Staying hydrated and keep your body fueled is important when hiking just like any other exercise. The length of your hike is a determining factor in what types of hydration and nutrition you need. Water is the key to hydration and might be the only thing necessary on a short hike. When hiking more than an hour or embarking on a strenuous hike, adding electrolytes and or food is smart.
There are many drinks on the market with a variety of ingredients to satisfy the hydration. Researching the nutritional value of those drinks to satisfy your needs is the important thing. Many sports drinks contain electrolytes, which are important to replace the depleted electrolytes from vigorous activity. Some other ingredients in drinks are caffeine, carbohydrates and protein. These are the ingredients to pay attention to if you do not want too much of one of them because of the way your body digests it make that decision. Calories are another important category to pay attention to, the heavier calorie recovery type drinks should be consumed after a hike to promote repair of the body and not be used during the hike causing sluggishness.
Energy bars or energy gels are also important if you are hiking for any length of time. They also have many different ingredients and nutritional value to consider. Calories are the main thing to consider since you will be burning approximately 200-300 per hour depending on the intensity of your hike. Carbohydrates are an energy source that you burn while hiking keep in mind that your body can only process about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hours so add the bar or energy gel to your drinks from above. Protein is building block for the body that is most necessary after a hike but may be used during long hikes. Sodium, potassium, vitamins and minerals are all in energy bars and gels as well and will help with replacing those components that have been depleted. Sweeteners are also used in energy supplements and come in a variety of forms from sugar to honey, agave, or stevia. All of these nutritional values are important to your energy source but you have to decide what the right balance for your body and the specific hike.
Timing of consuming these items is almost as important as what you are consuming. There is a time to take in carbohydrates keeping in mind that your body can only process so much. Hydration before during and after the hike is imperative and adding electrolytes during and after is key too. During the hike, you want to think light things that digest easy and provide energy and hydration. Proteins are important for the repairing phase so after the hike is normally the best time for them. Figuring out what types of hydration, energy and nutritional values are best for your body combined with the timing is key to successfully fueling your body for the hike.
Save the cocktails for when you get back from the hike.