If you’re planning a hunting or fishing trip that’s likely to be demanding, experts recommend you start eating for success today. “If you give this approach a fair trial,” says nutritionist Suzanne Girard Eberle, “it can make an incredible difference. I’ve had people tell me the days just flew by–they never got tired.” These 10 tips will help you eat in a way that increases your endurance so you don’t “bonk” during the hunt. _–Jim Thornton
Eat like an athlete**. In the weeks and months leading up to hunting season, embrace the performance approach proven to work for athletes. This means about 60 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 25 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein.
Think complex carbs.** Simple sugars are not health demons, but they lack the vitamins and nutrients found in more complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, brown rice, and beans. The latter also take longer to digest, preventing rapid fluctuations of blood sugar levels and keeping you on a more even keel.
Veg out. Put more fruits and vegetables into your system. Drinks count: Try swigging down a couple of glasses of orange or tomato juice. You can also add veggies to your meals–extra sauce on a pizza, for instance, along with some zucchini or green peppers instead of pepperoni.
Replenish carbs quickly. For about an hour after hard exercise, your body produces an enzyme that enhances the storage of glycogen in muscles, so it’s best to eat some carbs during this golden opportunity. Taking in a little protein at this time, too, has been shown to help consolidate the benefits of strength training.
Rest up**. About four days before your hunt, stop any vigorous training and let your muscles rest and repair themselves. Elite athletes use this time to “carbo-load” as well–meaning they jam-pack excess glycogen stores into their muscles by eating a high percentage of carbohydrates.
Eat early.** Breakfast is critical for a host of reasons, one of which is replenishing liver glycogen stores that have been tapped by your brain overnight. An ideal breakfast includes complex carbs like oatmeal, multigrain pancakes, or whole-wheat toast, plus some lean protein (eggs, Canadian bacon, yogurt) and a modest amount of fat. Protein and fat take longer to digest and will provide a steady influx of nutrients for sustained performance.
Catch a buzz. Caffeine has been shown in numerous studies to have an ergogenic–or sports-enhancing–effect in endurance athletes, most likely by reducing “perceived exertion” during exercise. For regular users, there’s another reason to have your morning ration: If you skip this, you might suffer withdrawal symptoms that range from lethargy to headaches.
Nosh on the go. Take an easily accessible source of carbs with you. Sports drinks, gels, and energy bars can all help keep blood glucose levels steady and prevent “bonking,” but so do more palatable snacks like trail mix, granola bars, and peanut butter sandwiches.
Reward yourself**. Particularly if you’re venturing forth into cold weather, high altitudes, or other grueling conditions, you may find a well-timed dietary treat like a candy bar provides not only the energy your body craves but also a real psychological boost.
Banish food guilt.** “Most guys can easily consume 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day on one of our hunts and not gain weight,” says outfitter Sallee. “In fact, their bodies typically get harder in the process.” She believes that the best nutritional advice of all comes not from diet books or scientific studies but instead from listening closely to what your body tells you it needs. “When you’re out in the wilderness and working hard,” she concludes, “it’s so much quieter and you can pay attention to these messages.”