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Train to Hunt: What to Eat While Hunting
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July 27, 2012
1:43 pm
Cedar City, UT
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By Dan Staton MS, PES
Fitness & Archery Editor

Lack of physical preparation may prevent you from earning that precious shot opportunity, hinder your shooting ability, or handicap your mental focus.  Hunting is not a fall fling, rather a year round endeavor.  Part of our craft equates to physical readiness, so you can tackle rough terrain, especially here out West.  We are so fortunate to have found this sport, there aren’t too many other things on this earth that test us like hunting.  Let’s outline what you need to eat when in the field this fall to be at your best.

Here is my best recommendation for an efficient method that will sustain energy levels and keep you at peak performance while hunting.  Breakfast is not optional.  Fuel the hunt immediately. I always eat old fashioned oatmeal, stir in a scoop of protein after it’s cooked, and sprinkled some chopped up walnuts to balance it out.  Of course I have Starbuck’s instant coffee packs for a morning pick me up.  The next item is a quick snack late morning to avoid bonking which, use a protein bar that has a minimum 20 grams of protein.  Check out “Think Thin” bars, they contain no gluten and have 20 grams of protein.  I don’t eat bagels, cookies, crackers, and peanut butter because they don’t pack as well, they’re more difficult to ration, and they usually lack balanced ratios.  Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  The ratio of macronutrients in the meals you eat is the key to permanent weight control, and sustained energy.  The bars are also more convenient because you can eat them on the go and their serving size of 200-300 calories per bar makes juggling peanut butter jars or 6-count bags gratuitous.

For dinner, I almost always cook myself a hot meal, the term “cooking” I use very loosely, this entails freeze-dried meals that require 1-2 cups of boiling water.  The reasoning behind this is because they taste great, pack well, and serve a purpose.  These freeze-dried meals are Mountain House brand and the following is my top five for taste and macronutrient ratios for performance.

  1. Grilled Chicken Breasts with Mashed Potatoes
  2. Beef Stew
  3. Turkey Tetrazzini
  4. Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
  5. Precooked Scrambled Eggs

Find your individual caloric need for the outdoors based upon your bodyweight, type of terrain, pack weight, miles hiked, and your fitness level.  In order to maintain my body weight on the trail requires about four pounds of food per day which isn’t realistic to carry on a multi-day hunt.  Weight loss is fairly, but this is not the time to starve your hungry muscles.  Your intake should fuel your active muscles, encourage recovery, and keep you going strong. To figure out your caloric need, the general rule of thumb is around 500 calories per hour trekked.  Again, this number will vary depending on your conditioning, age, elevation, terrain, and weight of backpack.  If you’re out West, it is not uncommon to expend 4,000 plus calories daily. A 4,000-calorie per day ration would be ideal, but not realistic weight wise.  I only carry about 2 pounds of food per day, allowing me to be comfortable and hunt hard and fast versus lugging around a ton of food.  The choice is really up to you.

Example Caloric Calculation:
You need 20 – 25 calories per 1 lb of body weight

Body Weight Calories Per Pound Daily Caloric Minimum
125lbs 20 / 1 2,500 calories
150lbs 21 / 1 3,150 calories
175lbs 22 / 1 3,850 calories
200lbs 23 / 1 4,600 calories
225lbs 24 / 1 5,400 calories
250+ lbs 25 / 1 6,250 calories

Specific Foods for the Outdoors
Energy bars, jerky and various nuts are my biggest source of calories.  Many of the bars are fortified with vitamins and minerals; they come in a variety of flavors and textures that are palatable.  Look for bars with whole grains, nuts and berries, and good sugars (e.g. honey, NOT corn syrup). Specifically, avoid Pop-Tarts, candy and cereal bars, which set you up to crash-and-burn.

Strive for a calories per ounce ratio of 125 calories to one ounce.  For example, 4,000 calorie, 2-lb/day ration would mean 14 ounces of carbohydrates, 10 ounces of protein, and 8 ounces of fat.  Avoid foods that have a calorie-to-ounce ratio of less than 100 (which means they usually contain water, which provides you with zero calories) and foods that come in heavy or bulky packaging (e.g. canned chicken or tuna), which sometimes can be easily solved by repackaging the contents.

Proper hydration is critical.  Water comprises 60-70% of our body mass.  In general, your body loses 80 ounces of water daily through sweat, urine, feces, and expired air. This water needs to be replaced by daily fluid consumption of 100 + fl oz. An easier, albeit much less scientific, way to determine daily fluid requirements is to evaluate your urine.  Dark and concentrated urine is indicative of insufficient fluid intake. Urine should be clear, pale yellow, and copious.  As you should already know; never drink water straight out of a stream, lake or pond.  Microorganisms can easily be mixed into your drinking water and cause serous stomach distress and/or immediate illness. To avoid these potentially life-threatening aliments, always treat your water.

Make your water taste better by adding Wilderness Athlete’s hydration drink; “Hydrate & Recover.”  The great tasting powder has carbohydrates, amino acids (recovery), mineral and electrolyte composition to replenish these vital elements and maintain peak muscle physiology.  It also contains antioxidants, glucosamine (for joints), B Vitamins (energy), and helps support oxygen demands of the active body in the outdoors!

Summing it up
I’ve seen many hunters overlook their nutrition and experience some agony in the mountains.  In my mind, the fall only comes along once a year and I want to be at my best physically, you do too!  Treat your body as your most valuable tool in the woods and eat for performance.

Dan Kidder

Managing Editor

Sportsman’s News


“A nation of sheep breeds a government of wolves.”

July 27, 2012
5:27 pm
New Mexico

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April 23, 2011
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This is a great article, thanks for sharing

Do more than what is expected of you.

July 28, 2012
12:13 am


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Really good stuff Dan. Gives me a good foundation for my September “game” plan. Thanks.

July 28, 2012
7:47 am

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Thanks dan I didn’t realize it was a 20-25 to 1 for your calories. very interesting.

July 31, 2012
10:12 pm
Albuquerque NM

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April 25, 2011
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Thanks for sharing–gets me to think of more options-I to do the same–when my wife sees me shop for food for a two week archery elk hunt she says I eat better while hunting than at home

August 17, 2012
10:46 pm

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August 15, 2012
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I’m a big fan of trail mix.  It’s not profoundly well-balanced, but there’s plenty of protein, plenty of carbs, and a nearly grotesque amount of calories for such a small package.  It’s also nice and affordable and requires zero preparation.  There’s a reason that nuts have historically comprised such a large proportion of hunter-gatherer diets.

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