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The Ultimate Hiking Guide for People With Type 2 Diabetes

Last updated: July 2022

Controlling your blood sugars may not be a walk in the park. And managing type 2 diabetes may feel like a stressful uphill endeavor rather than an exciting adventure. But you can bask in your passion for the outdoors and stay on track with your type 2 diabetes! This is a helpful guide to conquering hiking trails while gaining the skills to regulate your blood glucose levels.

When hiking, expect the unexpected

Unexpected things happen even when you prepare to the fullest. You may take a wrong turn, or your hiking route may be harder than anticipated. The weather could change for the worse.

In other words, there are many ways for your hiking trip to transform into an added challenge. No matter what the situation, preparedness is critical. Staying hydrated, packing snacks or extra medication, and eating a nutritious meal before the hike will help prevent low blood sugar levels or a possible hypoglycemic episode while on the trails.

Hydration is essential

Depending on the duration and intensity of your hike, you may feel okay venturing off with just water. First, pack a little more water than you think you'll need. But, if you tend to sweat or are embarking on a higher-intensity hike that lasts over an hour, you may want to consider an electrolyte supplement.

Water can't fully rehydrate the body on its own. Your body needs salt, potassium, magnesium, and chloride to replete its lost energy stores. While electrolytes are essential, many electrolyte sports drinks also contain a lot of unnecessary added sugars. Certain sports drinks offer lower sugar alternatives to help you stay hydrated on your hike while keeping your blood sugar in check.

Low-sugar sports drinks

Some big-brand companies offer low-sugar versions of their classic products. These are great when you need electrolytes and a controlled quantity of quick carbohydrates.

Sugar-free sports drinks

While they may taste like the real deal, sugar-free sports drinks offer complete hydration without spiking your blood glucose levels. However, they do not contain any usable "fuel" to power your working muscles, making them only a suitable option for shorter hikes on a hot or humid day. For a more prolonged or intense adventure, pair it with a carbohydrate-containing snack to replenish your electrolyte and glycogen stores.

Salt sticks

Salt sticks provide a convenient source of electrolytes without relying on overly sweetened sports drinks. They are sold in a chewable form or pill form in varying concentrations. Despite the name, these mighty salt tablets taste sweet, making them palatable and easy to consume while hiking. A sugar-free electrolyte mix may be better than salt sticks if you have high blood pressure.

Pack your snacks strategically

Packing the right snacks for your hike can make or break your experience and endurance. So, choosing options that will power each step with sustained energy and won't cause intense blood sugar fluctuations is essential.

Protein and healthy fats take longer to digest and convert to a usable form of energy, making them less ideal for a mid-hike energy boost. So instead, check out these energizing snacks to help power your way to the top!

Homemade energy bites

Generic energy bars contain a long list of sugars that often goes beyond one's needs during physical activity. Instead, make your own energy bites with ingredients that you can feel good about eating!

Fuel with fruit or applesauce

Whole fruit options such as apples, bananas, and oranges are a few fruits to keep your legs moving and your energy thriving. Some fruits can spike blood sugars, so choose a fruit that works well for you.

If you are worried about fresh fruit turning into a mushy mess during your hike, pack opt squeezable apple sauce packets and enjoy with a handful of nuts such as roasted cashews.

Homemade trail mix

As the name describes, trail mix is a go-to option for fueling your body while on the trails! Customize your trail mix with nuts, dark chocolate, whole grain mini-pretzels, dried fruit, seeds, and more.

Enjoy your adventure

As you venture out into nature, with some preparedness, you will be ready for anything! Remember to follow the appropriate guidelines for monitoring your blood glucose with exercise and pack your medications if needed.

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