Should You Eat Before A Hike? | Hikers University

We've been taught the significance of eating a healthy breakfast to start the day, but does the same rule apply to hiking? Should you eat before a hike?

So, does one eat right before a hike, or should one have a good breakfast the day of the hike? Or prep themselves for the long day at dinner the night before?

Ideally, you should eat before a hike - consuming carbs, lean meats, and proteins will help fuel you for your hiking adventure and make up for the energy you'll burn along the trails. It will play a vital role if you plan a long and strenuous hike.

Proper hiking nutrition and hydration begin well before a hike, including the day before. It ensures a safe and successful hiking experience and provides your body with the adequate fuel to endure activities.

After consulting with our experts, we'll be giving you insight into what you should eat before a hike and during the day and after the day of the hike to recover your muscles.

Table of contents


Is It Beneficial to Eat Before a Hike?

Yes, one should eat well before a hike. To keep yourself going throughout the day, you must fuel yourself with a good breakfast such as eggs, oatmeal, or a whole grain non-sugary cereal. Carbs are key. Another way of sustaining your energy levels during the hike is to consume pre-day foods such as low-fat yogurt, brown rice, whole-wheat toast, fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain pasta. These will provide you with the energy you need and prep you for the next day's hike.  

Carbs will fuel your body like no other. They are used by your body right away or stored as glycogen in your muscles. On the other hand, proteins are the main building blocks of your body. They help perform several vital metabolic functions. They will also help absorb other nutrients and are a source of energy. And fats are essential for your brain.

What Should I Eat the Morning of a Hike?

The morning of the hike is a crucial time for the hiker to get as much energy as possible. However, one must not forget to keep one hydrated in this excitement and eating schedule. It is best to have a good amount of water once you're awake to prep your body for the day and give it adequate hydration.

As for breakfast, experts recommend keeping the meal light and small but full of complex carbohydrates for a good drive. Consider taking complex carbohydrates, maximum protein such as an adequate oatmeal size, and fruits such as bananas/strawberries, and top it up with peanut butter for strength. You can also include dried fruits, granola bars, and some scrambled eggs in your breakfast that day.

Can I Hike on an Empty Stomach?

Experts suggest that one must have a proper diet before leaving for their hiking adventure and that an empty stomach will not only drain you fast but can cause dehydration. In addition, there are higher chances of feeling faint. Since there will be no food in your body system to burn, it will start consuming the stored energy from the night before.

It might sound like a good idea to lose weight, but it will adversely impact your body. So, going hiking on an empty stomach is not the ideal way to hike if you are a beginner.

What Foods to Avoid Before a Hike?

There are many types of foods that you should avoid at all costs before you embark on your hiking journey. The main reason behind avoiding these is that they will weigh you down. They will hinder your energy levels, make you feel heavy throughout the trip, and hinder your performance.

The most common foods to avoid are:

  • Excessive sugary juices or beverages
  • Several candy bars
  • Extreme cheese or dairy foods
  • Deep-fried, greasy or fatty foods
  • Carbonated beverages or soda
  • All types of spices
  • Cream-based soups and sauces
  • Milk
  • Fresh juices

However, there are certain exceptions to beverages such as coffee. If your body is used to drinking coffee and you don't fully wake up until you consume it, it is best to have it early in the morning and not right before hiking.

How Much Should I Eat Before a Hike?

Keep in mind that overeating will only slow down your hiking process. Your meal before hiking should not be too fulfilling or heavy. It will only make you sleepy, hinder your performance, and you might give up way before you reach your destination. The ideal time to eat is one to three hours before your hiking adventure. It will give your body time to digest the food and turn it into energy for the trip.

The ideal calories to consume before the trip would be 300 to 500. Your body will take time to process the food, and you don't want to consume a feast and postpone your hiking trip.

What Should I Eat The Night Before a Hike?

Night prep is essential for the next day's hike. One must consume complex carbohydrates such as beans with rice, sweet potatoes, and whole-grain pasta. These complex carbohydrates play an essential part in your hiking experience as the body takes time to digest these. This way, they provide you maximum energy on your hiking trip.

Simple carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables tend to digest easily. If you load up on carbs the night before, it will help increase your energy levels the night before.

Should I Eat While Hiking?

Having small snacks while on the trail is the key to survival. Instead of taking one large meal, the key is to take small meals hourly to keep that energy high. If you have a longer rest time, you can go for a slightly heavy meal, but it's best to keep your food light but rich in carbohydrates and protein.


If you're planning on an extended hike, know that you will burn a lot of energy. It is best to dedicate a backpack or fanny pack to foods you can consume while hiking. Keep with you small diets such as seeds, nuts, crackers, energy bars, peanut butter, granola bars, etc. These will keep you going strong. If you wish to have some nutritious foods, you can always choose fruits that are easy to carry and won't get stale in your backpacks, such as oranges and apples. Dried fruits are an excellent energy source because they are easy to digest and not heavy on the stomach.

How Much Water Should I Consume Before, During, and After the Trip?

It is never a good idea to hit the trail without proper hydration. It can hurt your body and leave you feeling dehydrated. On the day of the hike, you should start consuming small amounts of water in the morning. Twenty to thirty ounces of water before your hike is sufficient for your body. Once you drink your water and embark on your hiking adventure, you should plan your water breaks accordingly.

Experts say that if you drink water when you get thirsty, you are already on your way to dehydration. An intelligent decision would be to consume water every two miles, preferably thirty ounces. If not, you must take small sips throughout to ensure that you're not burning yourself, even if you don't feel thirsty. Fizzy drinks, beer, sodas, coffee, etc., may sound tempting, and you might crave them, especially hiking in the summers.

You must drink at least eight ounces of water when you go hiking. The following few days should include eight to ten glasses per day. Once you're done with your hiking adventure, your body will be exhausted and need proper water intake to recover.

What Should I Eat After a Hike?

The hour after you're done with your hike is the most crucial one where your body needs the utmost energy and hydration. You must ensure that you get a proper diet so that your body can work on repairing your muscles immediately. You must ensure that you again consume the suitable protein and carbohydrates needed. The carbs that will work best for your body include:

  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Peas
  • Sweet potatoes/potatoes
  • Red beans and Lentils
  • Fruits and vegetables

Lean proteins include:

  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • White meat poultry
  • Light tofu
  • White fleshed fish or salmon

These foods will replenish your nutrients within an hour and help you feel much better and energized after a long day of hiking.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

Read More About Peter Brooks