Long distance hiking affects the body differently than with other sports or physical activity. When running say a marathon, the body burns glycogen to power itself along with higher oxygen levels and faster heart rates. Walking along the trail is different. Progress is steady and means the body can burn both glycogen and fat with lower oxygen and heart rate levels. It means over prolonged periods of walking time people can lose a lot of body weight.
But why does this weight loss on the trail be come so gender specific? Many times we’ve passed other hiking couples to see that the male partner is noticeably emaciated and thinner than his female counterpart. The answer is that men produce testosterone which in competitive sports gives them an unfair advantage over women but on the trail means men burn off more muscle mass including both skeletal and heart muscle along with more body fat.
Women, partly because of oestrogen, burn off fat and protein more evenly hiking, meaning they retain more body mass. This unique evolutionary ability helps to insure they’re able to carry and feed a foetus for nine months.
Yasmin too has lost weight on the trail but nothing like the amount I have. Since leaving Cascade Locks on the Washington Oregon border on the 02 August I’ve lost 21lbs (9.5kg). I simply just can’t stop losing the pounds as we continue to walk. We carry lots of food and more recently more snack bars to power us in the late afternoons. We each eat around 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day but probably burn around 8,000 and more when it’s cold. We can’t carry more food as it becomes prohibitively heavy in our packs. As a result, as soon as we reach any small town all we do is eat. It takes priority over everything, even washing after 8 day sections on the trail.
We should finish hiking in around 10 to 11 days but are now heading up high into the start of the Sierras proper. There’s still snow up high but nothing like we’ve recently been experiencing. It’s good to feel light but hopefully with our recent rest days of eating we’ll be fully energised for the last few miles of this beautiful trail.