Hello everybody, I'm a 14 year old looking to thru-hike the Tahoe Rim Trail this summer (solo). I wasn't sure where to post this, so I thought this topic was good, even though I have been backpacking for a lot of my life, and have been on several multi-day hikes (though not as long as the TRT). I was wondering, for me, a 14 year old male, 5'7", 110 lbs (I'm a bit underweight, I know, I'm trying to work on it), relatively physically fit, what kind of weight I should be carrying, and how many calories per day I should be consuming to maintain my current weigh (plus or minus a few pounds). Any information would be helpful.
Well, just as a place to start, I would figure that 3000 calories per day should fuel your endeavor. If you can put together a meal plan that provides about 100 calories per ounce of food this would be just under 2 pounds of food per day. I walked the JMT in 1954 when I was 16-17 and planned on about 2 lb per day of food. I lost about 5 lb in 17 days of hiking. Your appetite won't be too good for the first 4-5 days of the hike so you might want to factor in a 2/3 ration diet to save carrying extra food early in the walk.
With all that said, your food needs will be pretty individual and the only way to learn food planning is by trial and error. IME though, it is more comfortable to take a little more food than you need than not enough. Do take detailed notes on food amounts and preferences to help with planning future trip and realize that your tastes and requirements will change mightily over the next ten years.
Good advice. I would also point out that the TRT is one of the trails that does allow you to re-supply without much trouble. So I might make a couple of optional re-supply packs that I could add in if I started feeling too hungry/tired.
That said, you're a 14-year-old with the metabolic rate of a hummingbird. You can eat all day long and still not gain weight. I don't think it's possible you to take too much food--it's only possible for you to carry too heavy a pack!
Loc: Portland, OR
As noted already, food requirements are fairly individual and the best person to consult is yourself. If forced to guess, I'd say, for your size and weight, planning on a 3000 calorie/day diet ought to be sufficient, depending on your daily miles. I wouldn't go below 2800/day because it sounds like your metabolism is a barn-burner. But even better would be for you to track your current daily calorie intake on days when you are pretty active, then use that as a starting point for deciding what you'll need on the trail. Walking uphill under a load requires fuel. The Nutrition Information labels on food packages are your bff.
To get any kind of reasonable total pack weight you will need to resupply yourself with food along the way, ideally every five days or so. Look for food that averages out around 100 calories per ounce (or about 4 calories per gram). Any food with a low water content is likely to be in this neighborhood, but remember to drink lots more water to help compensate for the low water content of your diet.
As a general rule, the lighter your pack weighs, the happier you will be. Anything approaching 40 lbs. will feel like a ton to you. If you can't hit a target pack weight of 30 lbs or less, including food and water, then at least get as near to 30 as possible. This site contains a wealth of information for keeping your pack weight low without spending a small fortune or endangering yourself by leaving out necessities.
Some basic rules: The lightest things in your pack are the items you don't bring. You only need enough clothes to stay warm and dry when you're wearing everything you have with you, plus one change of socks. Leave the cotton at home and bring quick-drying synthetics. If you have a limited budget, I'd advise you to prioritize the sleeping bag as the one piece of gear not to scrimp on. The most important thing about your pack and your shoes is that they fit you correctly. Practice with any new or unfamiliar gear at home before you go. That means set up your tent or tarp, light your stove in the wind, wear your shoes or boots, test anything that's supposed to be waterproof to make sure it is.
If your parents are OK with your doing this solo at age 14, you probably have some camping/hiking/backpacking experience already. I didn't solo any distance until I was 18. The best piece of advice I can give you is don't be afraid to bail out if things go wrong. There is no dishonor in knowing when to stop. Persisting in an error is the best way to get into deep trouble. Next best advice: have fun!
You're going to want to read about "resting metabolic rate". A decent primer can be found at this link. Your resting metabolic rate is the number of calories per day your body burns at rest. Obviously you are not at rest, but it's the most useful number to understand the kind of input you're going to require to gain weight.
At the link above, I put in your age/weight/height/gender and the calculator estimated your RMR is 1498 calories. This number is a simplistic estimate as a health practitioner would come to this number using a caliper to determine body fat percentage so they could estimate your lean body mass (think of this as the amount you would weigh if you were 3% body fat like Arnold in his prime).
Here's another link that provides an estimate for your lean body mass given a few measurements. If I remember correctly, I believe you can multiply your lean body mass by ~13.9 for a decent RMR calculation. One factor that the internet can't estimate is GENETICS, which is a significant part of the real life number.
To gain 1 pound, you need to input 3500 calories (input=cheeseburgers) more than you burn. Calories you burn per day = (RMR + calories you burn from stuff like breathing and walking + Genetics). Honestly, I would not worry! You're still developing. Being aware and making an effort to adjust your input to reach a desired weight is a good habit as long as you're not beating yourself up about it. Try to keep the grams of protein somewhere near the grams of carbohydrate, and don't worry too much about the fat given your goal (within reason...).
If you want to increase your appetite and put on muscle, work your big muscle groups at the gym such as your back and legs (rows & lat pull downs, bent over rows, squats, leg extensions, calf raises, and even your chest). In addition to increasing appetite—this will also increase testosterone, burn more calories, and may actually spike your metabolism resulting in...wait for it...an increase in your RMR multiplier. Vicious cycle! Good Luck!
EDIT: The conclusion in the previous paragraph about RMR being affected by activity is directly refuted in the last paragraph of the RMR article I linked. There I go again, thinking old wives' tales = data.