Hiking and backpacking are endurance events. You go for hours, not minutes sweating and breathing hard. It is a full body workout going up and down the mountain with a backpack.
Your endurance will dramatically increase if you train your body to be a fat burner, not a sugar burner. The common story we all hear or experience is the 20 mile wall in a 26 mile marathon. The reason you hit the wall is that your body has burned up all the stored glucose (sugar) supply of 2,000 calories. Because you are running you cannot eat and digest fast enough to replenish your glucose supply. The wall feeling is simply a message to slow down, the easy glucose supply is gone and you can use the endless supply of fat calories.
A very trim and fit athlete has at least 10% body fat. A 150 pound person at 10% has 15 pounds of body fat. Each pound of fat has 3,500 calories to burn for energy. At 100 calories per mile this means your 15 pounds of fat could power you 525 miles. They key is to tap the endless energy source of fat on your body.
There are two basic strategies to teach your body to burn fat.
- Exercise at a slow enough heart rates to teach your body to burn fat.
- Give the fat burning “signal” to your body each time you eat a meal or snack by consuming protein.
Most people, even marathoners and other endurance athletes, have not optimized their fat burning ability.
1) Buy a heart monitor and use it when you exercise so you have some facts to measure and monitor your progress.
- Using heart rate tables estimate your aerobic zones. You can increase the accuracy to match your body this by figuring out your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.
- Spend 80% of your aerobic exercise time in the lower half of your aerobic zone. For example if your aerobic zone is 100-140, stay in the 100-120 zone. Do this for two months. The other 20% of your exercise you can have higher heart rates.