Nutritional science for mountaineers
Many books have been written about the ideal composition of different nutrients.
In today’s society many things have changed, also in the field of nutrition, one can buy freeze-dried and artificial food. We don’t want to be all smart-ass, we only want to tell you about our experiences on many of our tours.
At the end of a tour it is mostly the sweets which are left over. Especially when the body is heavily strained it yearns for salty snacks not so much sweet ones.
At a high altitude the hydration should take place in form of herbal teas, hot Chocolate or soup. It is not advisable to drink coffee or black tea as those have a draining effect. Above 5000 metres many mountaineers do only ingest tea and soup, hardly anything more. You should never force yourself to eat proper food, as the body would reject it and throwing it up would be more than likely. These are first signs of mountain sickness and one should not continue the trek.
Especially when the tour is exhausting or at a high altitude the value is set on a minimum of luggage. To safe gas or benzine on those trips avoid foods which require a rather long cooking time. Freeze-dried food is recommendable, as they are easily prepared and the taste and quality is sound. An increasing number of outdoor shops in Chile do offer such freeze-dried foods. It is important to drink a lot of water when eating freeze-dried food, as these dehumidifies the body.
In case the nutrition when trekking is totally opposed to the one you are used to, do yourself a favour and adjust your food before going on the trip. If you are not doing this it might cause some problems especially at a high altitude, so give your body some time to adapt.
Vitamins are crucial for the regulation of the metabolism. A balanced diet is usually sufficient, however on strenuous treks additional multivitamin supplements might be recommendable.
Despite the fact that dried beans and lentils are easy to be transported, we do not recommend them. The preparation time is too long and they have a flatulent effect.
Eat a light and easy digestible breakfast. On the tour eat smaller amounts every couple of hours, many based on carbohydrates like dried fruit, nuts or power bars.
Trekkers do need a daily amount of 3000 – 5000 kcal, however when the tour is particularly strenuous these can rise up to 8000 kcal.
Fats provide with the same amount of weight the double amount of energy as carbohydrates. On long treks and especially when the temperatures are low the daily amount of fat may add up to 20-40%. At a high altitude however the energy transformation form fat requires more oxygen, for that reason one should reduce the consumption of fat.
The amount of protein should be around 10-20%, as these require more energy and water to be transformed as any other nutrients they not suited for high altitudes or activities at low temperatures, therefore their proportion should be kept low.
Carbohydrates (sugar and starch) are the most important source of energy for trekkers and mountaineers. They easily digestible and require little oxygen and water to be transformed. Especially at high altitudes the amount of carbohydrates could account for up to 80%.
You are more powerful on the mountain when your energy depot is filled to the brim. Therefore we recommend to intake ample amount of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and mineral nutrients before the tour starts. The optimal proportion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins should be 4:1:1.