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  1. #1

  2. #2

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    I found the following excerpt interesting:

    The researchers regret that they did not take further measurements a month or more after the hike, to see if Heinbockel's vascular condition bounced back.
    "We don't know how persistent these effects are," Craighead says.

  3. #3
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    You know reading some of this like changing your diet when you get off trail brought me back to what andrew Skurka said on his channel on Youtube tonight with stringbean he sad the worst part of thru hiking is the diet and string bean and Terri were talking about when he gets off trail he does exacty like the report says increases fruits and fibor in his diet and gets away from sugars... Great arctle think it would freak about of new hikers in some groups on facebook if I posted it...
    My love for life is quit simple .i get uo in the moring and then i go to bed at night. What I do inbween is to occupy my time. Cary Grant

  4. #4

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    N =1 is not much of sample. Nonetheless some food for thought.

  5. #5

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    Reading that was like listening in on a word association game where they give half a dozen clues for "chronically elevated cortisol".

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    Interesting. But as noted above, one subject does not a study make. And it stirs memories regarding something about a healthy diet and moderation in life's pursuits.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

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    Though far from a thru-hiker and not even a descent LASHer, ever since I took up this little distance hiking obsession in 2011 or so, I have noticed my own blood lipid profile change markedly -- for the worse -- over the last 6 years especially. There are couple variables to be sure, but one thing I know for certain is that I have been eating more sweets, more simple carbs, and more fats during my hiking "season"...and then take too long weaning off of that crap during my non-hiking season.
    fortis fortuna adjuvat

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    Interesting. But as noted above, one subject does not a study make. And it stirs memories regarding something about a healthy diet and moderation in life's pursuits.
    ^ this! As the Greek philosopher/poet Hesiod said around 700 BCE, "Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things". Or perhaps more timely, what Mother Traveler said once, "Don't eat too much of that Halloween candy, you'll get sick". Both Mother Traveler and Hesiod were proven correct that night.

  9. #9

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    I think the diet is the key. We KNOW that eating that crap is bad for you. I wish I could have access to such high tech testing before I go on my hike and then again after. Heck, eat that diet and NOT do a long distance hike and the results will be similar - you will just be fatter. This really is no surprise. People seem to equate "thinness" with health. You can't out exercise a bad diet. Just ask Jim Fixx.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Half View Post
    This really is no surprise. People seem to equate "thinness" with health.
    My unscientific conclusion after attending a few ALDHA gatherings is that “thinness” is not a problem among thru hiker alumni.

  11. #11

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    It is interesting that of all the variables that could possibly explain the physiology changes they found, the researchers chose diet as a causative factor.
    "The controls are pretty tough... " said one of the authors. How about no controls in this "study". More like jumping to a conclusion than real science.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

  12. #12
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    I have made a concerted effort to eat better over the past couple of years - specifically to reduce my intake of added sugars and carbohydrates. While I am not on a Keto diet, I moved in that direction. This is very difficult to maintain on any long distance hike, but especially on hikes using local resupply options. Simple carbs and sugar provide a quick source of energy so they are tempting to use. They are also cheap and available everywhere. It takes some time for the body to adapt to a lower carb diet. I'm a runner and lagged badly for weeks after first making a switch to lower carb intake. Eventually the body adjusts. The motivated hiker can use mail drops to avoid the worst of the resupply problem.

  13. #13

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    The biggest issue with this study (other than being a sample of 1), is they took someone who started in much better condition than most people are at. He could only remain at the same level or experience a decrease like he did. There was no possible upside in his case. It would have been more relevant to most thru-hikers, if they had taken a person who was more typical and see how their body changed.

    Here is another study with a sample of 1 for a month long hike of the Colorado trail. The body changes aren't going to be the same as a 4-5 month hike so it's not comparing the same thing, but it gives a more expected result, though it's emphasizing a different aspect of health than the OP study.

    That said, the poor diet of most thru-hikers is well known and must have some negative effect. While some make an attempt to maintain some amount of nutrition, but most are happy that they are loosing weight while having the food preferences of a child. It's really telling to see how most thru-hikers eat when they get to town and now have access to healthier choices but refuse to take advantage of it. I'm not against having pizza in town, but not every night, and I do like to get some green salads and plenty of veggies to go with whatever I'm having.


    When I hiked the PCT, I made an effort to make better choices and not live on just overly processed food (though I still had my daily snickers), and somehow only lost 10 pounds by the end despite wishing I had lost another 10-15 pounds as I still had plenty of body fat despite doing 24-27 mpd for most of the hike. I don't think I was carrying a lot more food weight than most hikers. The idea that a calorie from one source is the same as one from another is a myth. Your body needs other things to make full use of those calories and keep your body healthy.
    Last edited by Miner; 04-10-2021 at 13:02.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miner View Post
    The biggest issue with this study (other than being a sample of 1), is they took someone who started in much better condition than most people are at. He could only remain at the same level or experience a decrease like he did. There was no possible upside in his case. It would have been more relevant to most thru-hikers, if they had taken a person who was more typical and see how their body changed.

    Here is another study with a sample of 1 for a month long hike of the Colorado trail. The body changes aren't going to be the same as a 4-5 month hike so it's not comparing the same thing, but it gives a more expected result, though it's emphasizing a different aspect of health than the OP study.

    That said, the poor diet of most thru-hikers is well known and must have some negative effect. While some make an attempt to maintain some amount of nutrition, but most are happy that they are loosing weight while having the food preferences of a child. It's really telling to see how most thru-hikers eat when they get to town and now have access to healthier choices but refuse to take advantage of it. I'm not against having pizza in town, but not every night, and I do like to get some green salads and plenty of veggies to go with whatever I'm having.


    When I hiked the PCT, I made an effort to make better choices and not live on just overly processed food (though I still had my daily snickers), and somehow only lost 10 pounds by the end despite wishing I had lost another 10-15 pounds as I still had plenty of body fat despite doing 24-27 mpd for most of the hike. I don't think I was carrying a lot more food weight than most hikers. The idea that a calorie from one source is the same as one from another is a myth. Your body needs other things to make full use of those calories and keep your body healthy.
    these are my thoughts as well, and thanks for providing that other N=1 study...

    Remember the OP article says "suggests", it draws no conclusions. I think the OP article is great, er, food for thought.

    In my own case, I KEEP telling myself that I'll do before/after blood work for my next long hike, then I forget.... A thorough blood workup is dirt cheap these says, a full metabolic panel costs about $99 online (you buy a voucher to be used at a local blood-work lab, in my case, the same lab my doc sends me to once a year).

    In my own case, my obvious long-term trend over the last 10 years of long-distance hiking is that my HDL's (good cholesterol) have soared, though alas, my LDL's (bad!) have stayed the same or even increased a bit.

    I personally feel that my long distance hiking is keeping me very fit and healthy, though I eat junk/trash food for the most part on-trail.

    I do have a very mediocre calcium score (heart artery blockage) though, but had that before getting into long distance hiking.

    All this emphasis on reducing sugars is a bit misplaced, I believe. My mountaineering mentor is also a professional nutritionist, and according to him, there are no direct downsides to high carb level eating while hiking. The problem with eating junk food *strictly* is the lack of the micronutrients we all need for health. If somehow you DO get an adequate supply of these nutrients (basically, mostly vitamins and minerals), your health should not suffer eating lots of carbs/sugars, as we are burning these real-time just fine. The trouble, of course, is that it is indeed hard to get adequate micro-nutrients eating nothing but pop tarts and Ramen noodles. I take vitamin/mineral supplements when long distance hiking, for whatever that's worth (yeah, debatable) and try to eat as much fruit as I can when in towns.

  15. #15
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    I recently read "The Case Against Sugar" by Gary Taubes although his viewpoint is not without controversy since he's a proponent of high fat animal based diets (keto). As I read that book, I couldn't help but think of the typical thru hiker diet and cringe. I'm a very active person on and off the trail so I think that I've been able to get away with a lot of poor choices in my diet over the years but as I get into my late 40s and see some older family members start to suffer the effects of lifestyle diseases, this book and others have begun to resonate. So off trail I try to do the best I can avoiding sugar and highly processed foods. I doubt that I'll be willing or able to give up all junk on backpacking trips, but at the moment a two week trip is at the limit of what I can do. I would seriously rethink my trail diet if I have an opportunity to do a long trail in the future, which I hope will happen someday.



    https://www.amazon.com/Case-Against-.../dp/0307701646

  16. #16
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    "But while thru-hikers may look the picture of health on the outside, two researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder's Department of Integrative Physiology have published a study suggesting that a thru-hiking lifestyle may lead to troubling changes in vascular health." The noted runner Jim Fixx immediately comes to mind. Mr Fixx assumed because he exercised so much burning many calories and was lean he could eat basically anything in huge amounts - pig out - with no lingering ill effects. Although lean and seemingly physically fit, Mr Fixx may very well have instigated an existing unhealthy cardiovascular condition making it worse with consumption of a poor diet and high caloric intake. However, again, whether having an existing condition or not poor diet and/or high caloric intake each in themselves are well documented as causal to vascular disease, reduced quality of life, and shorted longevity. Neither of these two possible vascular decline causal factors were controlled for separately.

    According to the study they define this standardized generalized lifestyle by the parameters: High caloric intake, high amounts of regular exercise, and poor diet.
    All thru hikers do not adhere to such a lifestyle. I've been preaching against the first and third parameters for yrs. I've also been preaching against the thru hiking approach of being in famine/nutritional density decline mode for five or more days assuming the nutritional void, including caloric void, but NOT only caloric void, can somehow be assuaged with a quick in town buffet pig out or by trail angel pig outs or guzzling Squeeze Parkay as the primary food source.


    One might ask what is the standard thru hiking lifestyle according to the study? The study states
    "In addition to the extreme exercise load, the subject performed to complete the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail),e. The results of this case study suggest that the combination of extreme exercise and poor diet may lead to negative changes in health markers,..."

    The take away we might grasp is don't assume because thru-hikers exercise a lot that excuses a poor diet and high caloric intake from having no ill effects. Diet quality on trail is just as if not more important than off trail. The take away worth grasping is DO NOT adopt all the common standard thru hiking lifestyle conditions. The study is erroneous in that it bashes thru hiking when it should be bashing the details - problematic aspects/behaviors of thru hiking: poor diet, high caloric consumption while controlling for causality factors. We have in our power to change problematic lifestyle and thru-hiking behaviors by each being responsible for our hikes and the consequences of our behaviors on the hikes as it influences others and ourselves. That's part of HYOH.

  17. #17
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    While not a thru,I can say that after walking from Springer to Harper's Ferry,I lost 42 pounds that I needed to lose,and a few weeks after returning home,had my semi annual blood test. Best results in 20 years of testing. Only one subject in this study,but results were good.

  18. #18

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    The nutritional focus is often very simplistically either "a calorie is a calorie" or a focus on macronutrient percentage as if all fats are equal, all proteins are equal or all carbs are equal.

    Three ways to keep cortisol down is to sleep well, don't overextend the miles, and keep the intensity of exercise down (go slow up the hills).

    When I watch youtube videos from thruhikers or see pictures of food on blogs, I want to ralph to be frank. Unfortunately, it is not easy to achieve a decent diet under the conditions of a thru hike. It looks like all the oils and fats are completely wrong unless one wants to stimulate the production of cortisol. Not the best link but you can do your own googling...

    https://mosscenterforintegrativemedi...tress-response

    I wonder how many ex-thru hikers are overweight, pre-diabetic, and/or have calcium built up in their arteries? I bet it is very common.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big_Old_Dog View Post
    The nutritional focus is often very simplistically either "a calorie is a calorie" or a focus on macronutrient percentage as if all fats are equal, all proteins are equal or all carbs are equal.

    Three ways to keep cortisol down is to sleep well, don't overextend the miles, and keep the intensity of exercise down (go slow up the hills).
    This is being on the right track - finding solutions to balancing Cortisol levels and chronic stress by: resting enough, getting high quality uninterrupted sleep, reducing sleep distractions such as night time lights, noise, and turning off the ph or limiting usage right before bed, not always backpacking mindlessly as a run away freight train/pacing oneself as conditions change/practicing mindfulness, limiting alcohol, caffeine, excess sugar, and abundance of highly processed food, and reducing stress by approaching thru hiking as a contemplative meditative walk connecting with Nature as Shinrin yoku is practiced in Japan, adopting a world view of not being fearful of Nature but learning to cooperate practically with it as humanity is part of nature not separate from it, practicing deep breathing and meditation to reduce anxiety, getting a massage or massaging one's muscles, playing relaxing music, associating with positive people rather than the Debbie Downer crowd, and prioritizing joy, gratitude, and humor.

    Chronic high cortisol levels is not a standard for all thru hikers or those who have never hiked. It can be a result of abusing oneself through lifestyle choices off trail that are carried over to on trail life.


  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big_Old_Dog View Post
    ...I wonder how many ex-thru hikers are overweight, pre-diabetic, and/or have calcium built up in their arteries? I bet it is very common.
    Adhering to a poor diet or the typical SAD - Standard American Diet - as a cultural habit off trail, following it on trail, and then going back to it post thru hike sets oneself up for these health issues. Living off trail in a chronically stressed high cortisol state, continuing it on a thru hike, and re-adopting it post hike sets oneself up for health issues.

    I find it alarming when angst ridden distressed people assume poor diets- junk food/gas station/convenience store diets and such a lifestyle off trail are without consequences on trail as if LD hiking is a license to junk food eat and continue such a lifestyle on trail as they did off trail. This is but one example of bringing problematic off trail habits to trail life. This study of a sample size of 1 is not so much about potential unhealthy aspects of thru hiking but unhealthy off trail habits that are carried over to trail life.

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