Snacks Matter in Valle de los Condores

“Welcome to real life backpacking,” my boyfriend Tibo says as he takes a small sip from a half-empty water bottle.  Heat waves reflect on the empty highway and I gaze in both directions, hoping for traffic.  A hawk  circles high overhead, and I imagine the view he must have of the river valley below.

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We are in Valle los Condores, Chilean “pampa” located between the city of Talca and the Argentinian border.  My massive backpack rests beside me, loaded down with climbing, camping, and fly fishing gear.  I arch my back and stretch, relishing the lightness in my body without its weight. “Thumb!” Tibo shouts, and I jump to attention, trying to put on a friendly face.  It is another miner's truck, passing between work sites.  They are forbidden to pick up hitchhikers, but lifting a thumb costs nothing.  I imagine how we must look, two goofy gringos coated in a week's worth of sand and sweat,  begging for a ride in the middle of nowhere.  The driver stares at us as the truck burns past and I throw my hands into the air. “This isn't the worst scenario ever,” I say, “If I just wasn't so damn hungry!”

In almost three years of travel this is my first experience hitchhiking with so much gear.  We are in transit to Santiago, having just finished a summer working for a canyoning company in Pucón . We are now heading north to visit friends and swap our warm weather clothes for skis.  A week ago we arrived by bus and got lucky hitchhiking the 20 miles into the climbing area.

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Thumbing for rides with so much gear is complicated, and on the way in we were also laden with bags of food and fuel.  The “pampa” is similar to a desert, with rocks, sand, little plant life, and intense wind and heat.   Although the landscape seems barren and dry, several beautiful lakes and rivers flow through the heart of the valley, creating oasis for animals, birds, and fish.  

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We set up camp close to the river and used rocks to a build a wind shelter and cooking area.   Each morning we took time to practice yoga, drink coffee, read, and relax.  Then we set out to climb, following shade until the sunset painted the sky and hunger drove us back to camp  .  We spent the week almost entirely alone, rising with the sun and exploring the valley's endless labyrinths.  

 

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Tibo and I have taken many climbing trips together, within the Rockies, Alps, and Andes mountains.  In all of our experience camping in tough conditions and trying hard routes, our story in Valle los Condores is unique in one special way: we ran out of food.  When we prepared for this trip we bought what we imagined would sustain us for about a week in the back-country, based on what we could physically carry or cram into our overflowing packs.  But because we decided to take a climbing detour in the midst of moving everything we own, we were unable to fit snacks and managed very little fresh produce. Climbing trips are physically and emotionally demanding and although we took our time to rest and recover,  we started burning energy from the moment we arrived.  Exposure to the wind and sun alone left me feeling exhausted, like I was taking a beating from Mother Nature with no escape.  

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We rationed our food supply and ate well for breakfast and dinner, although I almost always finished wanting seconds. The real problem was in the afternoons.   At midday I would start to feel the hunger creep in, first faintly gnawing at my insides and then transforming into a grumbling monster, screaming for nourishment.  Sometimes the sensation passed and I forgot about eating until the next more intense craving drove me to split a whole apple with Tibo.  I have been fortunate in my life to come from a country with continuous access to food.  Even in tough financial situations I have always been able to scrounge up something to eat.  Rationing food in the wilderness is another kind of survival, when each bite means one less for tomorrow.  The first couple of days were the most difficult, but our bodies adjusted and by the fourth day I felt healthy and cleansed.  I noticed my senses sharpening and felt more connected with my body, focusing more on muscle groups while climbing or stretching.  Not to say that I wouldn't have accepted a churrasco sandwich at any moment. I was ravenous!

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Something I have missed in South America is access to healthy energy snacks, like Bricks Bars or other easy sources of protein.  Dried fruit and nuts are great but expensive here and don't satisfy like an energy bar.  We have found a few sugary bar brands in Chile but nothing organic or able to fill our hunger.  It took me a long time to realize the importance of combining food with prolonged exercise.  I used to ski all day without stopping for lunch and arrive home ready to clean out the cupboards.  Random crabbiness and sluggishness are also typical side effects of a hungry metabolism, and it wasn't until I started carrying snacks that I realized their significance in the mountains.  I don't like to overeat while climbing, but sometimes a bar, chocolate, or fruit is all I need to motivate on a project.  Our nomadic lifestyle is forever teaching the value of  maintaining fitness and a healthy diet.  We live for mountain sports and have to pay attention to our health in order to avoid accidents. Going hungry on a trip may be just another part of the adventure, but sometimes it might mean the difference between success and injury or illness.   These are the lessons we learn from experience.

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I rub my shoulders and reach down to hoist my pack up and onto my back, reminding myself to use my legs and butt to lift the weight. I can hardly get it on without falling over, and it takes me a few staggering steps to get going.   We trudge along beside the guardrail, stepping over cacti and constantly glancing into the river bed below.  The hawk continues to scout above us, enjoying a view that we can only dream of.  I hear the faint rumble of a vehicle in the distance and turn to see a worker's bus, one which commutes miners back to Talca.  We don't even bother to stick up a thumb this time, knowing that this kind of private shuttle won't bring us any luck.  But as the bus gains ground behind us it miraculously slows to a stop and the driver opens the door, waving us on.  We step up and pile our backpacks onto a few empty seats as 50 or so Chilean miners stare at us and joke about our dirty luggage.  One of them offers us an apple and a yogurt as we collapse into our seats.  I gratefully accept, once again amazed at the kindness of strangers.  Our free two hour ride back to the city is comfortable, but the adventure isn't over yet.  By nightfall we'll be navigating our bags through the Santiago metro system.  I cringe at the thought but know that as always, everything will work out in the end.   In any case, at least we can find some snacks in the city.  

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Sarah Johnson Bricks Bars Writer

Sarah Johnson

Born and raised in Montana, Sarah maintains a wandering lifestyle and currently resides somewhere in South America. She enjoys deep tele turns, knitting, catching trout, and playing with golden retrievers.

 



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Sarah Johnson

Born and raised in Montana, Sarah maintains a wandering lifestyle and currently resides somewhere in South America. She enjoys deep tele turns, knitting, catching trout, and playing with golden retrievers.

Protein: It’s what’s for dinner.

Protein shakes, protein bars, protein powder, and more… what’s the deal with protein? Obviously we need it, but what exactly does it do for our bodies, what are the best forms to eat, and how much do we need?

Protein bars help your body  build and repair tissue  after physical activity.

Protein bars help your body  build and repair tissue  after physical activity.

Why do we need protein?

The body uses protein to build and repair tissues, including muscle tissue, after exercise and everyday wear and tear. Protein also contributes to a healthy endocrine system, helping with hormone production. Your entire body relies on protein – from your bones and skin to your hair and toenails.

Protein is a major component of the diet, called a “macronutrient” or casually known to close friends as a macro. Your macros are the major components of your dietary intake: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. We all know that the body stores fat (in the form of, well, fat) and carbohydrates (in the form of glucose and glycogen); however, the body does not keep a long-term reserve of protein so it is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet each day to maintain appropriate protein levels for your body to do its thing.

How much protein do we need to eat?

Recommendations vary based on who you ask. Fitness experts recommend different amounts of protein based on activity level and your fitness goals (build vs. maintain muscle), while government guidelines may outline a more basic approach to protein needs.

Climbing will increase your body's demand for healthy protein. 

Climbing will increase your body's demand for healthy protein. 

Your protein intake should take up between 10% to 35% of your daily caloric intake depending on your needs.

According to the USDA “My Plate” guidelines, you need the following amount of protein daily:

  • Children age 2-3: 2 ounces

  • Children age 4-8: 4 ounces

  • Girls age 9-18: 5 ounces

  • Boys age 9-13: 5 ounces

  • Boys age 14-18: 6.5 ounces

  • Women age 19-30: 5.5 ounces

  • Women age 31 and up: 5 ounces

  • Men age 19-30: 6.5 ounces

  • Men age 31-50: 6 ounces

  • Men age 51+: 5.5 ounces

These recommended protein levels assume that the individual participates in under 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. The more physically active a person is, the more protein they will need in their diet.

In a journal article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Drs. Robert R. Wolfe and Sharon L. Miller explore the recommended daily allowance of protein. They found that the minimum protein requirement for adults over 18 years of age is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This equates to roughly 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your protein requirements are calculated like this:

150 x 0.36 = 54 grams per day

This really does not seem like a lot of protein, because this is truly a minimum level of protein required to avoid muscle loss and degradation. The 0.36g/lb/day rule is what you need to eat to maintain the muscle mass you have – no loss, no gain – and for people who are sedentary.

The more activity you do throughout the day, the more protein you need to recover your muscles from their daily work. Pregnant and nursing women get some bonus protein too, because their bodies are busy being superheroes that can grow and nourish small humans.

To explore your particular protein needs, you can speak with a qualified nutritionist or do your own research with online calculators such as this one from the University of Maryland Medical System.

High protein diets for weight loss

You may have heard about high protein diets as an option for weight loss, but a healthy diet is one with a moderate amount of protein. Even the paleo diet, which is widely assumed to be an excuse to eat bacon for three meals per day, is not a high protein diet. Paleo dieters eat their fruits and veggies too, maintaining a healthy mix of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. No one out there is saying you should eat the majority of your calories from protein. In fact, too much protein can actually be toxic for the body. Stay between 10%-35% depending on your activity level and your needs.

Sources of protein

Protein can come from animal products or vegetable products. Obviously meat and eggs are good sources of protein, but it is possible to have a protein-rich meal that is completely vegetarian. Animal-based protein sources should be clean and healthy food products, like grass fed and pastured meats, eggs from pastured chickens, and cheese from pastured cows, goats, or sheep.

Beyond the phrase “You are what you eat,” you truly are what your food eats. And if your food was raised on a diet of inflammatory and genetically modified grains, then your food is not clean and healthy and able to be processed effectively by your body.

You are what you eat. Buy grass-fed,  grass-finished, and free range foods to fuel your body.

You are what you eat. Buy grass-fed,  grass-finished, and free range foods to fuel your body.

Recommended sources of protein include:

  • Meats such as beef, bison, elk, goat, pork, venison

  • Poultry such as chicken, duck, turkey

  • Fish and shellfish

  • Dairy (if tolerated)

  • Eggs

  • Legumes

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Organ meats

It is very important for your health that you ask questions about your meat, eggs, and dairy products. For instance, do you know the difference between “Grass fed, grass finished” and “Grass fed, grain finished” as methods of feeding livestock?

Grass-fed meat is happy meat.

Grass-fed meat is happy meat.

When grazing animals consume grass, this is their natural diet and creates a healthier meat product for the consumer. Sometimes, grass-fed livestock is allowed to graze on grass for its entire life, but other times the meat is “grain finished,” which means that it is fed corn and other grain in order to fatten it up faster for sale to the consumer. This results in an unhealthy meat product for the consumer because the animal’s body cannot adequately process corn and grain, and the inflammatory nature of the grains makes its way to you through the magic of the food chain.

Moral of the story: Grass fed, grass finished is the way to go.

(Side note: “Vegetarian fed” hens eat corn. You want pastured hens that can forage for bugs and goodies in the earth – chickens are not vegetarians!)

Dietary benefits of protein

Besides the overall bodily need for protein to repair ongoing damage and growth, there are many benefits to adequate dietary protein. Protein helps with the satiety response, the signal that tells your body that you are no longer hungry. This helps keep your appetite even throughout the day.

Have you ever noticed that if you eat a piece of fruit, you often feel even hungrier when you are done? That’s because a banana is basically sugar and your body burns through it fast. To keep yourself feeling satisfied and full, eat some healthy protein and fat with your snacks, such as a nut butter or a protein bar.

Benefits of protein bars

A protein bar is a great way to keep your protein levels optimal while still having a healthy snack you can take on the go. We live in a world of convenience foods, but often times a healthy serving of grass fed beef or pastured turkey takes a long time to prepare. When you have to be out the door in minutes, you don’t have time to make an omelet or roast a chicken leg. This is when your arch nemesis starts playing games with your head, telling you that it’s ok to just get one dollar menu burger from Random Fast Food Joint.

Say it with me: It’s not ok to get the dollar burger. It’s not! Say it with me!

The obvious solution is protein bars, the easy way to get the quality protein and nutrition of a home cooked meal in the convenience of a pre-made bar.

If you look in the protein bars section of the grocery store, you will likely be overwhelmed with choice. Let’s be real, half of those “protein bars” are glorified candy bars, filled with things like sweeteners, soy protein isolate, and grain fed whey protein. Soy is a touchy subject in the health community, so you want to stay away from the soy protein and look for soy free protein bars. If you are following a paleo diet, you need to be aware of grain free and gluten free protein bars.

Bricks Bars

Bricks protein bars are a healthy meal replacement when out in the backcountry.

Bricks protein bars are a healthy meal replacement when out in the backcountry.

Bricks Bars are different from all the rest. We begin with only the highest quality grass fed (and grass finished) beef and pasture-raised pork and turkey. Then we add wholesome vegetables, fruits, and seeds.

We use high quality protein sources because they provide better nutrition for your body. Grass fed meats contain up to five times more Omega 3 fatty acids than grain fed meats. Quality grass fed proteins also contain CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), a natural fatty acid produced from Omega 6 fatty acids. CLA is abundantly available in grass fed animal products – up to three to five times as much as grain fed! Furthermore, Bricks Bars do not contain meat from animals administered antibiotics, keeping your food (and your body) healthier.

Bricks Bars are made by people, not machines, and that makes each one a unique experience of taste sensation while you get your Paleo on. We believe in clean eating and want you to benefit from a quality protein bar that meets all of your dietary needs, quirks, and beliefs that animals are to be respected for their contribution to our lives, dude. Party on with Bricks Bars.

Sources:

  1. The Concept of Protein Stores and Its Implications in Diet. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=328197

  2. UMMS: Protein Calculator. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.healthcalculators.org/calculators/protein.asp

  3. Daley, C., Abbott, A., Doyle, P., Nader, G., & Larson, S. (n.d.). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Retrieved June 1, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/

  4. Estimates of Energy and Protein Requirements of Adults and Children. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/aa040e/AA040E06.htm