slices.
Water or sports drink.

Dinner Mountain house Chicken and rice
Dehydrated vegatable
Hot tea with pack of honey and fresh mint leaves (from home)
Then pretty much snack and have some bourbon.

I pack more stuff than this per day and yes, end up bringing stuff back.
But, I don't want to starve to death and I do get some extra exercise toting the extra stuff around. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: chaz

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/27/08 11:02 AM

Ummmmmmmmm Chocolat....
Posted by: phat

Re: Anyone care to guestimate my calories? - 07/27/08 04:56 PM

Well, I never thought it was a lot or a little till I added it up - It's just what I ate - if I eat more I end up uncomfortable or slacking around in a food coma instead of hiking <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> I certainly don't feel bagged or deprived. But then again, there's always my evolutionary ties to the walrus...
Posted by: chaz

Re: Anyone care to guestimate my calories? - 07/28/08 10:19 AM

I don't know about the walrus thing and I think everyone has a different metabolic rate. Some people require less and can be O.K. with what they are used to. At home I eat like a horse and it all goes to my gut. I think I'll deliver soon but not sure what it will be. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />OTOH when I'm in the woods, I eat way less that at home. I know when I used to bike ride, (several years ago) I could sprint uphill as fast as anyone but it was hard to sustain a cadence andkeep up with the stronger riders. I guess I'm kinda like a rocket and others are like a train. I'm working on slowing down and smelling the flowers. I guess that's the reason my son bonked 3 times while we were climbing about 1,100 ft in about a mile on our last trip. Maybe next time I should try to follow not lead.
Posted by: 1td

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/30/08 10:43 PM

Well here is my list

2- packs instant oatmeal: 260 cal
1-pack apple cider: 80 cal
3oz of beef jerky: 240 cal
1/2 cup of granola: 200 cal
2oz of tuscan toasts: 260 cal
4oz of butter toffee: 600 cal
2-packs instant oatmeal: 260 cal
----------------------------------------------------- 1900 cal

and a more simple list

3- packs instant oatmeal: 390 cal
2- packs apple cider: 160 cal
4oz of salame: 480 cal
4oz of butter toffee: 600 cal
3- packs instant oatmeal: 390 cal
------------------------------------------------------ 2020 cal
Posted by: chaz

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/31/08 06:03 AM

1900 that's just for breakfast right?
Posted by: Roocketman

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/31/08 08:00 AM

I suppose that one should consider the TIME of the backpacking trip.

A weekend trip might be just a small fractional pound loss of fat if you are actually producing 4000 Calories of metabolic and work output and consuming just 2000 to 3000 Calories. A two week long trip, on the other hand, would show a significant weight loss.

Some people will tire easily if they aren't consuming the higher caloric load corresponding to the higher caloric output.

There is also the concept of AVERAGE. A randomly selected person isn't necessarily AVERAGE. So, when someone talks about the average caloric requirement, the question to ask is "What makes me think I am AVERAGE (or not)?"
Posted by: Eric

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 07/31/08 03:37 PM

Another point that doesn't get a lot of press is variability of digestive efficiency. Just because you eat it doesn't guarantee it gets into your bloodstream. This can be your personal GI workings and/or the form the food is in. A good example is peanuts. You will get a lot more calories out of peanut butter than whole peanuts, just because the whole ones don't break down very well especially if you don' chew them up well. I think personal experience is the only thing that will really tell you what and how much you need to eat.
Posted by: schweinhundert

Re: All this talk about calories.... - 08/24/08 10:13 PM

I just saw some figures of how much one supposedly burns biking, and I'd be eating 4000+ calories per day if when I'm touring, if it were true. I sure ain't doin' that!
Silly scientist types...