What to Eat Before a Hike, Plus 5 Simple Pre-Hiking Recipes

Adventure Food + Drink Hiking By Emily Leikam

Hiking is an amazing exercise for your mind, body, and soul. Trees offer solitude from a bustling society, and hills provide a natural workout for optimal health. Just like any workout, there are always things to consider before you begin pushing your muscles to their limit. Before a strenuous hike, always warm up your body, hydrate, and eat the proper foods for fuel to conquer steep and rocky climbs.

By eating lean proteins and complex carbohydrates before a hike, you’ll establish a healthy foundation and get an extra energy boost while diminishing the chances of injury. Preparing meals can be overwhelming at times, but with the quick and easy recipes below, you’ll on the trail in no time.

Best Foods to Eat Before a Hike

Lean Proteins

Getting adequate protein in your diet is important for muscle growth and keeping energy levels stable. Many protein-rich foods are high in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol. Stick with lean proteins like the following:

  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Greek yogurt
  • Low-fat milk
  • Egg whites
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Green peas
  • Edamame
  • Powdered peanut butter

Adding any of these lean proteins to your meals provides energy and helps prevent injuries by fueling your body with proper nutrition. 

Complex Carbohydrates

The difference between complex and simple carbohydrates is that complex carbs contain longer chains of sugar molecules which, when eaten, are converted into glucose. The brain and the body use glucose as one of its main energy sources.

Simple carbs can be found in many sugary foods such as soda, candy, and white bread.

Complex carbs are found in whole wheat bread, pasta, potatoes, fruits, and more. Adding complex carbs to your meals provides your body with the proper nutrients to complete long hikes.

If you want to know all about hiking foods, check out the In-Depth Look Into Food for Hiking: Tips and Ideas.

Quick & Easy Pre-Hiking Recipes

Oatmeal with Fruit

Oatmeal is a great pre-hike meal because oats take longer than refined carbs to break down in your body, providing a slow release of energy. With some added fruit for natural sugars and almond butter for protein, you’ll be ready for any physical endeavor.

man in yellow KÜHL jacket preparing oatmeal outdoors
Oatmeal is easy to prepare, delicious to eat, and most importantly – provides energy for a long day. Product shown: M’s Jetstream™ Jacket.


  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fresh berries
  • 1 sliced banana
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp honey or maple syrup


  • Heat coconut oil in a pot with oats. Roast the oats for a few minutes. Add milk on medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
  • Add ground cinnamon and salt, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let sit for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add scoop of almond butter, and mix into the oats. 
  • Top with your favorite berries and sliced banana.
  • Enjoy!

Energy Date Ball

Dates are terrific fruits packed with vital nutrients, natural sugars, and fiber to give your body the energy it needs on a hike. This is a great recipe to make and eat right away, with extra to save for later. Eat two or three of these balls before hiking, or bring a few on your hike for a midday snack.

black date balls in white bowl
Energy date balls with almonds by @bakdandraw.


  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • Pinch of salt


  • Pit dates, and soak in warm water if they seem dehydrated.
  • Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender, or a food processor, and blend on high until formed into a thick dough.
  • Scoop out 1 to 2 tbsp of the dough, and form into balls.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.

Protein-Packed Smoothie

Eating fruit before a hike gives you the natural energy needed for optimal performance. What better way to add fruit to your diet than enjoying a fresh smoothie? This simple recipe with yogurt for added protein and probiotics will leave you feeling refreshed and energized.

two glasses with pink smoothie next to a bowl of strawberries and banana
Vegan strawberry banana smoothie. Photo by Nutriciously.


  • 7-8 frozen or fresh strawberries 
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp honey or your choice of sweetener
  • 2 tbsp hemp hearts (optional)


  • Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth.
  • Top with fresh berries, granola, or hemp hearts.
  • Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Bagel Sandwich

Bagels are a great addition to your pre-hike meals. They contain complex carbs, and you can use them in multiple ways. This recipe includes fresh vegetables, avocado, and hummus – all providing sustenance for a before-hike snack. Bagels with vegan cream cheese are also some of the greatest vegan camping snacks!

a bagel and avocado cut in half on brown board
A bagel and an avocado are a winning combination! Photo by katie mierau (rotated).


  • 1 whole wheat bagel 
  • 1 healthy spoonful of hummus
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful of spinach 
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Prepare all the vegetables, and cut into thin slices.
  • Toast the bagel to your liking, and spread the hummus onto both slices.
  • Add the veggies and a few slices of avocado, and top with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy!

Vegetable Omelette

Eggs are a great source of vitamin B12 and protein. They are easy and quick to prepare. This is an easy omelette you can make for an early morning hike or any time you crave eggs. 

man in KÜHL Thor 1/4 Zip next to eggs
Eggs are a powerful source of nutrients. while egg whites are especially rich in protein. Product shown: Thor 1/4 Zip.


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 broccoli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • Fresh kale leaves
  • 2 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp oil or butter
  • Parsley to garnish


  • Prepare the vegetables by cutting the broccoli, red bell pepper, and tomatoes. Massage the kale leaves with a little oil. 
  • Melt butter or oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
  • In a bowl, mix the eggs with a fork, and add salt and pepper.
  • Add the egg mix to the pan in even layer, and cook for a few minutes.
  • When the bottom is firm, add the veggies to the raw side.
  • With a spatula, flip the omelette onto the other side, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, and transfer the omelette to a plate.
  • Garnish with parsley, and serve immediately. 

Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrate is just as important as fueling to give you energy on a hike. Water loosens stiff muscles, helps you think clearly, and keeps your stomach at ease.

Drink at least 3 to 4 glasses of water before your hike. Always have a bottle of water within reach, especially at higher elevations.

Once you’re out on the trail, don’t wait to feel thirsty, as that means your body has already started to dehydrate. Take small sips instead of gulping water.

Don’t forget to keep hydrating after a hike to replenish fluids.

woman in KÜHL jacket drinking water outdoors next to a man
Stay hydrated! Product shown: Léa™ Pullover.

What Not to Eat Before a Hike

What you eat and drink before any physical activity is incredibly important. It’s a decision that may physically make or break you. Eating improperly before a hike may lead to unwanted injuries or feeling heavy and lethargic. Too much caffeine or salt can worsen dehydration. Processed sugar provides energy for a very short time, so look for hiking foods like granola bars and dried fruit without added sugar.

Stay away from or limit the following foods:

  • Candy bars
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol 
  • Chips
  • Spicy foods
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Heavily fried foods
  • Dairy products

Get Hiking With KÜHL

Now that you know what to eat before a hike and how to stay hydrated, try some of these pre-hike recipes, and share the pics with us on Instagram @kuhl! Don’t forget to stop by our online shop to grab some top-notch hiking apparel and check out our essential hiking checklist. Get out there and enjoy the view!

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Emily Leikam
Emily is an avid traveler and has been all around the world from Alaska and Iceland to Peru and Bali. Her home base is Nashville, TN and when not traveling you can find her hiking, practicing yoga or cooking/baking!