Protein Supplements for Backpackers

When we talk about backpacking we’re not talking about the occasional backpacker who’s outdoors for a few hours before going back home to a hot bath and roaring fire. No we’re talking about the serious backpackers who are looking to hike over mountains or trek across deserts. After all if you trekking in the Himalaya’s you’re going to need to keep your strength and energy levels topped up. With the furthest reaches of the planet only being a plane or boat trip away more and more people are looking to explore the natural world and see trekking as the best way of doing this. And we’d agree – after all what better way of connecting with the world than being immersed in it.

What protein supplements do I need for backpacking?

This, to a large extent, is dependant on why you’re backpacking, any self respecting long distance backpacker wouldn’t consider leaving home without a range of supplements. There is an element of personal preference when it comes to what you take with you but we would highly recommend taking at least these:

  • Slow release protein such as casein or pea protein. A slow release protein will help your muscles to recover overtime rather than giving them a quick burst of protein. You can also take before you go to bed to help your muscles to repair while you’re asleep.
  • BCAA (or Branch Chain Amina Acids). Containing leucine, isoleucine and valine they will improve your performance as well as reduce muscle soreness. They’re often used to help keep tiredness at bay too.
  • Energy bars are excellent for bursts of energy. We would recommend bars over drinks or gels because they take up less space than drinks and don’t need to be mixed with water like a lot of gels do. At the end of the day though it’s up to you. 
  • Rehydration sachets are an absolute must. Throughout the day you’ll lose fluids and electrolytes that need to be replaced. A decent rehydration sachet should contain glucose too as this will help your body to absorb the water as well as the sodium and potassium from the electrolytes. 
  • Dried foods – Things like beef jerky, cacao nibs or cashew nuts are great for snacking on and are also high in protein. They’re easy to carry and will help to keep your protein levels in check throughout the day.

Other essentials

We’ve established that proteins are important to take with you but what else should you consider taking with you? You might think that you don’t really need to take anything else with you and that you can survive completely off the land and although there is a lot of truth in that it’s also a good idea to be prepared for the worst. For example what if you get lost or hurt yourself? You may need to call for help but if you’ve left everything behind then you can’t do that. As well as proteins we would also recommend taking the following items:

  • First-Aid kit – Hopefully you won’t need it but it’s better to be prepared incase you do. You don’t need to take too much and what you do take will be dependant on where you’re hiking but you should be able to deal will most minor problems such as cuts, stings, bites and sprains. You should also carry a few remedies for things such as diarrhoea and headaches and if possible carry tablets for sterilising water.
  • Water – This might sound like the most obvious thing but it’s surprisingly overlooked. The human body can last much longer without food than it can without water, after all our bodies are around 60% water. In hotter climates water is even more important as you’ll loose a lot of water through sweating.
  • Suitable clothing – You’re clothing needs to be breathable and allow you to move freely for long periods of time. You’ll be spending most of the day walking and if you’re wearing tight fitting clothes this will soon become uncomfortable. At the same time if you’re likely to get wet then waterproof clothing as well as a dry change of clothes is essential.
  • Map – These days most of us are carrying GPS enabled mobile phones but it’s also good to have a map with you too. If you loose phone signal or run out of battery it’s good to have a back up.
  • Matches or lighter stick – You can start a fire without the use of matches or lighter stick and although carrying them isn’t essential it’ll save a lot of time if you need to start a fire.
  • Basic repair kit – If you have a tear in your tent or your clothes then a basic repair will become invaluable.

Do I really need proteins when hiking?

The simple answer would be no but in reality that’s not the correct answer. Yes of course you can get a lot of the nutrients you need from food but when you’re hiking it’s not possible to prepare and cook a full protein packed meal unless you carry the food and a stove with you. This is where proteins come into their own. Not only can you carry everything you need with you you can also eat/drink it when it’s convenient for you. For example at high altitudes you’re need for protein increases but your appetite decreases, by using supplements such as protein bars you can eat little and often to keep you protein levels topped up. You can also try adding a couple of ounces of protein powder to your water, this will help increase the amount of amino acids you’re consuming.

History of backpacking

You may think of backpacking as being a relatively new thing but as a sport it’s actually a lot older than you think. Of course people were trekking for thousands of years before we had motorised vehicles to get from place to place but backpacking or hiking for pleasure dates back to around the 18th century. Yes people had been hiking for pleasure before then but it wasn’t until the Romantic movement that people began to think differently about the outdoors. Later that century, in 1778, English priest Thomas West wrote a guide to the Lake District and the popularity of hiking really took off and has gone from strength to strength since then. It’s now extremely popular in many countries across the globe.

Can I hike anywhere?

Whether you hiking across a mountain range or national trial there’s plenty of official routes for you to follow at varying levels of difficultly and distance. Many countries will have their own rules and guidelines that you’re expected to follow but the general rule is to not disrupt things, whether it be the landscape, wildlife or other people. That said if you’re hiking through an area noted for bears then being quite isn’t advisable. 

Some of the most popular places around the world to hike are:

The Himalayan mountain range
  • Himalayas – Including Mount Everest, the Himalayas is the tallest mountain range in the world and travels through Nepal, India, Bhutan, China and Pakistan, although Mount Everest itself is situated between Nepal and China.
  • Alps – A 800km/500 mile mountain range across Central Europe that peaks at 2.5km/1.6miles in height.
  • Lake District – Sometimes called the Lakes or Lakeland its a 2,362 sq km/912 sq mile national park in Great Britain that is known for its impressive views and changing climate.
  • Yellowstone National Park – The first national park in the United States, it covers approximately 2.2 million acres and has over 4 million visitors a year.
  • Rockies – A 4,800km/3,000 mile mountain range stretching from northern Canada through to the south west of the United States.
  • The Inca Trail – Ending in Machu Picchu Peru, it’s a four to five day hike that can reach altitudes of 2,800 metres/9,200 ft.
  • Namib-Naukluft National Park – Covering around 50 sq km/19,220 sq miles it covers part of the Namib Desert which is thought to  be the worlds oldest desert.

Conclusion

If you’re serious about backpacking then yes of course it’s not essential to take supplements with you but as you can see doing so will not only save on space and weight as you won’t have so much to take with you, it’ll also allow you to take the right supplements at the right time. It can also help you to keep your protein and energy levels topped up. As we mentioned this is especially useful if you’re hiking at altitude where you need more protein but have less of an appetite. If you’re interested to know why protein is so important then why not check out our article here or for other articles in our ‘protein supplements for’ series click here.