Hiker Hunger

Hiker Hunger doesn’t really begin until about four weeks in. Before that, I ate like I did on days I did long training runs (say, 20 miles and up): I could eat a lot, but usually only for one meal, and then I’d feel more than plenty full.

Hiker Hunger is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. It’s a nearly-constant desire for food, and you can eat so much more than ever before. You’ll eat an enormous meal, and, at the end of it, feel merely “pleasantly full” rather than the “oh my god, I wish I hadn’t eaten that” that it otherwise would cause. Further, if you eat 1,800 calories at lunch at 12:30 PM…you’ll be hungry again for another huge meal by 6:00 PM, rather than wanting just a small snack (or dessert, if you’re like me).

On one day in Tehachapi, for example, I ate the following:

  • 3 vanilla cream cookies
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Sausage patty
  • Biscuits and gravy
  • Large orange juice
  • Decaf coffee
  • 3 pancakes
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 2 link sausages
  • 2 poached eggs
  • 1 crepe
  • Large soda
  • Leftover Pad Thai
  • 4 more vanilla cream cookies
  • 1 beer
  • Two biscuits
  • Ahi tuna appetizer (half)
  • Artichoke and spinach dip appetizer (half)
  • Salad
  • King cut prime rib
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Cheesecake

And, when I was done, I didn’t feel like I’d overeaten at all…I just felt nicely full.

Based on estimates I’ve made, I probably need something like 5,000–5,500 calories a day out here. I figure I get that by taking in about 4,500 calories a day on trail, and closer to 8,000 when in town. Imagine eating literally two or three of every single meal you have, and you’re starting to get close to the amount of food you eat — have to eat — out here.

It’s honestly kind of nothing but awesome. (That is, as long as you have enough food along, which we decidedly do. All of that calorie-counting beforehand — to make sure we had enough food, that is — paid off handsomely for us. We’ve seen other hikers who’ve run out of food on various segments, and it sounds miserable.) It’s also awesome because you don’t even need to think about what you’re eating — just eat a lot, and you’ll be fine. It feels like being required to eat everything in sight, and you can imagine how great that is.

I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen after we’re done with this hike. I want to avoid the “football player effect”, where I keep eating like this even though now I’m back to burning only a third as many calories as I was before. But, in the mean time…it’s awesome.






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