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Eats with Pride! Five Signs It's Time to Level Up Your Backcountry Breakfast

We're stoked to introduce Hillary Pride (@eatswithpride) and her extensive knowledge about most every active person's favorite thing–FOOD! In this and future posts, she'll touch on topics from isolating potential opportunities for caloric consumption adjustments or enhancements to recipes that you'll totally look forward to snarfing at the end of a long day (okay, maybe don't snarf). If you're looking to change up how you fuel up, experiment with your own cuisine creations, or you're hoping to address issues that are keeping you from traveling how you'd like to, stick around for Hillary's wisdom!


Words & Photos by Hillary Pride, RDN, LD, NASM-CPT

Whether or not you subscribe to the idea that breakfast is the most important meal while you're hitting the trails, there's no doubt that how you choose to fuel first thing in the morning can have a big impact on your day. Read on for 5 common signs your morning routine might need a reboot and simple ways to get your day back on track. 

1: YOU DREAD BREAKFAST

Meal fatigue is real! Planning the same old breakfast for every morning can save some headspace, time, and energy, but the monotony might leave you staring at your options with a severe lack of interest in your morning vittles thinking, "I'll just skip this and snack later." (Cue problem 5). 

So, what's an uninterested eater to do? 

This might seem like a really simple one but, switch it up. Breakfast for dinner is a thing! Why not dinner for breakfast? Heating that pad Thai or your favorite backpacking entree for breakfast can beat boredom and prevent the negative effects of being under-fueled. If you like the idea of a traditional breakfast but are tired of the usual routine, add some intrigue with flavor, texture, and of course, nutrition. Oats can be a letdown when repeated on their own but are a perfect canvas to go wild with variety. Give them a second chance and think outside the box of raisins by packing different options to boost your morning oats. Some of my favorites are;

  • Dried cherries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Crystallized ginger
  • Coconut oil
  • Hazelnuts
  • Nut butters & powdered nut butters
  • Nutmeg
  • Dried coconut
  • Powdered coconut milk
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds

If chocolate would get you stoked for breakfast, try this hot cocoa oats recipe in your REpack.

2: YOU'RE SPENDING MORE TIME IN THE MORNING RUNNING OFF THE TRAIL THAN ON THE TRAIL

If hitting the trail after breakfast has your stomach in knots needing to go, this could be a sign you have eaten too much fiber, or potentially something loaded with sugar alcohols.   

Fiber is essential for satiety, regularity, and more, but too much consumed too close to physical activity can produce hiker's trots. Sugar alcohols are sweeteners commonly found in packaged foods like bars that, for some, can cause similar digestive upset. 

If you can, practice your backpacking breakfasts before your trip. Not only are you getting a chance to see how your body will tolerate your choices, but you can decide if your recipe is something you would even look forward to eating. 

Become familiar with reading food labels. This can help you get a better idea of how much fiber you're putting into each meal. Fiber recommendations for women and men ages 31-50 are 25 and 31 grams per day, respectively. You have all day to balance your fiber intake and hit that goal, so if you're putting together some epic DIY oatmeal packs to enjoy in your REPack try to keep tabs on how much fiber you're adding.

For reference, you can get two grams of fiber in just half a tablespoon of chia seeds. Need those seeds, fruits, and nuts to keep your breakfast interesting but worried about too much fiber? Swapping cream of wheat or even instant rice for the oats can keep breakfast fiber content at a belly-friendly level. Check the label on prepackaged snacks for sugar alcohols listed as ingredients that end in "-ol" like xylitol, maltitol, and erythritol to see if they could be the culprit.

3: CONVERSELY, YOU CAN'T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME YOU HAD TO SEEK PRIVACY OFF THE TRAIL

To expect to hike for a living and not experience a shift in your body's daily routine would be a bit shortsighted: your diet and activity level is no doubt changing significantly from your normal lifestyle. But if you've had your coffee, enjoyed some breakfast, and are hitting the trail feeling bloated and like you are, well, obstructed, there could be something missing from your morning. Let's talk about fiber again. Fiber is a tricky beast. Too much, and we're doubled over in discomfort, not enough, and we're feeling bloated and blocked. It's a little bit like Goldilocks and the three bowls of porridge. Finding the fiber sweet spot for you may take some trial with hopefully not much error. 

Slowly increase morning fiber intake through fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. This is a great reason to make sure you're hydrating in the morning. 

Water encourages things to move along in our GI tract. When we don't drink enough that normal movement slows down, and at the same time, our system may pull more water from the GI tract to compensate for lost fluids, furthering the problem at hand. Grab some coconut water powder, herbal tea bags, or flavored hydration tabs if you need a nudge to increase that morning hydration. 

4: YOU'RE EXPERIENCING DIZZINESS, HEADACHES, CONFUSION, UNEXPECTED FATIGUE

These symptoms are all indicators that you could be heading towards dehydration. 

Ongoing daily physical demands of backpacking, altitude, increased respiration, and sweating are just some of the factors contributing to the risk for dehydration that could sideline your hiking goals. We lose water through breathing and normal bodily functions all night long, so be sure your breakfast includes a hydration plan. This is especially important if problem 2 is familiar to you as you may be at greater risk of losing excess water and electrolytes. Start the day by pairing your breakfast with at least 2-3 cups of water and consider using an electrolyte mix or adding salt to your breakfast to promote hydration. Playing catch up with hydration later in the day is a risky game you don't want to lose. 

5: YOUR ENERGY LEVELS TANK SEVERAL HOURS AFTER HITTING THE TRAIL

You're probably thinking, "Well, yeah, I'm hiking full time." But if you've been getting your body primed for this trip for a while, you may be surprised if you find yourself hitting a wall sooner than you expected. How you plan your breakfast could be to blame.  

To reap long-burning fuel from your first meal of the day, you want to find a happy medium of enough simple carbs for quick energy paired with protein, fats, and some complex carbs (read: fiber [but not all the fiber]) to keep that fuel burning as long as possible. Protein, fat, and fiber digest at different rates than simple carbs, so they will slow the rate at which your body burns through breakfast. A breakfast pastry sure tastes good, but when that sugar is gone, so is your stamina, not to mention probably your mood, too. If you can't part with your morning toaster pastry, consider pairing it with a hit of protein from something like jerky and added complex carbs from dried fruit or nuts. Already eating a fairly balanced breakfast but feeling like you're hitting a wall? You might need to tweak your portion sizes or add a small second breakfast before you run out of gas.  

If your stomach isn't ready for solid food in the morning, consider liquid calories and explore trail-ready smoothie recipes or carbohydrate supplements you can add to your water, so you're getting some nutrients in. Skipping breakfast to get on the trail faster? Just keep an eye on how your body responds to it and think about adding more nutrition earlier in the day if you find your strategy to crush miles backfires and starts to crush you.

With some practice, finding a morning fueling strategy that works for you can help you sidestep common nutrition pitfalls, prevent injury and hopefully contribute to a more enjoyable experience on the trail.


Hillary Pride is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer with a passion for helping her community with doable strategies for fueling active lifestyles.  A native Mainer, Hillary enjoys exploring the varied terrain of her home state from the mountains to the coast.  Whether hiking, surfing or sailing, one thing is for sure; she will definitely be snacking (and might be planning the snacks before planning the trip).  Follow Hillary’s adventures in and out of the kitchen @eatswithpride

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