The human brain functions exclusively on glucose (sugar) and this is what fuels (pun intended) the misconception that sugar is one of the best energy boosting nutrients. When you need energy quickly a fast digesting, fast absorbing, high sugar content snack or drink will be your best bet and have the most immediate and noticeable effect. But it doesn’t last. It’s the equivalent of flooring the gas pedal everywhere you drive. You burn through your fuel reserves pretty quickly and just have to keep topping up.
For serious backcountry adventures we want diesel fuel for diesel engines.
Many of us have felt the effects of being hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar) whether that be while training, playing a sport, or a few hours into a hike and this is quickly resolved by reaching for a gel or some sort of bar with a high sugar content. Inside of a couple of minutes your “symptoms” fade away and your blood sugar levels return to normal. But this is a cyclic and short-term based strategy to fuel longer duration physical tasks like a day in the mountains let alone a trip that will last 7-10 days. Using these high sugar content snacks or drinks when you have a limitless supply of food within a couple hours of your location is not a problem. But under field conditions when you have to carry your fuel, you need a fuel source that is going to burn slower, last longer and fuel your body with a broader spectrum of nutrients.
And although this will not be news to those that have paid any attention to the paleo nutrition boom, for many people fat is still regarded as an unhealthy nutrient. And this could not be further from the truth. Fat is in fact the answer and is without question one of if not the best fuel source when you are in the backcountry.
Let’s be clear, we are not nutritionists or nutritional scientists, nor do we claim to be BUT if you read the evidenced based research, outcome based studies, and the anecdotal reports from literally millions of people around the world this is irrefutable.
The problem is most people don’t ever really train their body to use fat as a fuel. And by constantly reaching for a high-sugar content snack, the body will continue to use this quick burning fuel without ever really “learning” that it can use fat when exercising even at higher intensities. Without getting too technical you first need to understand some basic nutritional physiology. Sugar is the easiest molecule out of the 3 macro molecules (carbohydrate, protein and fat) to metabolize or “break down” and this is why when you feel your blood sugar getting low you reach for something sweet and get a quick fix for your low energy.
Fat on the other hand is not as easy to break down, especially during higher intensity activities. The majority of people cannot burn fat when they are exercising at higher heart rates simply because they cannot supply enough oxygen to support the breakdown and absorption of fat for fuel. We’ll get into this specific topic and how to “train” your body to use fat more readily in an upcoming article but for now you should know that it does take some work to convert the body to using fat more readily.
But it’s worth it in the long run. Especially when we’re talking about extended backpack based mountain hunts when the fuel you carry needs to pack the most powerful nutrient and caloric punch possible for the given weight. And this is where fat really shines.
So JOMH Field Editor Matt Thompson has put together a recipe we’re calling “JOMH Powerballs” made with a blend of macronutrients (carb, protein, fat) but with a distinct emphasis on this ever so important and unfortunately often misunderstood fuel source: fat. If you’re a DIY kind of person and like knowing exactly what’s in your food, we promise you will not be disappointed with this easy to transport, non-perishable power snack for training, hunting and even day to day life.
JOMH Powerball Recipe
1 cup quinoa flour
1 cup all-purpose oats
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup ground flax
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cranberries unsweetened
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup ground coffee
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/2 cup REAL maple syrup
- Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
- In a separate bowl combine eggs, maple syrup, melted coconut oil and mix thoroughly.
- Pour wet ingredients into large bowl and mix.
- Add two ripe mashed bananas and mix.
- Form batter into ping pong sized balls.
- Then sprinkle balls with a liberal amount of sea salt
- Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown on surface
- Makes approximately 50-60 individual powerballs (1 powerball = 1 unit).