Desert Nutrition for Zion canyoneering
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I was extremely physically active during my 3-week Zion canyoneering trip. If I wasn’t doing two-a-day workouts, road biking and taking short, steep hikes, I was busy hiking anywhere from eight to 13 miles, sometimes in a slot canyon with water but more likely in full exposure to the desert sun and heat.
Eating to fuel all this exercise and staying hydrated was critical. The simple act of breathing in this arid climate can contribute to dehydration. I needed more than sugar water. I needed some real nutrition. I used Hammer Nutrition years ago when I was training for a triathlon and was always ravenously hungry. Since that time, Hammer has come out with a broad range of products to suit various exertion needs.
I bought samples and spent several weeks experimenting with the different combinations of what to eat/drink when, and which flavors I liked most. After my taste tests I went back to purchase the full size. And the winners are:
HEED High Energy Electrolyte Drink. One scoop provides 100 calories. But, more importantly, electrolytes including sodium, potassium, and calcium support optimal cardiac and muscle performance and help prevent cramping. Mix this in a water bottle and your good to go. Melon flavor is great if you can keep the water cold, but I soon learned that the unflavored was the way to go in the desert heat.
HAMMER Gel. One shot provides 90 calories. These convenient little shots are handy enough to stash in your backpack or pocket. Simply rip off the top and squeeze the pie-filling consistency nutrients into your mouth. Comes in a variety of flavors, but apple cinnamon has always been my favorite.
PERPETUEM Extreme Endurance Fuel. One scoop provides 270 calories, 54 grams of carbohydrates, only 7 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein. I put this product to the test the day I got caught in a thunderstorm hiking Zion’s Subway. I had to cover five miles of the North Fork of Left Creek as quickly as possible before rising water and possible flashflood waters caught me. I was already hungry but there was no time to sit and eat, and even less to let food digest so I could run without cramping. I mixed a bottle of PERPETUEM and virtually ran the remaining five miles of rocky streambed in just under an hour. Vanilla hit the spot that day, but it also comes in Caffe Latte.
RECOVERITE Glutamine Fortified Recovery Drink. One scoop provides 180 calories, 33 grams of carbohydrates, only 2 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of whey protein. Muscle recovery after a big workout is essential to perform at peak levels the next day. Eating a meal within 60 minutes of exercise is critical to optimize recovery and reduce the risk of muscle soreness and atrophy. When a meal isn’t possible, reach for RECOVERITE. This was another product that came in handy the day I raced the elements. I reached the point of the exit route still high on adrenaline. But soon after that high wore off I hit a wall of fatigue. I needed nutrients and I needed them quickly. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the least bit tired or sore the next day. My flavor of choice again is unflavored, but the subtle citrus is super tasty.