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Calories Burned In a Day

The amount of calories burned during a thru-hike is close to double the calories consumed living a sedentary lifestyle.  The chart above shows the estimated calories burned during a 24-hour day, consisting of 8 hours of hiking* (20 mile day at 2.5 mph), 8 hours of resting, and 8 hours of sleep.  The heavier the person the larger amount of calories consumed.

*Data obtained from the Mayo Clinic , backpacking 511 calories/ hour for a 160 pound hiker


Food Weight

The recommended calories from fat is between 20% and 35%  (fat=9 calories/gram, Carbohydrates=4 calories/ gram. and protein=4 calories/ gram.)  For information on the recommended daily nutrients click here.

In order to maintain a certain body weight the amount of calories burned during the day has to be replenished with an equivalent amount of food calories.  Failure to replenish the calories burned will result in weight loss.  For every 3500* calories you fail to replenish you will lose about a pound.  The above chart shows the dry weight of food for a given amount of calories.  The higher the fat content the lower the food weight.


Recommended Calorie Content

The Mayo Clinic staff recommends a healthy balance of fat, carbohydrates and protein.  10 to 35% of your daily calorie intake should come from fat.   Unhealthy saturated fat and trans fats should be limited.  Nuts and olive oil are examples of a healthy sources of fat.  45% to 65% of your daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans and fruits are recommended.  Carbohydrates from simple sugars, candy and sweets, should be limited in your diet.  10% to 35% of your daily calorie intake should come from protein.  Protein derived from plant sources is recommended over protein from meat sources high in saturated fat.  Examples of healthy protein sources include beans, soy, seafood, and lean meat.  Maintaining a balance of fats, protein, carbohydrates and nutrients is essential for your health.  Due to the limited amount of food you can carry and prepare while hiking it is recommended that you take full advantage of resupply points to help maintain a healthy diet.

By utilizing these estimations a hypothetical 140 pound hiker will burn about 4500 calories a day when hiking about 20 miles.  The dry food weight of 4500 calories (30% fat content)  is about two pounds.  This means that a 140 pound hiker will have to carry about 10 pounds of food when traveling five days (100 miles) between resupply points.

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