While there is plenty of data on how runners should prepare nutritionally for medium and long-distance runs, there is not so much information for walking events.
Despite walking being a less strenuous activity, it can still prove to be a superb way to improve your fitness and health.
This could be a hike up a hill or simply a brisk stroll in the streets and you will not need to follow a somewhat strict diet.
However, there are some nutritional tips you should follow that can help for medium and long-distance walking events
In this guide, we will look at what you should be eating and drinking for a walking event. Whether it is considered medium in length or long distance, the food you consume and the liquid you drink can help you perform.
Prior To The Medium/Long Distance Walking Event
Preparation is key to any exercise so ensure that you eat the right sort and amount of food before a walking event.
That typically means carbohydrates and while you would not be expected to carb-load like a runner, you should still prioritize the food source.
This is mainly due to how the body stores carbohydrates as glycogen in the liver and, more importantly, your muscles.
The stores are strictly limited so make sure that you fill up in good time prior to the walking event.
That starts with the night before so eat plenty of starchy food to build up your glycogen stores. Doing this a fair few hours before a walking event also gives your digestive system plenty of time to do the hard work.
That should mean a dinner packed full of whole grain carbohydrates such as pasta which is whole wheat, brown rice, and brown wholemeal bread.
The fiber in those whole grains should mean a slow release of energy which is ideal if you give it time overnight.
Other foods that you should consider for dinner the night before include potatoes, as long as you keep the skin on, beans, pulses, and couscous.
Try to fit them into a meal that you have had before and keep it relatively mild so the spices do not shock your system. A balanced meal is key prior to a medium/long-distance walking event.
That could be a tuna pasta bake, a chicken chow mein, or couscous with roasted vegetables. It’s unlikely that you will involve protein in your breakfast so keep fish and lean meat to a minimum and focus on cereals and whole wheat bread instead.
Look out for those breakfast ingredients that are low in sugar but high in fiber like muesli, whole wheat cereal biscuits, and low-fat plain yogurt.
Involve your favorite fruits too for a breakfast you are sure to enjoy. You could also try oatmeal to incorporate fruit or simply wholemeal toast with some peanut butter or mashed avocado.
During The Medium/Long Distance Walking Event
As you are participating in a medium and, especially, a long-distance walking event, you should be aware that you can boost your energy during one.
Even after the most ideal preparation before a walking event, you can still help to give yourself some extra energy to help you finish easier.
This does not mean a huge meal during the event as that will likely be detrimental to your performance. However, just a few more calories can really help, certainly for those longer distances.
The number of calories that you do need can often depend on your own performance and your own body form. If you tend to walk a bit brisker and weigh a bit more then that may be a factor.
Your muscle tone and even your gender can also play a part in how many calories you need. For a marathon distance of 26 miles over 8.5 hours, you should look to take in around 2000 calories.
Shorter distances require a smaller amount of calories. For instance, 6 miles would typically use up around 460 calories over two hours (walking at three miles per hour).
At a distance of 12 hours at the same pace, you should take up around 925 calories. Even longer, at 18 miles you should look at a calorie total of around 1,400 calories.
To provide those calories, you should be looking at a mix of foods. Some are better at releasing their energy than others and you may prefer them in snack form so you can carry them during the walking event.
To give your digestive system an easier ride, try to eat these foods slowly and often. That means fruits such as bananas, apples, berries, and grapes that you can take a few bites of while you walk.
Try to pack a few handfuls of dried fruit and nuts for that slow release of energy as well as fiber and protein.
Though nuts and seeds are known to be high in unsaturated fats, they can lower the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
You may even want to make your own banana and peanut butter sandwiches on wholemeal bread for a tasty and nutritious form of energy.
Then there are flapjacks and granola bars that you can pack with dried fruits and oats for a longer, slower release of energy.
While the food you eat during a medium and long-distance walking event is important, so is hydration. That can vary depending on the distance and the weather on the day.
Try to drink between 1.5 and 2 liters per day (the higher amount of water, the better for males) and that can come from various sources.
You may not realize it, but fruits, soups, and stews can also form part of your hydration alongside water, but also vegetables too.
Any form of exercise is likely to result in a loss of water from your body through sweat. Try to ensure that you drink plenty of water before and after exercise, even drinking water during a walking event is important.
Dehydration can quickly curtail your performance as it will make you tired and result in headaches.
Before a walking event you should feel hydrated through the amount of water you have drunk the night before, as well as that morning.
During the walking event, try to sip water regularly to keep your body hydrated.
This continual intake of water is crucial and even more so when you feel thirsty as that will indicate that you are already dehydrated.
Plain water can seem boring so try to jazz it up with some fruit slices or even a dash of cordial. You can also try a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
Taking a few snacks with you is ideal preparation for a medium or long-distance walking event as you can never be too sure how long it will take.
Try to pack the right foods too and the ones you like which could be as diverse as dried fruit, bananas, or maybe a peanut butter sandwich.
While the nutrition you take before and during a walking event is important, so is hydration. Ensure that you drink plenty of fluids before a walking event but also pack a water bottle as it is likely that you will feel thirsty partway through the walk.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Train For A Medium Or Long-Distance Walking Event?
Training can be relatively straightforward for a walking event and simply involve some brisk walking on alternating days.
This can be at a moderate pace though try to ensure you cover some ground, around four to five miles (seven to eight kilometers) is ideal.
Use a pedometer to ensure that you are walking enough during the day too, especially if you find yourself sitting in front of a computer for long periods.
You may have more time during the weekend for more extensive walking so look to go for a longer distance to build up your stamina.
What Equipment Should I Take For A Medium Or Long-Distance Walking Event?
Try to judge the equipment you take for a walking event based on the weather as you may not need so many layers as you think.
However, ensure that you wear a pair of socks that you trust and shoes that you have broken in. A hat is ideal during the summer to keep out the sunlight but also to cover your head during inclement weather.
Breathable shirts that dry fast and long pants to cover your legs are also highly recommended.