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JackandBarb - Pacific Crest Trail Journal - 2011

Entry 18 of 210
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Jack and Barb
City: Encinitas
State: CA
Country: USA
Begins: Apr 17, 2011
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Thu, Dec 23rd, 2010
Start: Encinitas, CA
End: Encinitas, CA
Daily Distance: 0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 3,178
Journal Visits: 387,909
Guestbook Views: 167,248
Guestbook Entrys: 482

Last PLB Location

Gear list Journal Plan

Pacific Crest Trail Map

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If only we could stuff burgers in our gas tank!

Calories In Vs Calories Out

You use energy no matter what you are doing, even when you are sleeping. It takes energy to digest food, breathe and even keep your heart beating. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you would require if you stayed in bed all day. Find out your BMR here . Add some more calories for brushing your teeth, filling the coffee pot, walking to your car, even turning the ignition switch in your car and pressing on the brake pedal. Then add any kind of exercise, like climbing a couple flights of stairs every day at work and you will require more calories. If you walk all day (and carry 25-30 pound packs) you will require many more calories. Using this calculator above, Jack's basic is 1500 calories and Barb is 1250.

Now, let's add in some activity. How about backpacking for 10 hours (600 minutes)? Go to this site, enter in your personal wt, age etc and scroll down to "backpacking". Put 600 (min) in the box and see what the number is. WOW! Jack is 5,000 and Barb is 4350. And, you still have to add in your BMR above. So Jack will require about 6500 calories per day and Barb 5600!

It would be very difficult to both carry and consume this amount of calories per day wo we have settled on 4,000 calories each per day. We know we will be losing weight as a result but hope to gain some of the calories back when we visit the towns (see the images above). One can see why thru hikers obsess about food all the time and constantly live with "hiker hunger".

We are also planning on supplying the bulk of our food by mail. If we feel we need more calories, we will supplement / buy along the way. Right now, we have 29 resupply points. That's one per every 90 miles (avg.).

To carry that much energy and keep our packs relatively light, we will have to consume food that contains high amounts of energy (calories) per weight. Typically we need to look for foods with about 100-150 calories per ounce. If everything we ate was (average) 120 calories per ounce and we needed 4,000 cal / day, then we would each have to carry (divide 4,000 by 120) 33 ounces of food or 2+ lbs of food per day. That would be 10 pounds of food per person for a 5-day segment.

That friends, is a lot of calories! To consume this quantity of energy per day, we will basically be eating our way to Canada - kinda like a sugar/starch/fat IV drip as we move along the PCT.

*A quick science lesson (jump down to the B/W print below if you don't care for the technical stuff):

Your body needs energy like a steam engine needs coal. It goes up hill, it needs more energy. The fire goes out, the steam runs out, the engine bonks. In your body, carbohydrates, proteins and fats are digested in the intestine where they are broken down into basic "energy units": Carbohydrates to sugars, proteins into amino acids and fats into fatty acids and glycerol. A simple sugar called Glucose is one of our main sources for immediate energy.

Glucose is made in the body from the carbohydrates we consume. The most important thing for long endurance hiking is to constantly feed / fuel your engine, give it something that can be turned into glucose. The best immediate fuels for doing this are the carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are divided into two main types according to their chemical structure. They are the simple carbs and the complex carbs.

Simple Carbs contain sugars that have one or two fatty acid chains (they are called monoglycerides and diglycerides). Examples of simple carbs are glucose, sucrose (table sugar), fruit juice, honey, fructose, maple syrup, brown sugar. These sugars are readily absorbed in the upper portion of the small intestine and hit your system fast and hard.

Complex Carbs by contrast have three or more fatty acid chains in a group (polyglycerides) and cannot be digested in the upper portion of the small intestine but are eventually converted to glucose further along the line. These forms of energy can then be thought of as "slow release". Examples of complex carbs include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes, dry beans, carrots, corn, green veges like green beans, broccoli and spinach. Many of these foods contain less starch and more fiber. Fiber, which has no calories is still important in a person's diet. All grains include starchy carbohydrates but whole grains are better for you because they also have more fiber. In other words, dump the white bread and get whole wheat instead.

Instead of getting a big sugar rush like you do when you eat some something rich like candy, the complex carbs will give you a much more sustained energy level, without the big swings in GI (glycemic index). Of course, if you bonk - get totally depleated then eating some simple sugars would be the thing to do.

So what is one to do when on the trail? Munch on potatoes and broccoli all day? HA, won't happen. Instead, we are looking for food with complex carbs (and fats), looking for Rice Syrup (a complex carb) as a sugar ingredient instead of high fructose corn syrup. Eat seeds, nuts and whole wheat cookies. For sure you will be consuming some simple sugars but you should balance the snacks with both types. We plan to sip on a maltodextrine sport drink as we hike. Maltodextrine has a high GI, hence a big sugar rush but if we sip, say one liter over a three hour period, we will be getting a constant infusion of energy.

We are going to try to include more complex carbs than simple carbs into our snacks. Try to stabilize the blood sugar, keep the energy at an even level, and help us to feel satisfied longer after our meal or snack. But, of course, it is not all carbs. We will be reaping a major proportion of our calories from fats as well. We need fats, proteins, vitamins (especially the B vitamins) and minerals too. So we look at all types of food that might supply the balance we need.

Which takes us back to the calories per ounce hunt...

Some trail mix is 150 cal / oz. Instant mashed potatoes are 110 calories / oz. Minute brown rice, about 100. Peanut butter (TJ's all natural), one of our staples, has a whopping 175 calories per ounce (high in fat)! Oil, like olive oil has 240 cal/oz. With this much energy per ounce, we plan to bring along some oil and "supercharge" dinners and maybe breakfasts (how does olive oil taste on oatmeal or granola?).

For those of you also attempting to plan meals, the numbers to remember are 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates, 4 calories per gram for proteins and 9 calories per gram for fats. From this you see why fats give you the most energy per ounce.

Another important number is 28 grams per US ounce. If, for example, you see a food portion that weighs 45 grams and contains 230 calories (per portion), you will need to know how many calories one ounce (or 28 grams) will supply. To figure this our, simply divide 28 by 45 and multiply that by the calories (230) This will give you the number of calories per ounce. Remember, we are looking for 120 or better. In this case (A Lara Bar - Peanut Butter - Choc. Chip, wt = 45 grams) has 28/45 X 230 = 143 calories per ounce.

Can you tell that Jack was a science teacher at one time in his career?

*We have yet to decide how to budget those daily 4,000 calories. We could consume breakfast at 500-800 calories, Lunch and snacks, 2200 and dinner at 800-1,000. Breakfast could be an energy bar and/or hot or cold cereal with powdered milk (Nido). Snacks and lunch will be "served" throughout the long days, at an "IV DRIP" rate of about 200-300 calories per hour - maybe two morning snacks, lunch then two afternoon snacks.

Snacks will comprise about one half of our total food weight on this trip - each snack opportunity will have to be about 400-500 calories for these numbers to work (*see sports drinks below). And snacks should not be "slammed" but rather munched on slowly over time - we know, it's easy to say, but hard to do, especially when one is famished! Dinner will be a mix of a tasty dehydrated base added to a filler like mashed potatoes, polenta, rice or pasta.

See some various foods rated in calories per ounce here.
For a more comprehensive nutritional website go here. Check out the search box at the top right for nutritional values for most any food. Example, enter "sunflower seeds" in the "food name" box, hit search, choose one from the list and then choose a serving size of one ounce - and, Voila, everything you need to know about one ounce of sunflower seeds. (thanks for the link, One Pole).

We think the breakfast / lunch / dinner menu will be relatively easy to develop but the high caloric snack choices are much more of a challenge. We will want items that provide energy, a certain amount of nutrition and things we won't get tired of. We think variety is important here. We will probably mix in Trader Joe's trail mix type snacks with energy bars with some junk food (like M&Ms, candy bars, peanut butter filled pretzels/crackers, sunflower seeds, maybe even some (pre-crushed) potato chips - 155 calories per ounce!).

We are also looking at a homemade maltodextrin based sport drink powder to add to our water. Malto is a complex sugar (at about 100 calories per ounce) but quickly absorbed in your system. It is relatively tasteless, has minimal sweetness, and is metabolized as quickly as simple sugars like glucose - using it you can pack in a bunch of calories into a water bottle and hardly know it is there. Of course, we will likely add some flavoring and other things to the mix as well. Add 1/2 cup of powdered malto to 16 ounces of water and you are getting 150 calories with every bottle. The plan is to sip slowly, extending a one liter bottle of "malto" out over 2 to 3 hours. Drink two of those per day (along with snacks and regular water) and you add 300 calories. Read more about Malto here.

Recently, we went to a couple of stores and bought a bunch of energy bars. Our considerations were calorie count per ounce, ingredients, fat/carb/fiber/protein composition of the bar, cost per 100 calories (not per bar as weights vary appreciably) and the most important characteristic, TASTE!

Many of the bars we tested were GROSS - chewy, sticky, heavy, cardboard tasting, and gritty. So far, the bars we both like the most are the Lara Bars, the ProBar, the Kind bars and the Bora Bora Bars. Per 100 calories, the Kind and ProBar are quite expensive so we have to take that into consideration and may only opt for the Lara and Bora Bora bars. But, we do have a friend in the industry who can get them at wholesale (thanks SS!) Trader Joe's sells a variety of great snack foods. Bags of salted peanuts 130 calories per ounce. Some excellent trail mix like their "Trek Mix" (almonds, cashews and cranberries) at 140 calories per ounce. Oh, the Trader Joe's Sesame Honey Almonds at almost 160 cal/oz, tasty too! When you're there, be sure to ask the clerk about the new dehydrated Two Buck Chuck!

Next: See one of our top dinner recipes.

Entry 18 of 210
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Jack And Barb Take On The PCT

Sir Edmund Hillary, first to summit Everest (1953) "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." View our trail images here See our uploaded movies here. contact us at


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