Nutrition on Trekking Challenges
I’m going to try to give you an idea of what sort of food you should be taking with you on our trekking challenges and in particular the National 3 Peaks. It’s very difficult to produce a plan that suits everybody, but I can certainly give some pointers from my experience.
Firstly, for me, the most important thing is to keep the weight of your back pack as light as possible and this relates not only to equipment but also food and drink. It’s a general fact that the vast majority of participants carry way too much; therefore wasting valuable energy in taking all sorts of things to the top of the mountain only to bring them back down again! However, conversely, it’s obviously wise to keep a little in reserve, so somewhere in there must be a fine balance! Experiment during your training walks to see how much food and water you actually NEED. Remember, you will be returning to the transport and support vehicles after each mountain, so your main food intake should be done there. Food on the mountain is used purely to keep your energy levels up and enable you to keep moving!
This is how I personally go about planning my food on the 3 Peaks –
I know that I need plenty of fluid, probably more than the average person, so I always start out with 1.5 litres of water in my pack (I use a Camel Bak type bladder as it’s so much easier to drink from when on the move, and you don’t have to stop to take out your water bottle.) I also carry a couple of rehydration tablets that can be dissolved into the water and is very effective for replacing lost minerals and salts (really helps with combatting cramp problems).
The only food I carry during the actual trekking are small items such as chocolate bars, jelly beans, and fruit. They’re not there to combat hunger, but to provide energy. There is an endless list of these type of things, but you could include energy bars, breakfast cereal bars etc. The other thing I never leave without is energy gels. I use Wiggle's own brand, with caffeine in them. HOWEVER, I must stress that energy gels aren’t for everybody, and it is vital that you try them out weeks beforehand. There are many different brands available and different ones can affect people in different ways (a common problem is causing upset stomachs) so you must be comfortable with your choice of gel. Having said that, for me they are my priority go-to item for all endurance events, be it running, walking or cycling!
On return to the support vehicle, my first action is to have hot food in the type of a specialist “outdoor” food. These are pouches of food that either self-heat (as in those that can be purchased from Challenge Central) or have hot water added to them. They can be bought in all good outdoor shops and they’re a great provider of essential calories and energy. They are perfect for this sort of challenge. I often bring a Tupperware box filled with pre-cooked pasta or rice mixed with veg or a sauce to nibble as we travel! Yes, it’s cold, and doesn’t always taste the best, but it’s providing those essential carbohydrates!
Remember, you’re never going to be away from the support vehicles for too long (8 hours max usually) so the food you carry with you on the mountain is for energy as opposed to comfort. The support vehicle will have the facility to boil water for you to use for your own meals and hot drinks.
I also would recommend ensuring you eat a good meal the night before / morning of (depending on your challenge itinerary) giving you the "energy fuel" needed to take on the mighty mountains. Take time ahead of the event to plan your food for the challenge as getting it right can only help you on your challenge,
These points are just my personal preferences and like I said everyone will be different, but for me, key to making the whole experience as fun as possible is to keep the weight of your pack down by not carrying unnecessary items!!
My best advice would be to have several uphill training walks of similar length to any of the 3 Peaks, weeks in advance, and gauge your needs from there. There is no better preparation than actually doing it!!!!!