Why Am I Not Hungry When Hiking? How to Reignite Your Appetite on the Trail

Hiking often leads to a loss of appetite. Explore why hiking suppresses hunger and discover tips to boost your appetite and maintain energy on the trail.

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

Multiple assortment of food with hot dogs, fish and much more
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When most start hiking, they may face some crazy hunger games, where they think they should be hungry, but their body just rejects the thought of food due to a lack of appetite. I wanted to discuss hunger and why hiking suppresses your appetite on the trail.

You might not be hungry until hiking hunger kicks in for a few reasons. You might be dehydrated, have low blood sugar, or lack salts. Try adding electrolytes to your water, eating fatty and sugary snacks while hiking, and drinking lots of water. Make sure to take regular breaks as well.

Now that you have grasped the main ways to get an appetite moving again. Today, we’ll explore why hiking often leads to losing appetite and provide tips for maintaining your hunger and energy on the trail.

Why Hiking Leads to Appetite Suppression

While it may seem counter-intuitive to work harder, like on intense hikes, but be less hungry, this happens to many hikers.

Hiking is a very strenuous total body activity. When we do something like this, our body has to work harder and use more energy. In response to this, our brain starts releasing the hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol is often called the stress hormone because it’s released in response to physical or mental stress. It’s also released in response to too much exercise, insufficient sleep, or an infection.

Cortisol has a few different effects on the body, including appetite suppression. So when you’re out on the trail, and your brain releases cortisol in response to all the physical activity, it can lead to decreased hunger and changing energy levels.

A few other things can contribute to a loss of appetite:

Meal Timing Is Massively Changed

A massive issue for many is that the new outdoor activity implodes their fundamental meal timing. They must contend with eating whenever possible instead of a regulated breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule.

You are constantly grazing on snacks, which can help you control your appetite and make you not feel as hungry for your next meal.

Vastly Different Food & Flavors

Many people have a considerable change in taste buds and what they’re used to eating when they start hiking.

They are now eating vastly different foods with new flavors and textures, which can easily lead to a change in appetite.

For some, the change is so drastic that their appetite is suppressed as their body adjusts to the new diet.

Less Idle Time

Loads of people are idle eaters, increasing their food intake when bored. Now that they are constantly moving, there are fewer opportunities to eat.

This further suppresses appetite as they no longer have those periods where they usually snack.

Over Exhaustion

Another physical issue that can become a hunger killer is when you become over-tired. This is common on the trail as you constantly push your body to the limit each hour of daylight.

As you become more exhausted, it becomes harder to concentrate and make decisions. This can lead to hikers forgetting to eat or not feeling hungry.

Altitude Matters

A unique thing about altitude is that it changes our taste ability. Many foods they love at sea level taste VERY different on a higher peak, which can lead to a change in appetite.

Simply because what you used to love eating doesn’t taste as appealing. Many find their choice of foods is vastly different when climbing high peaks and mountains than usual, so you may pass on food if you climb higher peaks often.

You May Be Dehydrated

One of the main reasons why you may not be hungry is that you’re dehydrated. When you don’t have enough water, it can lead to many issues, including decreased appetite.

Most new hikers will have issues managing their overall hydration levels, which can lead to constant dehydration.

This is why you must drink enough water, especially in hot weather. And it’s even more crucial to drink regularly throughout the day rather than just when thirsty.

Loss in Electrolytes

Lastly, I feel electrolytes may be overinflated as to their overall need, as food from hiking is typically high in sodium, potassium, and sometimes magnesium.

Still, if your electrolytes get out of balance, this can lead to severe issues such as headaches, cramps, and more that can kill hunger.

It Is Pretty Common

Many on their first days on trail can find eating difficult; for myself, the first day is typically forcing a meal, but snacking is easy and accessible while on the move.

I almost always only bring snacks for day one, maybe sometimes bringing a dinner, but each person is a little different.

My daughter needs more sweetness than fat; she will barely eat if it is a more fatty food but will mow down sugar as a kid would. Go figure.

Don’t be down or worry about it. Just learn more about yourself; the more you go out, the better you understand yourself and how you can manage your trail eating.

The heavier you are, the more stored body fat and the less food you can probably get away with. That’s how keto backpackers can do so well, but the thinner you are, the more you need to eat, as a loss will impact you more.

Your focus, though, must be on protein when possible, as it helps maintain muscle and strength over time, repair injuries, and more.

Methods to Better Manage Your Hiking Hunger

If you feel like you need to be eating more on the trail, you can decide to approach it with a few strategies.

Have Your Breakfast

I am guilty of skipping breakfast before heading for a day hike. I’ll tell myself I’ll eat more when I get going or snack more on the trail.

But the truth is, if you have breakfast before hitting the trail, you’re starting the stomach processing, and getting it going will help you be more likely to be hungry when you need to eat.

A good breakfast will help jump-start your metabolism and give you the energy to hike all day. So, ensure you have a decent breakfast before heading out each morning.

Bring More Snacks Than You Think You Need

This is key, especially if you are snacking more on the trail than usual. It’s always better to have too many snacks than not enough.

This way, you can snack when needed and not worry about running out of food. Plus, if you have extra snacks, you can always share them with your hiking buddies.

Carry A Wider Variety Of Foods

When packing your snacks, make sure to include a variety of foods. This way, you’ll have something to snack on, no matter your mood.

And, if you get tired of one type of food, you can always switch to something else. So, make sure to pack a variety of snacks, including both sweet and savory options.

Increase Fatty Foods

An excellent way to power yourself with more energy for less food is by increasing your intake of fatty foods. Things like beef jerky are prevalent on the trail.

These include things like nuts, seeds, avocados, and more. Fatty foods will help you feel fuller for longer and give you the energy to hike all day.

Plus, they’re an excellent source of essential nutrients for hikers. So, include some fatty foods in your snacks and meals.

Provide Carbs and Sugar

Some people operate more efficiently on complex sugar and carbs, whether candies or energy bars, with a high glycemic index.

These will provide quick energy to help you power through a strenuous hike. So, if you find yourself struggling on the trail, eat some sugary snacks to boost yourself.

Just be sure not to overdo it, as too much sugar can lead to an energy crash later.

Take More Regular Breaks With Snacks

Thru-hikers especially have issues with taking breaks to take in the sites, with the focus being on miles you miss out on the vistas and the reasons many chose to hike in the first place.

These places are perfect for stopping, eating some food, and refueling yourself for the rest of the day’s journey.

You can also use these breaks as a time to rehydrate yourself with some water and electrolytes. So, take plenty of breaks during your hike and snack often.

Maintaining Energy and Hydration Is Vital Too

A considerable appetite suppressant is being dehydrated, focus on water intake will help alleviate some of the issues.

Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and a decrease in appetite.

So, it’s essential to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Make sure to drink water even if you’re not thirsty. Bring a water filter so you can drink your fill at any supply of water you come across on the trail.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Hunger and Appetite

Hiking can make you hungry, but no appetite will limit effectiveness. Due to this suppression of your appetite, you can suffer on the trail. But, by following the tips above, you can ensure you’re getting enough to eat on the trail.

Just remember to pack enough snacks, eat breakfast, and carry a variety of foods. And, if you find yourself struggling, take more breaks and snack often.

Following these tips ensures you’re properly fueled for your hike and don’t miss out on the beautiful scenery, especially on multi-day hikes.

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