View Full Version : Extra-Dietary Nutrition & Supplementation (Vitamins)

02-09-2017, 12:24
I will be leaving March 5th for my NOBO hike, and was wondering what, if any, vitamins and supplements other thru-hikers are planning on taking. I started really thinking about what my health and diet on the AT will look like, and began to assess the potential health issues one could incur by eating Ramen, GORP and beef jerky for six months, as these and most other hiker foods are generally nutritionally deficient. I am 18, in decent shape, eat semi-healthily at home, and have no health problems or allergies currently. My thinking now is to take a multivitamin to fill in for fresh fruits and veggies, and probably fish oil to put the brakes on the utter-decomposition of my joints from being used non-stop 8-10 hours a day. Are these reasonable? Overkill? Not enough? Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you all next month! :D

02-09-2017, 12:47
First of all, unless you just choose the diet of "Ramen, GORP, & beef jerky" for six months, it won't be your only food. You will be going into town fairly often, and you can eat fresh foods there. And, in your re-supply, you can add fresh foods to your diet for the first two days or so out of town. Get creative, do some homework, dehydrate your own foods (or buy dehydrated foods) & make your own combinations. Just because you are backpacking does not mean you have to eat over salted Ramen type meals. People who do aren't thinking & are looking for an easy "out" - like taking a supplement. :)

02-09-2017, 14:04
Thankfully, Trailweaver quickly corrected some misconceptions.

I take a bunch of supplements off and on trail. Many are for joints, enhancing cognitive functioning(debatable to some :)), endurance, blood thinning, and muscle recovery. They supplement my food. Not replace it. If you want something simple for joints to add to your fish oil( has been linked to address more than joints), you might try something like Osteo Bi-Flex, the version with MSM and Boswellia. None of these are a typically magic bullet despite any marketing but might assist in your well being. Tip: get the highest quality fish oil ie: Carlson Norwegian Cod, Nordic Naturals, etc

02-09-2017, 14:40
People who do aren't thinking & are looking for an easy "out" - like taking a supplement.... Some of actually, ARE thinking, our thought process being that while on the trail, we could pay more attention to proper nutrition, OR we could take this easy way out and relax on nutrition, eat whatever, and take the supplement. Just because one doesn't think your way, doesn't mean one is not thinking.

Though I am trying to eat better on trails, I realize through experience that when I'm out there, I really stop caring about nutrition; it's just all about cramming as many calories into my gullet as I can. So, for better or worse, I go ahead and take a small one-a-day type of vitamin supplement, usually every day. They are dirt cheap and a couple week's supply weighs less than an ounce. I also take Turmeric daily for its anti-inflammatory properties; I generally don't think much of such supplements, but in this case, they really seem to help.

02-09-2017, 15:05
Good point Rob that taking a supplement does not mean those that do are not thinking. That was the only stickler I had with TrailWeaver's comment. Rest I thought was good stuff. Glad someone else saw it and commented.

There's another scenario that neither have suggested. People who aim for optimal trail and off trail nutrition, as well as they know how, beyond narrowly reducing nutrition to terms of calories, and also take supplements to enhance aspects of their well being.

One anti inflammatory aiding in less muscle and joint fatigue I also take is 1500mg Turmeric with Bioperine in 95% standardized turmeric curcuminoids. When available fresh I'll also take some fresh root on trail to make a refreshing tea out of with ginger or add to foods freshly finely chopped. This is another supplement you have to research carefully what to get. There are cheaper less or non effective versions and brands of almost all supplements.

02-09-2017, 15:05
Seek Korean Ramen. Both the Made in Korea and the Made in America varieties. I have even seen low sodium varieties. Although low sodium ramen is sort of a contradiction of terms.
Check out the Ramen Rater online.
Way better than tofu kibbles and bits. [emoji1]
Beware the Temple of Frozen Delights in Hot Springs, NC

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02-09-2017, 15:13
I debated supplements including fish oil, protein, probiotics, and the like. Every one is an expert with a different opinion and same with the studies so it's hard to know how effective they are. Several recent studies have put doubts on their effectiveness. And because there is almost no regulation or oversight on supplements it is like a used car market and you never know what you are actually getting. Because I'm older I finally decided to just go for fresh in towns and maybe the first night on the trail and after that just picks as best I can. Still maybe a quality fish oil would be smart. I might dehydrate chicken, ground beef, and vegetables to add to noodles on the trail but that will suck a lot of time. You just have to judge for yourself.

02-09-2017, 15:14
Another good pt from "V" about alternative healthier options of Ramen. Said it before; say it again. NOT all Ramen is the same. Not all Ramen brands are the two most hikers eat Maruchan and Nissen. What does one think they are going to get in food that sells retail for 12-14 cents a 3 oz package that states on the label it contains two servings? LOL :-?

02-09-2017, 15:19
+1 on the tumeric and multi-vitamin----and on the eat everything in site to cram in the calories. I should note I take the tumeric and multi-vitamin along with low dose aspirin and a number of other supplements and one RX every day at home as well. It is possible to find dried fruit and foil packs of tuna and wild-caught salmon in stores along the AT (&PCT &CDT) so jerky and ramen aren't the only choices for protein. I also carry a 260ml bottle that I fill with olive oil a dollop of which goes in every dinner meal. Extra sharp cheddar cheese keeps well for several days in the pack also. As previously noted, use town stops to gorge on fresh fruits and veggies along with hiker staples like ice cream and milkshakes. One think I notice is that when I first start out on a long hike I have to force myself to eat to avoid losing weight too fast.

02-09-2017, 15:23
Here is a entertaining video that may dispel some vitamin myths anyone may have. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29v6rNFjlLI

*Sorry if this is old news for some.

But i agree that you will get everything you need while hiking unless you just eat the same item everyday (which would be a feat greater than hiking the AT itself).

02-09-2017, 15:43
Pig out here in Hot Springs. http://hotspringsnc.org/business-directory/429/smoky-mountain-diner/
Then cross the bridge and pig out in the Temple of Frozen Goodies.
You can find beer, burgers and pizza on the way between the two places.
Hot Springs, NC is wall to wall places to pig out.

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02-09-2017, 16:24
Into this stew over supplements, I will add my own two cents: What is stated on the vitamin bottle may not actually be what is in the vitamin, no to mention that your body does a better job of absorbing vitamins in their naturally occuring state, via ingestion of fruits and veggies. Having said that, there are some brands of vitamins that have shown to have a higher % recovery in their stated vitamin concentrations. If you look for vitamins on consumer.com, they have a list of brands with the highest % recovery for their stated concentrations, meaning if the bottle says 100% vitamin C, the actual vitamin C measured might be only 80% of that stated value. One of those brands is Rainbow Light, and that is the multivitamin that I take, knowning that a good portion of it doesn't necessarily get absorbed- but what my body needs will take what it needs from the supplement. I know that I won't have access to this vitamin all along the trail, so I am getting to know what other brands out there that have similar measurable recoveries.

Now, having said ALL that... I do plan on eating fresh when in town. We'll see how that works out. In my mind, I see myself resupplying with what I need and then grabbing a couple of bags of salad to eat before getting back on the trail... But I have no idea if that is even feasible.

Good luck out there!

02-09-2017, 16:27
I took fish oil and my daily multivitamin everyday on the trail just like I do at home. You can eat as healthy or unhealthy as you want to on the trail. If you just pay attention to your body, it will tell you what it needs to perform.

02-09-2017, 22:10
To be fair, that is mostly concerning vitamin C, (I'd known prior you could overdose on A, E, D & K. I do think the other supplements brought up here like turmeric and fish oil may be very beneficial.

02-09-2017, 22:24
!00% agree with Josh. You can eat as unhealthy or healthy as you want without the hassles that some use as excuses.

Getting better nutrition is always my goal on and off trail. I don't want all the health issues so common in the U.S. I aim to do what I feel puts me in the best place for well being. I don't have the right answers for everyone's situation. That's up to each individual to decide for themselves. But I know I'm not Tgoing to get better nutrition from junk food or highly processed food like substances.

The OP asked for solutions. My solutions to eating better is aiming to eat more fresh whole foods not the highly refined highly processed food like stuff from any and every source. Food and nutrition are not just calories despite that common assertion and implication on sites like WB. The condensed version of how I've worked this out for myself on trail is: 1) Resupplying more often. This allows me to carry more whole foods in their as natural unadulterated nutritionally dense states as possible without resorting to the heaviest food carries AND IMpoRTanTLY affords the ability to not reach for the common sugary nutritionally denatured processed food like substances and junk food. 2) Mailing a few resupply boxes with healthier choices from home or from sites I've bought at along the way bouncing some boxes ahead from on trail. 3) Growing nutritionally dense powerhouse fresh sprouts on trail. This has become so easy during 3 season backpacking using Outdoor Herbivore's Seed Sprouting Kit. https://outdoorherbivore.com/trail-sprouts/

Doing these three main things keeps me from grabbing for the oh so alluring so seemingly convenient junk and mega processed foods. It also helps keep my energy and blood sugar stabilized. I now know what is in my food more often. And, I'm not riding a binge eating gorging in town roller coaster that I'm observing is opening the door to eating disorders among some hikers.

02-15-2017, 01:43
Here is a entertaining video that may dispel some vitamin myths anyone may have. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29v6rNFjlLI

*Sorry if this is old news for some.

But i agree that you will get everything you need while hiking unless you just eat the same item everyday (which would be a feat greater than hiking the AT itself).
I would have posted this had you not :D

02-15-2017, 01:50
What Turmeric are you guys taking? There are so many choices and I want to get a good quality product to take with me.

02-15-2017, 11:29
You don't need any supplements. On the trail your body will tell you what nutrients it needs and when in town you will fulfill those needs.

02-16-2017, 13:10
Im taking a vitamin green powder and some protein powder along with a small amount of turmeric and other seasonings to add to my meals. Adds some weight but it has definitely been worth its weight in the past. Fish oil of course shouldn't be overlooked.

02-16-2017, 14:18
You are wise to think about supplements, since your body is about to be challenged and it needs all the help it can get.
However, first think about nutrient density of food, and then think about supplements. There's a lot to read about this (but be careful, much of it is contrived as defense for certain food dogmas; USDA food pyramid, vegan, etc) that may lack evidence.

Extremely nutrient dense foods are meat (especially organs), eggs, nuts, and seeds.

Fruits and vegetables are not the most nutrient dense foods. You need to eat tons of them to reach min RDA's.

Grains and sugar are at the bottom of the list. In fact, rats live longer eating the cardboard box that oatmeal comes in, than eating oatmeal (google it). And sugar is arguably toxic (read the case against sugar). So much for pop tarts, or anything else made from white flour (ie top ramen) and sugar. Things like sugar and oil are energy dense, but that is different from nutrient dense. Energy dense foods are poor nutrition.

One evidence based PhD scientist that I follow is Zoe Harcombe. Here's one of her post about nutrient dense foods. (http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2014/04/the-perfect-five-a-day/)

02-16-2017, 14:40
I definitely did some damage out there. Had gotten sober about a year prior and developed a sugar addiction which was greatly exacerbated by the trail, beat my thyroid up by the time I got home. I have other friends that were much more disciplined who's guts are were still wrecked for a year or two afterwards. I'd definitely recommend a multivitamin (Centrum) and a probiotic (even if its just a kombucha or greek yogurt when you hit town.) If you are sane and responsible and follow basic nutrition guidelines (go see a nutritionist and tell them what you're burning daily calorie-wise!) you will turn out fine. Try to avoid dollar store foods as much as possible in your plan. Also check out "Green Vibrance" and the like. You can bounce-box it or buy the packets and get some phytonutrients/probiotics while out there in the woods.

02-16-2017, 16:15
Vitamin shortages may not afflict backpackers, but getting enough protein along the trail to replace heavily used muscle tissue could be problematical for some. The original poster lists beef jerky as one of his stable trail foods. But, according to nutrition labels, some popular forms of jerky consist mostly of fat rather than protein. Also, if you calculate the amount of protein that your body needs while hiking (perhaps 60 grams or more) and subsequently try to obtain that from jerky alone you could develop distaste for the stuff.

Each ounce of the most promising jerky available in my local supermarket contains 10 grams of protein. The prospect of eating six ounces of jerky every day does not appeal to me. So, instead of carrying jerky, in recent years I've taken some foil packets of tuna, chicken, or salmon on trips. In combination with nuts and a little cheese, those packets have provided me with protein. But, because their contents contain substantial amounts of water, the foil packets are heavy. In other words, they are not as "nutrition dense" or ultralight as some other foods.

I'm starting to experiment with using two other protein sources, ones that Andrew Skurka recommends on his web site. Twenty of the 28 grams in an ounce of whey powder are protein. I have obtained acceptable results here at home mixing whey powder with breakfast cereal and NIDO powdered whole milk. And, I like using dehydrated refried beans in a Skurka recipie that also includes rice, cheese, and Fritos.