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Thread: I need some help with my calculations... and some advice page

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    skookum's Avatar
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    I need some help with my calculations... and some advice

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    OK, so I don't generally consider myself an athlete. I don't do marathons, play a team sport, or belong to a gym. Heck, I don't even jog. Not to say I'm sedentary, far from it, but I don't go in for the 'athlete' label.

    But there's this one thing, and I am starting to have a different viewpoint towards that label of 'athlete' than I used to. I want to give some back-story to help clarify my question, that question being, how much protein do I need, and how do I best balance my macronutrients for my favorite activity?

    I'm a backpacker. Over the past 15 years, I've progressed from dayhiking to overnighting to long-distance trips spanning a week or more, over increasingly difficult terrain. None of my friends can keep up with me, and I always get looks and sounds of disbelief when I talk or write about a hike. Others who do what I do seem to be athletes, and other people tell me I am, so maybe I am an athlete after all.

    Having gone primal a few years ago has certainly added a wrinkle to my backpacking endeavors, but it's been a very positive change, and I love the results.

    Before I went primal (and before I lost my job), it was nothing to stop at the nearest REI, pick up all the delicious pre-packaged, freeze-dried gourmet meals I could ever need. All one needs is some boiling water and a wad of cash. I can handle boiling water, but not the cash, not anymore.

    Two seasons ago, I experimented with a home-made pemmican, home-made jerky, and some dried root vegetables and seasonings. It was awful. The pemmican was awful, but I had to eat it all week. It didn't taste so awful at home, but three days on the trail and I could hardly put it in my mouth anymore. The jerky was good, tasty in fact, and sustaining, but combined with the veggies and seasonings, made a rather unsatisfying soup. The packets of hot chocolate I carried were all that saved the day. I probably would've laid down on the side of the mountain and willed myself into non-existence if I didn't get that nightly cuppa cocoa. After 6 days I went off my food entirely, two days from completing my hike. That season's experiment with home-made primal food was a total flop, and I resorted to Backpacker's Pantry, much to my body's dismay, for the rest of the season.

    Last season, I mixed it up, concocting my own freeze-dried coconut milk-based curry sauce, and a freeze-dried whole milk and butter base cheesy sauce. I took dehydrated ground beef, foil-paks of chicken, and foil-paks of tuna. I breakfasted on quinoa with dried fruit. Lunch was more jerky, and a home-made trailmix with dried strawberries and nuts and coconut. My meals were much improved over the previous season, and I would like to work off these recipes this year.

    My question comes in when I start to actually plan quantities. It all seems to come back to protein for me. The more protein I eat the better my hikes go, the stronger I feel. I've been reading thru many pages on MDA with an eye to figuring out what my protein needs are. Being 6'4. and 200#, I estimate my LBM to be about 145#. Mark seems to indicate that in general a person needs 0.7-0.8 grams protein per pound of body mass, but active athletes need more, up to 1.0g/#LBM. Given that, I am planning for 145g protein each day. That can add up to a lot of food, so I'll go as dense as I can with the meats and nuts, with an eye to that all important variety.

    And here's where I finally and at long last get to the meat of my question, and where I am not finding the guidance I need elsewhere. Should I be following, or at least approaching, an 80:15:5 caloric ratio? With 145g protein, I end up with a daily caloric intake of 3866 calories. Is 3866 cals in a 80:15:5 ratio appropriate for someone who may be burning in excess of 5000 kcal/day? Is it wise to follow this approach over many days of continuous exercise?

    (I went to my fitday account and punched in 10 hours of backpacking for 15 miles, which is on my lower range of activity - I don't know how fitday defines backpacking, or how it compares to what I actually do, but whatever)

    I would really appreciate some discussion and feedback, folks! Should I adjust the caloric ratio? Adjust total intake? Anybody have an opinion on my calculations?

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    Adding extra fat will never hurt. I think you can safely ignore the ratio, get your 145g of protein, then add stuff to get your calories up to where your want them, aiming for fat but not worrying about carbs. Jerky and trail mix is a good idea, and your meals sound delicious. Is it possible to forage on your hikes? Take a fishing pole or a light rifle, and hunt?

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    skookum's Avatar
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    Yes, I find that it's the fat that gives me the get-up-and-go. Foraging is an option - seasonally, of course. Spring and fall mushrooms are available, huckleberries, blueberries, strawberries and various greens are all available, but I am in a National Park Wilderness, and would only go off trail to forage, to preserve the experience for the next hiker. Well, trailside blue- and huckleberries are never safe when I find them, wherever I find them. Fishing is an option in many areas such as lowland lakes and rivers, but the fish are mercury-contaminated in the high alpine lakes. Isn't that sad? What's even sadder is I've never fished. Hunting isn't an option.
    Your suggestion is pretty much my approach. I am just trying to figure out where to get my calories up to. My concern is that if I don't pack enough calories each day, there won't be much I can do to alleviate that along the way. Eating as much as I can (145g protein and all the fat I can handle) only brings me 80% of the calories I need for the day. That's fine for a few days... maybe even a week. But what if I'm on the trail for two or three weeks? I worry that a daily deficit of 1000 kcal/day won't be sustainable for longer periods. Currently, I continue to lose body fat because I am on the PB to begin with, I'm down 50#, and I am still aiming to lose another 15-30#. That'll happen at this caloric level and exercise level... but when that blessed day arrives that I am already down to my low body fat weight, what will I be losing by a daily deficit of 20%?

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    Quote Originally Posted by skookum View Post
    And here's where I finally and at long last get to the meat of my question, and where I am not finding the guidance I need elsewhere. Should I be following, or at least approaching, an 80:15:5 caloric ratio? With 145g protein, I end up with a daily caloric intake of 3866 calories. Is 3866 cals in a 80:15:5 ratio appropriate for someone who may be burning in excess of 5000 kcal/day? Is it wise to follow this approach over many days of continuous exercise?
    I think it depends on the length of time you'll be out there. A few days on lower calories wouldn't be too bad, provided you still had high energy levels. My appetite doesn't catch up to the activity level until the 3rd day, so short trips I end up bringing extra food home. But anything longer than 5 days (sounds like you will be out for a week or more), I need that huge increase in calories. I bring olive oil to add to dinners... extra fat yum. Also, could you add extra coconut milk or protein powder to your breakfast?

    Agree with Spughy about ignoring the ratio and adding extra fat to increase calories, and frankly some extra carbs won't hurt you if you are hiking up and down mountains... but I'll leave the real calculations and nutrition advice to the experts.

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    My impression is that people who go on long expeditions (i.e. North/South Pole trips, crossing Greenland, etc.) typically fatten themselves up before the trip because they expect to use more energy than they will be able to consume during the expedition. Of course, it's more extreme if you are walking alone to the North Pole or something, but the concept is the same. Simply "bulk up" before the trip and you don't need to worry so much about not being able to meet your calorie requirements every day.

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    Um... how are trailside blueberries and huckleberries not safe? Are you worried about dogs peeing on them and stuff? And fish in high alpine lakes are fine. Probably a lot safer than that tuna you hauled along with you.

    I ate a LOT of blueberries and whatnot picked from *roadsides* never mind trails, as a child - never hurt me - and I ate a LOT of alpine fish growing up (can you get grayling where you hike? They are really yummy) and not only am I fine, but my daughter so far appears to be a normal healthy human. Really, don't worry about it. Heck, I eat fish we catch off the breakwater here, and we're all good. If it's in the woods, it's probably safer than whatever's in the grocery store. You're hiking the Olympic Range, I assume? Not a whole lot of heavy industry in there. (And if you see Vancouver Island, wave at me!)

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    The little boxes of creamed coconut are shelf stable, cheap ($1 for 170 grams), are really tasty, and the whole box is about 1200 calories - comprised of approx. 120 g fat, 15 g carbs, 15 g protein. I couldn't eat a whole box at one sitting (well, I've never actually tried) but it makes a nice high fat treat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spughy View Post
    Um... how are trailside blueberries and huckleberries not safe? Are you worried about dogs peeing on them and stuff? And fish in high alpine lakes are fine. Probably a lot safer than that tuna you hauled along with you.
    LOL! Not safe as in it's dangerous to be a berry in my presence. What I was trying to explain is that while I would go off trail to pick mushrooms, or greens, so that others hiking along the trail could also enjoy their presence, I would not be bothered to go off trail to pick berries. First come - first serve as far as berries go.
    But safe to eat? Absolutely! The only food-safety concerns I have are the high-alpine lakes being contaminated with mercury. There are trailhead signs posted to minimize or even avoid fish consumption when fishing in the 7 Lakes Basin, which has tested positive for mercury contamination - thanks China!. One or two trout, once in a while would be acceptable, but I wouldn't want to eat trout all week, or for multiple weeks, with that knowledge. I take the same considerations with tuna, in any case, not eating more than 2 packages per week at most, and only then when hiking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by belinda View Post
    The little boxes of creamed coconut are shelf stable, cheap ($1 for 170 grams), are really tasty, and the whole box is about 1200 calories - comprised of approx. 120 g fat, 15 g carbs, 15 g protein. I couldn't eat a whole box at one sitting (well, I've never actually tried) but it makes a nice high fat treat.
    Space and weight being at a minimum, the only liquids I will allow myself to carry are 40 ounces of filtered and treated water. Everything must be dry. Fortunately, I am using a coconut milk powder that is produced by spraying real wholesome coconut milk into a hard vacuum. It instantly dries and turns into a powder. It is excellent for adding to my 20-oz mug of chai tea, 2 heaping tsp at a time, or as a base for curry sauce. It provides a lot of really healthful fat. This year I am also using powdered butter for another fat source.

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    Quote Originally Posted by norak View Post
    My impression is that people who go on long expeditions (i.e. North/South Pole trips, crossing Greenland, etc.) typically fatten themselves up before the trip because they expect to use more energy than they will be able to consume during the expedition. Of course, it's more extreme if you are walking alone to the North Pole or something, but the concept is the same. Simply "bulk up" before the trip and you don't need to worry so much about not being able to meet your calorie requirements every day.
    So what does it mean to 'bulk up'? Is it simply a matter of storing up body fat? I know how to do that CW-style, but I'm not willing to go back there.

    Your point is well taken tho, the more energy already on board, the less I have to carry in my pack. I'm just now certain how I could pull that off. Even if I could find a healthy way to put on the fat, I fear that cycling rapidly like that, many times a season, simply wouldn't be healthy.

    I am convinced I can meet my nutritional needs on the trail, I just need to gain some confidence that I've correctly assessed those nutritional needs.

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