Adventure Nutrition for Mountain Projects

Last Saturday I co-hosted a Adventure Nutrition Workshop at The Mountain Project structured around giving mountain athletes nutrition tools to train and prepare for big days in the mountains. It was day of working out, learning and applying nutrition, and eating!

Too often what we eat (or don’t eat), when we eat, and how we eat limits our ability to meet new challenges and achieve goals. The group who joined us on this day was not only motivated by a broad spectrum of mountain projects (from day hikes to ultra-running races), they were also inspiring athletes committed to their quest, open to trying new things, and just plain fun people to spend a Saturday with!

We closed the day experimenting with nutritious ingredients in the kitchen to make four varieties of one-of-kind energy snacks! While each group made it their own, here was the basic premise of the recipe.

Base Layer Ingredients:
¼ cup chopped flaxseeds
1 cups dates or figs chopped
1 cup steel-cut oats (could substitute with rolled oats or quinoa)
1/4 cup whey protein powder
1 cup raw almond, peanut, or sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup raw honey or ½ cup date paste

Optional Additions for added flavor and nutrition ( get creative

1/8 cup unsalted shelled sunflower seeds
1/8 cup chopped almonds
1/8 cup dried tart cherries or roughly chopped dried apricots
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ milk or dark chocolate chips
1/8 cup chia seeds
Pinch of salt

Line an 8″ square baking pan with plastic wrap. Coat the inside with cooking spray. In a food processor, combine base ingredients and blend. Then add optional inclusions and blend. Process ingredients for about 1 minute, or until pieces are well blended and the mixture starts to move around the blade in one mass. Press batter into the pan and press vigorously to compact, or roll into balls. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into 16 bars. Leave refrigerated until ready to eat. Makes 16 bars.

At the three hour mark of a long run I am always on the edge of cramping. Is cramping more fitness related, nutrition or hydration related?


The answer is that it could be both. Muscle cramps are general caused by tired muscles, which is inevitable in distance running. They can also be caused by a sodium imbalance and dehydration.

Staying hydrated is a tricky proposition because there are so many variables that impact how much fluid and sodium you sweat out during your run. Intensity, fitness, heat, humidity and altitude are some of the things that will impact how sweaty you get. How much any body sweats can vary between ten to eighty ounces per hour!

That is a high amount of variability. The concentration of sodium in that sweat also varies greatly with an average concentration of about one-thousand milligrams per thirty-two ounces. In other words if you lose two pounds of sweat you may have also lose around one-thousand milligrams of sodium that needs to be replaced by drinking and eating sodium!

Of course these numbers are highly variable with the environment and individuality. Determining your sweat rate can be a useful tool in bench-marking how much sodium and fluid you need in different conditions. Sweat rate is determined by measuring how many pounds of fluid you might lose in different types of environments. You do this by weighing yourself before your run and then again right when you get back. For every pound lost you would need to replace it with sixteen ounces of fluid (roughly). You could then use this number as a benchmark for how much fluid per hour you should be drinking to replace sweat. If you are a salty sweater you then match about one thousand milligrams of sodium per hour from electrolyte drinks, salt tablets, and salted CLIF BLOKS. Of course this is always going to be dependent on you, as an individual but, practicing different scenarios in different environments can help you learn your personal best strategy for fluid and electrolyte balance under different environmental and physical circumstances.

If you are like me and always feel like you are in state of dehydration, you can head it off before your run by drinking .068-.14 ounces of water with salt per pound body weight two to four hours before your run.