Fueling Up for the Trail: What to Eat Before Hiking

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Before you hit the trail, it’s important to make sure you’re properly fueling your body. Whether you’re embarking on a short day hike or a multi-day trek, the right nutrition can make all the difference in your energy levels and overall enjoyment of the experience. So, what to eat before hiking? In this article, we’ll explore the best foods to eat and offer some delicious meal and snack ideas to help you power through your next adventure.

Timing of Meals

When it comes to fueling your body before a hike, timing is everything. Eating the right foods at the right time can help ensure that you have enough energy to power through your adventure. Here are some things to keep in mind:

When to eat before a hike:

  • Aim to eat a meal or snack 1-2 hours before your hike.
  • If you’re planning a very early morning hike, try to eat a small snack at least 30 minutes before you hit the trail to give your body a quick energy boost.

How long to wait after eating:

  • Eating too close to the start of your hike can cause digestive discomfort or even cramping. Make sure to give your body enough time to digest your food before setting off.
  • Generally, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes after eating a light snack and 1-2 hours after a full meal before starting your hike.
  • If you’re short on time, aim for easily digestible foods like fruit or a smoothie.

By paying attention to your timing, you can help ensure that your body has the fuel it needs to power through your hike without feeling weighed down or uncomfortable.

Also Read: Which Exercise Helps Prepare for Uphill Hiking?

Pre-Hike Meals

Pre-Hike Meals

When planning your pre-hike meals, it’s important to focus on nutrient-dense foods that will provide your body with sustained energy. Here are some key nutrients to consider:


  • Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of fuel, so they should make up the bulk of your pre-hike meal.
  • Choose complex carbs like whole grains, sweet potatoes, or quinoa, which will provide sustained energy without causing a spike in blood sugar.


  • Protein is important for muscle recovery and will help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
  • Choose lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish or plant-based sources like tofu, beans, or lentils.

Healthy Fats:

  • Healthy fats provide your body with a longer-lasting source of energy.
  • Try adding avocado, nuts, seeds, or olive oil to your pre-hike meal.


  • Fiber helps regulate digestion and keeps you feeling full and satisfied.
  • Choose high-fiber foods like vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.


  • Drinking enough water is crucial for any physical activity, but it’s especially important when hiking.
  • Aim to drink at least 16-20 ounces of water a few hours before your hike, and bring plenty of water with you on the trail.

By focusing on these key nutrients, you can help ensure that your body has the fuel it needs to tackle even the toughest hikes. Remember to listen to your body and adjust your meal plan as needed based on your personal preferences and needs.

Snacks for Hiking

Snacks for Hiking

While pre-hike meals are important, it’s also a good idea to pack some snacks to help you maintain your energy levels on the trail. Here are some great options:

Nuts and Seeds:

  • Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and healthy fats, which will help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
  • Try packing almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds for a tasty and nutritious snack.

Fresh Fruit:

  • Fresh fruit is a great source of carbs, fiber, and hydration.
  • Apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes are all great options that are easy to pack and eat on the go.

Energy Bars:

  • Energy bars are a convenient and portable option for hiking snacks.
  • Look for bars with whole food ingredients, and avoid bars with added sugars or artificial flavors.

Beef Jerky:

  • Beef jerky is a great source of protein that doesn’t require refrigeration.
  • Look for brands with minimal added ingredients and lower sodium content.

Trail Mix:

  • Trail mix is a classic hiking snack that provides a mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Make your own mix with your favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and dark chocolate for a tasty and nutritious snack.

Remember to pack snacks that you enjoy and that will provide the nutrients and energy your body needs for your hike. And don’t forget to pack plenty of water to stay hydrated on the trail.

Foods to Avoid

foods to avoid in hiking

While there are plenty of great options for pre-hike meals and snacks, there are also some foods you’ll want to avoid. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Heavy or Greasy Foods:

  • Heavy or greasy foods can be difficult to digest, which can cause discomfort or even cramping while hiking.
  • Avoid foods like fried foods, heavy sauces, or greasy burgers before your hike.

Sugar and Processed Foods:

  • While sugar and processed foods may give you a quick energy boost, they’ll likely leave you feeling sluggish and low on energy later.
  • Avoid sugary snacks like candy, soda, or baked goods, as well as heavily processed snacks like chips or crackers.


  • Drinking alcohol before a hike can lead to dehydration and poor judgment on the trail.
  • It’s best to save your celebratory drinks for after your hike.

Avoiding these foods can help ensure that your body is fueled with the nutrients it needs to perform its best on the trail. Instead, focus on nutrient-dense foods that will provide sustained energy and keep you feeling your best.

Meal Ideas

If you’re looking for some pre-hike meal ideas, here are a few delicious and nutritious options to consider:

Breakfast Ideas:

  • Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
  • Whole grain toast with avocado and a boiled egg
  • Greek yogurt with granola and berries
  • Smoothie with fruit, yogurt, and spinach

Lunch Ideas:

  • Turkey or tofu sandwich on whole grain bread with veggies and hummus
  • Quinoa or brown rice salad with veggies and grilled chicken or tofu
  • Tuna or chickpea salad with crackers and veggies
  • Soup or chili with whole grain crackers or bread

Dinner Ideas:

  • Grilled salmon or tofu with roasted veggies and quinoa or brown rice
  • Whole grain pasta with grilled veggies and chicken or tofu
  • Stir fry with veggies, brown rice, and shrimp or tofu.
  • Grilled chicken or veggie kebabs with roasted sweet potatoes or quinoa


Now that you know what to eat before hiking, you can set out on your adventure with confidence and energy! With the right fuel in your body, you’ll be able to tackle even the toughest trails and take in all the natural beauty that the great outdoors has to offer.

But remember, fueling your body isn’t just about checking off a list of nutrients – it’s about enjoying delicious and nutritious meals and snacks that will keep you feeling satisfied and energized. So, pack your favorite fruits, nuts, and energy bars, and maybe even throw in a few healthy indulgences to keep things interesting.

With these tips and meal ideas, you’ll be ready to hit the trail and make memories that will last a lifetime. So, grab your hiking boots, fill up your water bottle, and get ready to explore the great outdoors!

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