What athletes eat: Long-distance hiker Heather Anderson's on-the-trail rice and beans dinner
For many athletes, records are set in hours, minutes, or even seconds or fractions thereof. For 34-year-old Heather Anderson, records are set in days, weeks and months. In 2013, while Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" was winning book awards and inspiring increasing numbers of women to attempt the Pacific Coast Trail, Anderson completed the distance -- and set a speed record for the fastest self-supported hike of the 2,650 miles stretching from Mexico to Canada.
That means nobody was helping to lug her gear or providing her with hot meals at the end of a 40- to 50-mile day of hiking. Anderson's time: 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes. (FYI: The typical recommendation is to allow five to seven months to complete the distance, and only about a third of those who try even finish at all.)
In 2015, Anderson went on to claim another record -- for the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail. Covering the 2,180 miles from Maine to Georgia in 54 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes, she bested the previous men's record by four full days and the women's by 36.
This summer, Anderson is midway through the Continental Divide Trail, which, if she succeeds, will make her the second woman ever to complete a double "triple crown" -- to complete the three major distance hikes in the U.S. (the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Coast Trail and Continental Divide Trail) twice.
Anderson took a break in Yellowstone while picking up her resupply box to give us a glimpse into what she eats in the middle of the woods. "I'm gluten intolerant, so I send myself most of my food ahead of time," she said. "But I usually splurge on burgers and avocado in town and buy chips and cheese to add to my pack."
She goes for lots of carbs during the day, including packaged foods from brands like Trail Butter, Greenbelly bars and Navitas Organics. At night she loads up on plenty of protein and fat via either a premade meal from Paleo Meals to Go or this trail-ready rice and beans recipe she shared:
Day and time: Dinner after a day of hiking
Place: On the Continental Divide Trail
What I'm eating: Beans and rice with coconut oil
Why I'm eating it: It's a complete high-protein, high-fat dinner I can make on the trail. I focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods, and also add in staples such as coconut oil, beans and dark chocolate as a treat.
Whose recipe: I've made my own eating strategy through trial and error from 20,000 miles of hiking and trail running in the past 15 years.
1/2 cup instant rice in freezer Ziploc (done at home)
Santa Fe Instant Refried Beans
Seasoning packet (made at home from cayenne, salt and 21 seasoning blend)
Trader Joe's coconut oil packet
ProBar Base Bar
Salazon chocolate bar
How to make it on the trail:
Add 2/3 cup beans to rice in Ziploc. Add enough warm water to cover and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Add coconut oil and seasoning to taste. I also add cheese when I have the chance to buy it in town.
I'll eat a protein bar and chocolate for dessert after big days.