Whether you’re a rucking newbie or adept athlete, certain supplements can help greatly improve your experience. Many people (including ourselves) have dealt with the negative effects of poor nourishment on a trail at some point, which is the worst possible place to become unbalanced.
As you’ll soon see, a few common (and largely preventable) effects many people face are overly sore muscles, dehydration, painful muscle cramping, digestive pain (gut), and the dreaded runs. On the trail, these conditions are far too often contributed to a poor nutritional dietary intake.
In order to prevent these from happening in the first place, it’s vital to eat healthily. But, without access to a regular, balanced diet on a trail, your best bet is to utilize certain supplements.
A few things we look for in supplements:
- Immuno supportive
- Quality sources
- Lightweight, durable
- Cellular protective
- Versatile, multi-functional
- Best possible value for cost
5 Best Supplements for Backpacking and Rucking
1. Protein Powder
When it comes to backpacking essentials, refined foods (dried, heavily processed) are high on the list and are usually picked over protein-based foods. This is largely because refined carbs tend to be more versatile, take up less space, cost less, and are more calorically dense.
Problem is, a diet high in refined carbs and low in protein can negatively impact your body.
For most (sedentary) people, getting enough protein isn’t an issue. But, athletes aren’t like most people. They expend far more energy, deplete nutritional reserves faster, and endure much more physical abuse. In fact, research has found they’re different from most inactive persons on the sub-cellular to whole-organism level .
That said, athletes have extraordinary nutritional requirements, and protein plays a big role. It’s important to fulfill these dietary needs to support strength, muscle growth, and recovery .
To effectively increase protein intake, you’ll want a supplement.
Many backpackers often find out the grueling way why you shouldn’t pack loads of protein bars or tuna cans. It might as well be a code-red backpacking violation for serious terrain hiking.
This is because of a combination of factors like item weight, price, bag space, and flexibility. Unlike protein powder, tins of tuna tend to be heavy, take up a lot of space, and aren’t versatile. Similarly, quality protein bars are costly, don’t provide much, and are heavy in bulk amounts.
On the contrary, certain protein powder supplements are lightweight, last long, and contain effective dosages of clean protein. They can also be packed systematically with other gear. Compared to protein bars, jerkies, and canned tuna, they’re of phenomenal value and can withstand several trips of use. Of course, you’ll need a high-quality brand to achieve this.
Choosing the right protein supplement.
As you know, there are a lot of factors that go into choosing the perfect protein supplement. Some are in cylindrical tubs, some are bags. Some are just as versatile as cans of tuna. So, to help you find the best protein, we’ve outlined the 10 most useful protein supplements available.
Probiotics are the ‘good’ bacteria you hear about and are naturally found in fermented and dairy-based foods like yogurt, cheese, and pickles. They help balance the gut micro-flora environment, prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and enhance immune response. They’re also necessary for the proper digestion of foods and for regulating normal stools.
This makes Probiotics essential for protection against the ravages of refined carb intake. As noted above, refined carbs (dehydrated, heavily processed) are a staple foodstuff for hikers. The downside to refined carbs, in addition to low protein, is that they fuel bad bacterial growth.
Too much bad bacteria can overwhelm probiotics and harm the body.
This can result in a weakened, less functional system that’s more open to attack. To prevent your gut flora from becoming unbalanced, it’s important to have enough probiotics in your body.
The best way to get more probiotics is to eat dairy and fermented foods. For obvious reasons, backpackers can’t do this on the trail- which is where supplements come in handy.
Which Probiotic supplement is best?
Truth is, we can’t say for sure. Anyone suggesting just one product is doing a disservice more than they are helping, and that’s because probiotics are often subjective, and needs can vary.
What we can do, however, is point you in the right direction. If you’re recovering from a cycle of antibiotics you’ll likely do best with a high strain, high CFU (colony forming unit) supplement.
Contrarily, if you’re just looking to generally maintain or improve health, you’ll likely respond best to a small to decent strain / low CFU (cheaper) probiotic supplement. It’s entirely personal.
So, to help streamline the process of finding an actually effective and high-quality probiotic for you, we’ve put together the 11 best probiotic supplements currently available on the market.
Krill Oil is an ever increasingly important supplement to add to our diet. This is because it’s naturally rich in healthy unsaturated fats that are becoming harder to obtain from the average Western diet. A good way to visualize how good polyunsaturated fats (omega-3, DHA, EPA, etc) work is to think of your body as a car and the fats as motor oil lubricant.
While not the fuel source of the car, fats are equally just as critical to the function of nearly every component. Without enough oil in your car, you risk failure across almost every system.
Analogies aside, Krill oil can provide a lot of great benefits.
In order to get (and keep) these positive benefits, you’ll need to either eat a lot of fat or take a krill oil supplement. Under normal circumstances, we’d usually recommend getting your fats from dietary means, but chances are you won’t be rucking around loads of fish across the trail.
So, which supplement should you take?
Over the years we’ve taken a lot of krill oil supplements both on and off the trail. After much review, we found these top 10 krill oil supplements are best for both practicality and effectivity. Each is designed to be lightweight, shelf-stable (no refrigeration), durable, and quality sourced.
If it were up to us, everyone would be required to take a multivitamin. We see all too often that symptoms of supposed ‘disease’ often stem from poor nutrition and fade with changes in diet. After all, it’s no secret good nutrition is one of the if not the most foundational aspect of health.
It’s generally best to get your nutrients from their natural food state. Problem is, Western soils are becoming increasingly depleted of trace nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. As a result, more and more people are developing unwanted health issues and don’t know why.
Unfortunately, this only serves to further highlight the importance of getting enough nutrients.
This is particularly apparent in Athletes who, because of their increased physical activity, deplete their nutritional stores faster when compared to average sedentary lifestyles.
But don’t just take our word for it though. Even NBA star Theo Ratliff attributes his stretch of perfect game attendance to the increased attention he now pays to vitamins and minerals. He believes his previous injury was due to a deficiency in the nutrients calcium and magnesium.
Choosing the right multivitamin is vital.
As you know, getting enough nutrients is key for peak performance and health, especially in athletes. A good multivitamin should be sourced from high-quality sources, contain effective dosages, and provide lots of healthy vitamins and minerals.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled the 10 best multivitamin supplements you can use on the trail for optimal results. Of course, we made sure each product has all the non-negotiable features.
Electrolytes are mineral salts like potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and chloride. These molecules are responsible for conducting and carrying electrical charges between bodily tissue.
Sweating from exercise causes you to dehydrate and lose electrolytes. For most people, this loss only becomes an issue after long periods of sustained exercise, like hiking long distances.
Replacing electrolytes is important. According to the mayo clinic, not enough electrolytes can disrupt cellular signals and lead to muscle cramps and potentially loss of consciousness .
How do you replenish lost electrolytes?
The best way to get electrolytes is to consume them from a balanced diet. However, unless you’re sitting down to eat a regular meal, you’ll want a supplement to help hold you over.
For that reason, we suggest taking LyteShow by LyteLine to help replace electrolytes. We’ve tried a multitude of different brands but have personally found this to support us the best. It’s a liquid concentrate, meaning all you need to do is drop some in your water and sip on the go.
Each bottle of LyteShow is lightweight (0.35 lbs!), shelf-stable, and has all of the necessary electrolytes. It’s contained in a small, flexible bottle and is essential for every athlete’s stack. In terms of flavor, it’s similar to adding table salt to water (basically what it is, but better).
LyteShow Electrolytes Concentrate Overview:
- 40 concentrated servings per bottle
- Effectively supplies 6 major electrolytes
- No artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors
- Free of GMOs, gluten, calories, and preservatives
- Tastes slightly tart and salty (due to minerals)
- Mineral base is naturally sourced in the USA
- Lab verified to rehydrate better than plain water
Our Final Thoughts
In the end, what you add to your pack is ultimately up to you. While each supplement on this list has been extensively tested by the team here at SD, we found there are still plenty who do fine without. Heck, we’ve even heard of some people hiking the Appalachian Trail without shoes.
Regardless, like shoes, supplements can greatly enhance the experience and your health. In our experience, an ounce of prevention is well worth the pound of cure. Especially out in the wild.