Reviews of High-Performance Foods

Geez, with all the information from magazine covers, your friend who’s on a new fad diet, and television commercials, it’s hard to know what to eat and what not to eat.
When you’re out on the trail, it can be even harder, because the bacon cheeseburger from your favorite fast-food joint won’t stay warm for two to three hours while you hike to make yourself hungry. It’s okay, relax. I have not asked a sports nutrition expert or registered dietitian for help, but I have rigorously tested five performance food products I believe are somewhat adequate, or at least moderately excusable, when you’re out there working hard in nature.

Cookies, Made By My Mother
Smart people have told me that cookies are not that good for you, especially in instances when you sit down with a box of Oreos and mow down an entire row of them when you’re not paying close attention. But shit howdy, are they tasty when you’re exercising, especially above 12,000 feet when all other snack products taste like dog food. When cookies made by my mother are not available, substitute cookies made by your mother, or really anyone who knows how to bake cookies without burning them.
Downsides: Chocolate melts in warm temperatures. Cookies baked in someone’s home kitchen are also traditionally not that sturdy, which means if you take a bag of cookies hiking, you often will find yourself enjoying a bag of cookie pieces.

Starbucks Doubleshot, 6.5 ounce can
Have you ever experienced caffeine withdrawal on a long hike, mountain bike ride, or climb? Did you kill anyone, or just want to kill anyone? If you answered yes to one or both of those questions, allow me recommend Starbucks Doubleshots to fix that next time, provided you still have friends. These little happiness hand grenades pack 120 milligrams of caffeine per can, and don’t taste at all like shit. At under seven ounces, you’re crazy not to pack one the next time you’ll be away from society for more than four hours at a time.

Evol Egg & Green Chile Burrito, frozen
You’ve done it. You’ve worked hard, stuck with the program, and you’ve finally eaten your 1000th peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While sitting on a rock or a downed tree or the summit of a peak. Congratulations. Now, reward yourself: Start carrying frozen burritos with you when you go hiking instead. When you get to the lunch spot, halfway point, or summit, your burrito will be lukewarm or a little chilled, and you’ll find yourself digging into your pack with the enthusiasm of a bear ripping off a Yosemite tourist’s car door to get the food inside. If it’s going to be a really long day, park your car facing south and toss another burrito on the dash, to “cook” while you’re out braving the wilderness (provided you’re not in bear country).

Fact: When you sweat, you need to replace electrolytes. Fact #2: Sodium is an electrolyte. One ounce of Fritos contains 170 milligrams of sodium, as well as corn. Corn is not an electrolyte, to my knowledge, but when smashed into chip form it is tasty, which is sometimes as good as being healthy when you’re in the mountains. During testing, Fritos proved to be one of the smaller chips on the market, so when you pull a bag of them out of your pack, they’re not smashed into like a billion pieces, as is the case with Ruffles and other types of potato chips. Plus they are totally flammable, so you can use them for kindling when lighting a campfire. They are not organic or anything.

Long rumored by a handful of cyclists as a sort of energy drink with semi-scientific benefits, Coca-Cola is a widely available beverage used by many people to grow large volumes of flesh. I tested it over several long bicycle rides over many years and have found it to be tasty, effervescent, and basically a really diluted, less healthy and less portable GU or Clif Shot—with about three times the sugar, none of the potassium, and way more high fructose corn syrup (all of which I guess are technically not that good for you). Still, it’s easy to find in gas stations, food carts, and bars and restaurants worldwide, making it a go-to when you’re in the middle of nowhere and have no other options.


21 replies on “Reviews of High-Performance Foods

    • Beth

      I agree with Will! Or at least include the Ritz/Keebler peanut butter crackers that have salt, butter, AND peanut butter.

      Pretzel rods, vs Fritos, have similar salt content, tend to be sturdier, and can act like a knife for spreading more peanut butter or just dipping.

  • Brittany

    I gotta say, I’m also SHOCKED that orange cheddar peanut butter crackers did not make the list! Because those things taste ten times better when eaten outside.

  • Talia

    Great post! True Story of two Iowa City-transplants leaving the front range for their first trip to Indian Creek. We go to the grocery store on the way out of town. The shopping goes something like this: Pop tarts. Check. Frappuccinos. Check. Double Stuff Oreos. Check. Last minute addition of cinnamon rolls (they were sitting on a table by the register and only a dollar!!!). Check. Woot! We are ready for the desert! We get out to the car and start loading the groceries only to realize that we have forgotten to buy water. That was over three years ago and while we still do take that bag of double stuff oreos, we also take real food and I think our climbing has improved.

  • Emily

    I am not SHOCKED that the orange cheddar peanut butter crackers did not make the list because they are absolutely horrible.

    The plain, toast and peanut butter crackers, on the other hand, are divine and I don’t understand why they aren’t mentioned.

  • Brent

    Burger King now sells mini cinnabuns! You buy two at a time and eat one in the car on the way out of town. Extreme self control is required to save the other one to eat on the trail. So good, even cold

  • Jon

    Bachman pretzel sticks in a zip lock bag, along with a handful of chocolate chips, satisfy several food group needs (salt, fat, and chocolate) and taste really good. The chocolate chips can melt, making a somewhat sticky mess, but if they re-harden, the result is a ball of chocolate with embedded pretzels. Glorious

  • Katherine

    After a long backpacking trip, all I want is chocolate milk and powdered sugar donuts from a gas station.

    No shame. No shame at all.

  • Rebecca

    Fig Newtons–fruit & cake. Or chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter, make your own cookie-sandwich to celebrate the summit.

  • jason

    Spirulina, people – especially in easy to swallow tablet form. It can be taken daily as a supplement, or pre/post exercise. If you’re on a long hike, ride, run, swim, climb, whatever, it’s an excellent source of energy, vitamins, minerals, protein, phytonutrients and E.F.A’s (3&6). It’s not nearly as satisfying as a choc-chip cookie made by your mum, but it’s great fuel. Check it out!
    No, I’m not a rep’ for a Spirulina manufacturer. Live, love and prosper.

  • Craig

    A McDonald’s cheeseburger, stuffed into your pack and hauled 6 hours to the summit, will not satisfy. True story.

  • Bob D

    Snickers minis. Big hike, big climb, or race over a half marathon. Bank on it. Those little buggers were the shiznitz last year on Mount of the Holy Cross.

    Saw a dude produce a burrito from his pack on my last summit. I think I had a protein bar. Jealousy ensued.

    I endorse this list. Now where’s my Snickers sponsorship?

  • Ryan

    I’m very disappointed in this article. There was no mention of the true super food: Snickers.

    Snickers are like a sandwich, power bar, a handful of nuts, all at the same time. Plus, that carmely, nougaty goodness comes in temperature resistant, spoil-proof packaging.

    There are 250 calories in one regular bar. Maybe not the most calorie dense item in the food bag, nothing else* tastes this good. Did I mention that it comes with electrolytes? 120mg of sodium! Hell yeah! And for any higher altitude or cold endeavor, there are 12g of fat. All the better to keep you warm! If you eat enough snickers, you don’t even have to resort to buttered tea!

    And now. In this age of technological magic. There are options. Snickers. Almond Snickers. Dark Chocolate Snickers. Peanut Butter Snickers**.

    One per climbing day*** is a requirement! Hell, why limit it to climbing? One per day is a requirement!

    * Not even a Casual Friday at Southern Sun. Maybe a St. Amos Witt. But that’s a BIG maybe.

    ** I was MEGA excited about the combination of two of my favorite things: Snickers and peanut butter. These are not as good as the title would suggest. The peanut butteryness fell a bit short. These have a bit to go to live up to their potential.

    *** Alpine days require two. Planned “big days” require three.

    • Michael

      Even better than that? Paydays. Salty and sweet, doesn’t have chocolate so it can survive higher temperatures.

Comments are closed.