Hiking in Hong Kong: What to eat and drink to stay on top of your game
Updated: Jul 18, 2022
Tackling Sharp’s Peak this weekend? Read on
Hong Kong hikes are one of a kind. Just a stone’s throw from the city, trails vary greatly in difficulty, length and popularity — yep, we’ve all spent weekends queueing to get up Dragon’s Back and fighting for that prime Instagram spot on High West. You’ll spot hikers sporting the latest gear, dressed to the nines and equipped for a three-month trek across the Himalayas, and those with a mere 350ml bottle of water in thick denim jeans on the hottest day of the year.
So, how do we hit the sweet spot when it comes to hiking in Hong Kong? Well, hydration and fuel play a huge part. Here’s how to prepare for your next hike…
Hydration is key
When planning a hike, hydration is the most important fuel source to get right — particularly in the summer months. Essentially, hydration requirements are determined by sweat rate, or how much sweat you are losing over a period of time. This can be calculated through body weight both before and after exercise, and by considering temperature, humidity, clothing type, and intensity of the hike. Unless you are a high-level endurance athlete that requires a robust hydration strategy, the below “rules of thumb” should see you through even the toughest stages of Hong Kong’s three main trails.
Begin the hydration process before you start your hike. You naturally wake up mildly dehydrated, so begin drinking water right away to get ahead of the game.
Fluid needs vary. The amount of fluid you need to consume throughout your hike will vary from person to person. A sensible strategy is to drink moderate volumes of fluid often. 250ml per 15 minutes of exercise is a good place to start. If it takes you three hours to complete Dragon’s Back, make sure you have three litres of water with you. The good news is, your backpack will only get lighter as you hydrate!
Avoid chugging your whole bottle of water. Large volumes of fluid will limit absorption rates and more likely than not send you into the bushes in search of a bathroom.
Include an electrolyte option in your backpack. Sweating profusely and drinking lots of water will inevitably flush essential electrolytes from your body.
Consume a combination of water and electrolyte beverages throughout the hike to maintain optimal fluid balance within your cells. Without these essential electrolytes, bodily functions can become impaired and the risk of cramping increases.
The nutrition you need
Depending on both the duration and intensity of your hike, you are going to want to prepare and bring along some snacks to replace energy lost. Carbohydrates are key. As your main source of energy, carbohydrates will quickly break down into glucose and then glycogen in order to fuel your working muscles. Glycogen is found in the bloodstream, liver, and muscles, which your body then relies on as its first option to provide energy. This includes working over time during high intensity exercise, such as those 1,200 steps up to the Twin Peaks. Energy bars are a great option as they are lightweight and energy dense. Typically, if you have consumed a high quality, balanced meal before the hike, you won’t need to replenish glycogen stores until the 75-minute mark — depending on the intensity of exercise. Aim for topping up carbohydrate stores with 30-60g of carbohydrates (such as an energy bar or a large banana) per hour for maximal performance. That being said, if you’re just going for a casual stroll around The Peak, you can leave the flapjacks at home. After all of that hard work, consuming high-quality protein is going to be important in order to repair muscle fibres. If a long hike is on the cards and you plan to be walking for most of the day, consume a portable source of protein (such as biltong) every four hours to kick-start the recovery process.
Beat the heat
Hong Kong’s many trails have been a welcome escape during the global pandemic, providing not only fresh air but also the chance to de-stress, away from the pressures of the city below. Whether it’s a 37 degree summer or cooler winter, you will still want to combine basic heat management strategies in the form of hats and sunscreen to get the most out of your hiking experience. Pair this with the hydration and fueling tips above to avoid calling in that rescue helicopter. See you on the trails!
As featured originally in Lifestyle Asia – https://www.lifestyleasia.com/hk/living/wellness/nutrition-hydration-tips-hiking-hong-kong/