Slieve Donard Trek - some things you should be AWARE of...!

My guide to eating & drinking your way up & down Northern Ireland's highest peak.

We’re just a few days away from Aware NI’s Slieve Donard Trek on World Mental Health Day 2015 #‎WMHD15‬,  and so the amazing folks at Aware have again asked me to share some of my thoughts and top-tips for those who have signed up.

First of all I’d like to say thanks to them for asking me to be part of such an amazing event once again. I had an absolute blast putting the more than 300 people who showed up for the Mood Walk in May through their paces during the warm up and leading off the walk and I’m looking forward to doing the same on Saturday.

I understand that many of you might not have undertaken a challenge like this before, and so I’m here to give you some healthy pointers on how best to hydrate and feed yourself to get the most out of the event and If it has been a little while since you exercised last, you may benefit from the following few tips to ensure you are prepared and feel good on the day.

Hydration

I recently had a trial trek of the route with some friends, and I was keen to emphasise the importance of keeping hydrated to them before, during, and after the trek. The advice may seem basic but if you don’t follow this simple step, you could struggle as a result.

Hydrating on the morning of the trek

Those of you who will be travelling a distance to Newcastle to the starting point may be best hydrating from the moment you wake. Anything from 500ml to 1 litre when you wake up will have you feeling fully energetic, alert and vitalised - just be sure and have a pee before your journey...!

Those who live close by, my advice is really quite similar, wake early (at least 90 minutes prior to starting time) leaving time to eat and hydrate and prepare appropriately, as opposed to the all too tempting extra half an hour in bed that will have you struggling to fit enough water and breakfast before setting off and trekking comfortably.

Hydrating during the trek

Understand that a challenge event such as this will place certain physiological and psychological demands on your body and it’s important that you come prepared to keep your cells well hydrated, keep focused on the task at hand and ultimately complete and enjoy the task. The exact amounts needed to achieve this really will depend on the individual as previous experience, current state of health and climate will most likely dictate differing amounts. Best I can do is say that I will be packing my bag with at least 2 x 1 litre bottles of water and maybe a flask of tea if I can find one and will be stopping regularly to enjoy both. You should too!

Food

Before the Trek
It is no real secret that you will benefit from having a little extra carbohydrate in the hours before you start, particularly if this isn’t something you would regularly do of a Saturday.
Nothing to stress about, just ensure you get some healthy low glycaemic (GI) sources (those that provide us with longer lasting energy ideal for long walks/ treks) like whole grains, basmati rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables, fruits, or mixed beans or pulses perhaps the night before (check out my blog or my Instagram feed for recipes and ideas)

The following breakfast ideas would also be ideal to ensure that like a new Duracell battery on Christmas morning, our blood sugar levels are topped up and ready for action on the day.

Breakfast
First of all, I understand the practical considerations with preparing and consuming a large meal prior to setting off up Donard, particularly if like me you have an hour car journey prior to getting there, so the following options are quick on time but stacked full of flavour and fuel.

Fitness Belfast's Super Speedy Super Simple Overnight Oats

Simple video demonstrating how to prepare #overnightoats for breakfast before you hit the pillow in the evenings. Here I combined: Oats, Cacao Nibs, Goji Berries, Blueberries, Hemp & Milk - aaaaaand shake!

Fitness Belfast's Super Speedy Power Mountain Muesli

Fitness Belfast's Super Speedy Power Mountain Muesli (or Coconut & Cinnamon Muesli)

Here i've mixed some small bowls of: Mixed seeds, Linwoods milled flaxseed/almonds mix & chopped cashews

And some big bowls of: Porridge oats, dessicated coconut, dried dates berry mix

And sprinkled a few teaspoons of cinnamon & or nutmeg on top. Enjoy!

Mood Booster – NutriBullet NutriBlast Smoothie!

Just recently purchased a #nutribullet and felt I should share my delicious first #nutriblast experience, which really would double as an excellent super quick morning brekkie on the go prior to an endurance session. The smoothie I made consisted of: 2 stalks of celery, 1/2 banana, 1 medium avocado, handful of cashews, 1/2 cup of oats, 3 ice cubes, Koko dairy free coconut milk. 

During the trek

Given the likely duration of this challenge event and the need to fuel the 4 + hour trek it will most likely be vital that you bring a packed lunch and a number of tasty wholesome snacks. That way your body has everything it needs to help boost you up the mountain and really there is no greater motivation than knowing that there are some Slieve Donard Trek Trail Bars waiting for you during your next pit stop.

Personally I think it would be a great idea if we all get fairly inventive with our healthy treats and share with our friends along the way, as this allows us all to feed on the positive energy that the Trek will surely create as well as share some healthy eating tips, and provide a useful distraction tool from the task at hand (either that or we all play a giant game of eye spy). That’s what this is all about right?

When eating for a lengthy challenge event such as this, the focus should be on replenishing blood sugar levels and aiding cognitive function, keeping mind and body focused on the task. For practical reasons and convenience purposes the following are a list of foods and snacks that meet this criteria and more importantly that what we can easily carry, as I really doubt any of us want to carry a lasagne up the mountain now do we?

For snacking - berries, fruit, dates, figs, dried fruit, nuts, nut butters, seeds, yoghurts, rice cakes, jaffa cakes and my personal fave vegan friendly percy pigs from M&S all spring to mind. 

If you're bringing a premade meal or lunchbox, quinoa, basmati rice, sweet potato, new potato, yams, squash, combined with any number of quality proteins like, meat, dairy, or vegan friendly soy or hemp based alternatives are all good by me. Here’s a few examples that spring to my veggie mind:
•    Prepare a tower of rice cakes, just think of the rice cakes as your building blocks and nut butters and banana as your cement.
•    Smear some of my homemade hummus {recipe here} in a few wholemeal pittas, add some sliced peppers, honey and spinach and enjoy.
•    Boil some quinoa, add to a large mixing bowl with some oven roasted tomatoes, onions and squash, chuck in some leafy greens and dress with some honey, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
•    Alternatively why not try my hazelnut and goji berry powerballs or coconut and banana cookies or Donard trail bars, that my Bootcamp Superstars use to aid recovery after our Bootcamp sessions.

I’ll be honest when I say that my biggest passion in life is food {and wrestling, definitely wrestling}! And for that reason I will most likely and annoyingly have a plethora of healthy inventive snacks prepared at home for the occasion, I also understand that not everyone shares my passion for food {and most likely thinks quinoa is an island of the Dominican republic}, or perhaps lacks the time to prepare some of the outlandish ideas outlined above and that’s cool too.

Never stress, feel free to bring along your favourite sandwich filling, some fruit and some treats. We’re not here to compete on Master Chef, we just want to fuel ourselves for the trek and feel good, so feel free to bring along any of your own snacks.

(Please also be aware that I fully intend to use this event to spread the healthy eating healthy mind mantra that I preach, so feel free to ask me any food/lifestyle/exercise or even wrestling related questions as I pretend I’m not busted trekking the mountain alongside you…!)

See ya on Saturday!