Nutritional Tips for Long-distance Walking
Planning proper fueling and hydration for long-distance walking is necessary and can be quite challenging. Any activity over 90 minutes requires the consumption of an electrolyte beverage that contains carbohydrates. The duration and intensity of the walks will determine which type and how much food you will need. This is when a few nutritional tips can come in handy. Following a proper diet before, during, and after training will help build the strength and stamina that you require to stay healthy and uninjured.
How can you create a nutrition plan for long-distance walking?
If you are an athlete who walks six to seven days a week for more than 90 minutes every day, occasionally twice a day, it is essential to have a plan that meets all your nutritional needs. Your diet plan should match the training plan — it should be lighter on easy days and fuller on hard-training days.
Also watch: Should You Eat Before Your Daily Walk?
Your body requires carbohydrates to replenish what is being used and to maintain muscle function and repair. This macronutrient makes up the foundation of a strategic fueling plan. It is recommended to consume:
- 20g-30g of carbohydrates before walking
- 20g-40g of carbohydrates per hour during your walking (depending on the intensity and terrain of the walk)
- 15g-30g of carbohydrates after the walk
If you walk at a relatively slower pace but for longer durations over two hours, then items like sports bars, trail mix (mixed nuts and dried fruits), and granola can be useful due to their slower absorption and longer-lasting energy supply.
Which other nutrient should you consume and why?
The other most important macronutrient that you may consume is protein. Out of the three main daily meals, you may easily incorporate protein snacks like jerky (dehydrated lean trimmed meat), hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt in one of your meals. Regular consumption of protein throughout the day is more beneficial than one or two larger servings for absorption and muscle repair after workouts. Meeting your daily protein requirements may be a challenging task, so you may consider foods like fish, legumes, and hemp seeds that contain more than 10g per serving.
Which food items should you cut down while walking long-distance?
Long-distance walking does not involve high-intensity exertion, so sports gels and chews are less useful and may contribute to weight gain or a rapid rise in blood sugar. Use these sparingly or in race-walking situations.
Importance of hydration during long-distance walking
Even though you are not doing high-intensity running, you still need to meet your hydration needs during long endurance walking to account for energy expenditure and sweating. The factors that influence your hydration needs include the ambient temperature, body size, gender, and exertion level. If you weigh more and walk in hotter weather conditions, your sweat rate will be higher and your hydration needs will rise dramatically.
Regular fluid consumption throughout the walk and properly rehydrating after walking will actively prevent dehydration and ensure you are ready to walk again the next day. The specific electrolytes that need replenishing are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. A good trick for staying hydrated while exercising is to drink before you get thirsty and to take small sips at regular intervals.
How can you track your progress?
While fitness trackers are not 100% accurate, they are a valuable tool to help give an idea of the calories you are expending while walking. Once you know about what you are burning, ensure that you are consuming a balanced diet that is aligned with your personal body composition goals.
Working with a sports dietitian can help line up everything and ensure that you consume all nutrients and refrain from over-consuming unnecessary food items. Sticking to a nutritious diet rich in complex carbohydrates and proteins, and maintaining daily hydration levels will help you train and recover like a pro.
1. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2018; 15:10.