Video: How to intelligently fuel your body for the rim-to-rim hike at Grand Canyon

The view from Beneath Ribbon Falls, one stop on the rim to rim hike at the Grand Canyon. (Mike Godfrey, At Home in Wild Spaces)


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

Editor's note: This article is the second of three-part series breaking down the needs before trying endurance hiking and how to accomplish the toughest Grand Canyon hike safely and responsibly. Read the first part here.

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK —There's hiking and then there is hiking.

While most trails are categorized into three classifications — easy, moderate and strenuous — there are certain treks that transcend these three limited terms and exist in a category beyond what most hikers will ever attempt. These are hikes where marathon or greater distances meet mountains, chasms and rugged terrain. This is the world of endurance hiking.

Endurance hikes, like marathons, should not be impulse undertakings. They require months of training, conditioning and planning.

This is the second article and video in a three-part series designed to draw the line between often popular, yet hazardous internet advice and legitimately reliable adventure resources by sharing how to intelligently prepare for and complete the legendary endurance hike known as rim-to-rim.

Unlike most marathons, endurance hiking takes you into remote locales where contacting emergency help may be miles and multiple ridges away. With outdoor injuries increasing in number, according to reporting by the New York Times, reliable outdoor information is more valuable and critical than ever.

And while rim-to-rim, the legendary Grand Canyon trek is the main focus of this series, this information translates to all manner of outdoor adventures and can help you responsibly reach heights and destinations you thought were previously unreachable.

How to fuel your body intelligently

Nature does not care about your pant size, whether you have washboard abs or chiseled features, or whether you look good in athletic wear. The Grand Canyon has made a career out of humbling and pummeling "fit" adventurers.

According to warning signs once displayed along popular trails in the Grand Canyon, the average search and rescuee was a young "fit" male between 20 and 40 years of age. But the largest demographic requiring emergency help in the canyon are those age 65 and older, more recent rescue data provided by Grand Canyon National Park's public affairs office reveals. The second-largest demographic of rescuees are those between 20 and 29 years of age.

The message is clear: Do not underestimate the canyon regardless of your age, fitness or level of experience.

Physical conditioning is critical but success outdoors is far more dependent on unseen and often neglected attributes like preparation, attentiveness, respect for the land, knowing your limits and knowing how to intelligently fuel your body.

Even the fittest ultra runner will "hit a wall," as endurance athletes like to say, if their fueling strategy isn't equal to their aspirations. Fueling intelligently for endurance hikes begins long before trail day, needs to be on your mind constantly come trail day, and doesn't end once you've completed your trek.

Nutrition is a balancing act — one that can make all the difference on the trail. Take the time to plan and implement a solid fueling strategy and you'll be amazed at the difference it will make on your outdoor adventures.

Your strategy will need to be individualized and depend largely on the type of crossing you attempt. Do you plan on running? Hiking? Overnighting? Or all of the above? Your diet will need to reflect your adventure style. And the only way to refine your strategy is gradually training for your endurance hike or run over time.

The above video discusses the finer details of nutrition from hydration, electrolytes, proteins, carbs and fats. It also dissects how your hiking or running style will affect your nutritional needs. Coupled with the other two videos and articles in this series, the included video offers thorough and reliable advice on how to explore the canyon safely and responsibly, while sharing the breathless beauty of the Grand Canyon in gorgeous HDR.

The internet and social media age are in the grips of a misinformation gold rush and outdoor recreation has fallen prey — hard. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube incentivize sensationalism because it drives higher engagement, watch times and ad revenues. But sensationalism also creates an incredibly fertile environment for bogus and hazardous information to flourish. And the consequences to both adventurers and the natural wonders they've come to see can be dire.

On the flip side, genuinely reliable information can help you reach never-before-imagined heights and help you connect with the natural splendor of our parks and wild lands like relatively few travelers could ever dream.

Make sure to stay tuned for the third and final article in this series where we'll discuss selecting and packing your gear like a pro.

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The WestOutdoors
Mike Godfrey is a graduate of BYU and along with his wife, Michelle, the manager of At Home in Wild Spaces, an outdoor recreation website, blog and community dedicated to sharing national parks, wilderness areas, hiking/biking trails, and more.

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