Yes, you can hike with diabetes, provided you plan and prepare well, bring along hiking food that is suitable for a diabetic and implements a simple routine for testing your blood sugar level and adjusting it before, during, and after the hike.
Hiking Food For Diabetics: Guidelines to Follow
- First find a registered dietitian who can help you develop a diabetic menu that suits your weight, insulin requirements, and activity level for the hike. Planning the diabetic menu is an individualized matter. A professional health care guide will help you to determine what will work best for you.
- You may need to eat more carbohydrates during the trip than normal days, and it may happen that you have to double your carbohydrate intake. It’s best to spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day as you are hiking so your blood sugar doesn’t spike too high or drop too low.
- Opt for food that is made of whole grain like whole-grain bread (not white flour, white pasta or white rice). Whole grains digest slowly, providing a stable energy level required on a hiking trip. Also, the fiber in whole food helps to slow down the absorption rate into your cells.
- Protein-based food is also mandatory for longer hikes. It will provide your body to provide something else to digest on other than carbohydrates, which will help your blood sugar levels.
- Always carry a low-fat, high-carbohydrate snack for quickly treating low blood sugar. A couple of miniature boxes of raisins are ideal.
Diabetic Friendly hiking or Backpacking Food Suggestions
- You can have Quaker Oatmeal to Go bar or simply pre-pack a mix of some dried fruit and nuts like raisins, walnuts, and pecans with plain old Quaker oats.
- For lunch, you can have a stick of beef jerky, some dried fruit and nuts, and a low sugar nutrition bar like this one.
- For snack items, you can carry 1 large apple with 2 tablespoons no sugar peanut butter. It will provide you with around 14 grams of protein and 22 grams carbohydrates.
Note: It is absolutely necessary that you take blood sugar readings both before and after your meals while hiking. For a diabetic friend of mine who loves to hike the doctor recommended to stay within “<110 before” food and “<140 two hours after”. Know your levels and take the readings so that you can adjust your food or hiking menu accordingly. For example, eating a granola bar mid-morning and mid-afternoon can push you closer 110 before lunchtime.
How To Test and Adjust blood sugar levels and insulin during hiking and eat food accordingly
- Before leaving home measure and adjust your insulin. If you leave home just after the meal and expect to start hiking within 2 hours of eating, you may want to reduce your bolus insulin by 25-50% for that meal.
- Test your blood sugar level before you start the hike. You need to be careful not to have too much active insulin or your blood sugars may go low during the hike. For some, if the sugar is in the 90-170 range it is fine. If it goes below that, you may want to have some carbohydrate snack like a rice cake before starting the hike. Important: You need to find the levels that work for you.
- Measure your sugar level during and after the hike. You can use your GCM while on the hike but also test if you are new to hiking. If your hike route includes very steep inclinations, include that to calculate your insulin dosage for the rest of the day/night and reduce your basal insulin. This is because when you walk up and down a steep incline, almost all large muscle groups in your legs are activated which can impact your blood sugars for several hours even after you complete your hike. So it’s best to test your blood sugar frequently for the rest of the day after the walk if you’re new to hiking with diabetes.
Why Food Is Crucial To Diabetic Hikers
Special diets are often crafted for individuals with diabetes. When going on a hike, such diets may have to be tweaked a bit to accommodate certain arrangements. Keep in mind that you need to carry food that’s not too heavy to prevent loading you up while on a hike– and you can’t just eat anything you want. There are trail mix for diabetes available these days that make an awesome snack when going for a short hike. You can also create your own by mixing roasted peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits in a Ziploc stashed in your backpack.
If you do not have time to prepare your own trail mix, you can carry diabetes-friendly trail mix like the LC Foods Jack, Almond & Pumpkin Seed Snack Pack. This convenient all-natural snack pack only have 2g net carbs per serving making it an excellent choice for diabetics to munch on when on a hike. It contains zero artificial sweeteners and is gluten-free. There are quite a number of trail mix brands in the market but always be wary of the glycemic carbs added to them. So make sure to look for “sugar-coated” or “added carbs” on the label– and steer clear of them.
Remember that you’ll be exerting effort (means– you’ll sweat) when on a hike making your glycemic index to decrease. If symptoms kick in, you may want to snack on a bar of Glucerna Mini Snack Nutrition Bar to prevent hypoglycemia and possibly succumb to injuries while on the trail.
Other Safety Tips
Aside from bringing the right food when on a hike, it is also wise to check your blood sugar level before setting out. If possible, always hike with a buddy around. Some diabetics usually tag along a friend or a family member or a service dog to keep them company and to have someone who can keep them in check. Also, don’t forget to bring enough water for the hike. If possible, bring a portable water filter to help in case of emergency.
If hiking alone, it is wise to also inform friends or family of your whereabouts. There are various phone apps nowadays that allow people you trust to keep tabs on your location.
Also, it is a must that you research a trail’s condition and the weather forecast before going. You would not want to get caught in the middle of a storm with not enough food to keep your blood glucose at a safe level.
It is crucial that you know your limits well. Be honest and realistic on what you can and cannot endure. As always, your safety should come first before anything else.
Go Hiking and Enjoy Nature
Regular yet less strenuous exercise is often recommended for individuals with diabetes. So hiking is often incorporated into an individuals diabetes management routine. However, this is not the extreme hiking exercise that usually sports gigantic backpacks crossing the Himalayas or climbing up thousands of elevation at least if you are just starting. These hikes should be less strenuous and usually shorter in terms of distance and elevation. It’s best to start with two or three hours hike and follow the guidelines discussed above to test what type of hiking foods are best for your diabetes level and adjust accordingly.