Meal Plan for Mountain Climbers and Hikers!

Carbohydrates from the Latin, carbo which means “yummy” and hydrates which means “cinnamon bun,” are not something I can eliminate or even drastically cut back on.
— Celia Rivenbark

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you know that I have struggled with significant health issues for many years - dominated by horrible fatigue and an inability to build lean muscle.  Over the past few years, I have "evolved" my nutrition significantly - I am constantly "upgrading" my own personal quest for optimal health and performance.  About 10 years ago, I was consuming a diet that I like to call, "Pasta with a side of bread."  I had zero energy, could barely function most days, and I found myself using sick leave at work so that I could nap in my car - yah, probably not good.  

Fast forward a few years, and I transitioned into a grain-free diet - similar to a "paleo" or "primal" lifestyle.  At the time, this made a huge difference in my wellbeing, but gradually the fatigue crept back into my life - apparently you are not getting all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive by eating chicken and apple sausage 5x per day (go figure!?).  At this point, I was diagnosed with having a thyroid issue (I now take armour thyroid + synthroid every single day), while simultaneously adding a vitamin/mineral rich smoothie + multi vitamin into my diet in order to help with my energy levels.  

While eating, "paleo" taught me a lot of things about, "real food" - it did not teach me that eating 100g of fat per day was not ideal for my personal athletic performance and physique.  There is a tendency in the "paleo community" to suggest that eating unlimited quantities of bacon is ideal for every single person, and that was simply not the case for me (although, I gave it the good 'ole college try!).  Gradually, I gained about 10lbs of weight, and I could not figure out how to shed it.  Meanwhile, with each tablespoon of butter that I was dumping into my coffee 2x per day, I was terrified of eating grains and fruits and any carbs whatsoever - because the entire world had basically taught me that carbohydrates are the devil.  

Over the past few months I have, again, "upgraded" my nutrition system.  I've focused more on counting my macronutrient intake (i.e. carbohydrates/protein/fat).  I've nearly TRIPLED my carbohydrate intake, and I've cut my fat intake in 1/2.  I've been able to shed the 10lbs that had slowly crept on, and maintain all of my lean muscle mass - which is great, because I worked really hard to build that.  Best of all, the increased carbohydrates are fueling my hiking and mountain climbing like never before - I am enjoying increased clarity of mind and more sustained energy.  

Moral of the story: figure out what works for you.  Just because one group of people says that carbs are evil, doesn't mean that they won't work for you body.  I know that there are a lot of people who completely thrive on a very high fat (like "keto") diet.  There are other people who love avoiding grains.  Listen to your body and figure out what works for you, and don't be afraid to try something, just because somebody else said that it doesn't work for them!  

This is what my "normal" day looks like: (clockwise from upper left) sweet potato frittata with lite havarti cheese and two pieces of whole grain toast, spaghetti squash and veggie bowl with turkey bacon and two rice cakes with banana and PB2 (powdered peanut butter), salsa verde turkey burger with homemade sweet potato fries, and berries with fat-free greek yogurt for desert!

This is what my "normal" day looks like: (clockwise from upper left) sweet potato frittata with lite havarti cheese and two pieces of whole grain toast, spaghetti squash and veggie bowl with turkey bacon and two rice cakes with banana and PB2 (powdered peanut butter), salsa verde turkey burger with homemade sweet potato fries, and berries with fat-free greek yogurt for desert!

I moderate a small Facebook group called, "Toward the Mountain Top Inch By Inch".  Last week I shared this meal plan with the group, and I wanted to share it here as well, in the hopes that you could use it as a good foundation to design your own plan to fuel your hikes!  

Feel free to download these images and print them or save them to your phone for a reference!

I've adapted a few of the recipes from some of my favorite food bloggers.  Here are the original links to their recipes in order to give them proper credit:

PaleOMG (pad thai spaghetti squash casserole)

Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed (chocolate chili)

Pinch of Yum (creamy cauliflower sauce) 

SkinnyTaste (zucchini soup)

Let me know if you try this, and/or if you have any feedback or constructive criticism.  I am always open to suggestions or ideas on how I can improve!

Keep on adventuring!