Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Low energy levels and out of breath while hiking?

Hi, I'm a vegetarian for only 3 months. I do a lot of hiking and mountaineering and last week was my first hike after going vegetarian and was having a hard time climbing up the mountain. It's the first time I felt that way, because I've been hiking for years now and am pretty capable and go ahead of the pack.

Last week I was feeling very tired after about 10 minutes of walking and had to stop every 5 minutes to take a breather. I was so tired so easily and was having a hard time breathing and keeping up with my friends.

I'm just looking for help, what to do, what to eat, and any information that might help me. Hiking is important to me, so is becoming vegetarian. I'll have my next hike next month and am hoping that I can regain my old strength and stamina back.
Thanks! Sharlene

Answer: A number of factors may be the cause of your reduced energy levels, like physical condition, calories and dietary composition, rest, and dehydration. I am not sure how often you hiked before. But if you have been a vegetarian for 3 months, and this was your first hike since becoming one, you may have gotten a little out of condition.

After 2 weeks of inactivity our muscles will start to lose strength. Your brain still remembers how you performed the last time you went hiking and thinks your energy level will be the same, even though you had not hiked for 3 months. You may just need a little strength training and conditioning to get back into the swing of things after your brief hiatus.

Total caloric intake and dietary composition may also be the cause, especially since you just recently changed your diet. Being a vegetarian means that you need to make sure that you eat enough calories to ensure a proper energy level.

It also means that you need to learn how to substitute the animal-based nutrients that you eliminated from your diet with vegetable-based nutrients. Also, you need to plan ahead and prepare your body for your high level of physical exertion.

Eat more complex carbohydrates 2-3 days before your hike. This will give you the energy required for this activity. Having the night before your hike a big plate of pasta with tomato sauce full of veggies and textured soy protein (TVP) is a great choice because it will give you the complex carbohydrates and protein your body will need.

Since vegetable proteins are digested more quickly than animal proteins, you may also need to take along with you on your hike a high protein snack like nuts and dry fruits (trail-mix), a soy protein/power bar, or a soy protein shake. Vegetarian athletes need to consume high energy foods for peak performance during periods of heavy physical exertion.

Sleep and rest are also essential for optimum performance. This is the time our body does its cell repair and rejuvenation. The night before your next hike, make sure you go to bed early to help you get a good restful night's sleep.

The morning of your hike, drink a lot of water (about 2 to 3 cups). Dehydration is usually the number one factor in low energy levels. Storing up on water before a heavy workout will ensure that you start out on the right foot.

Take along a water bottle and take frequent sips along the way, about every 15 to 20 minutes. Don't wait until you are thirsty, by then you are already dehydrated. After your hike, you will still need to drink fluids (about 2 to 3 cups) to replace what you lost in evaporation by exhalation and sweat.

For more information about nutrition recommendations for vegetarian athletes
read my Fitness & Exercise Q&A's . . .

Vegan eating suggestions when running from class to class?"

Marathon training and vegetarian diet?"

Vegetarian diet plans for competitive athletes?"

Muscle Building and Vegetarian Diet Requirements."

I'm a teen athlete - Do I need meat because of my age?"

Protein & weight gain advice for 16 year old weight-lifter."

For more information about soy, read Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook
For information about nutrition and sports, read ...

The Vegetarian Sports Nutrition Guide: Peak Performance for Everyone from Beginners to Gold Medalists by Lisa Dorfman

Vegan + Sports . Vegan Nutrition and Endurance Sports by Arnold Wiegand

For information about fatigue, read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatigue_%28physical%29

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.


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