I recently embarked on a journey to lose a few pounds, but I didn’t want to sacrifice some of the activities that I enjoy. Camping is one of those activities that could impede weight loss if you are not careful about it. However, camping can also be a healthy activity that can help you lose weight if you follow a few basic principles.
So, how do you lose weight while camping? In order to lose weight while camping you will need to eat a healthy diet and get adequate exercise so that you burn more calories than you consume. If you are able to repeat this net calorie loss over an extended period of time then you can lose weight while camping.
If you want to lose weight while camping then you need to know how much food you should eat, what kind of food you should eat, and how much exercise you should do. Losing weight while camping is going to take a lot of discipline since you may be camping with other people that do not have the same goal as you.
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How to easily lose weight while camping
Calories in vs calories out
The mechanism for weight loss is a negative energy balance. You must use up more energy than you consume. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The most common and most recommended way is to limit your dietary intake of energy and to utilize regular exercise in order to burn more energy.
Energy, in this case, is defined as calories. All the foods we consume contain some kind of calories. Some foods have more calories and some have less. That is why eating “healthier” foods are often recommended because they are more nutrient-dense and usually can allow you to eat a larger volume of food while ingesting a smaller amount of calories.
Body fat is stored energy in our bodies. When we eat more calories than we use it can get stored as body fat tissue. In order to reverse this, we must consume fewer calories than we use so that the body can begin using our body fat as energy to fill the negative energy balance.
It might sound complicated, but in reality, the only thing you need to do to lose weight is to eat less energy than your body burns. Continue doing this for a prolonged period of time and you will find yourself losing weight. What we really want to lose is fat. So while losing weight is often correlated with losing fat, we need to realize that the real goal is to lose as much fat as possible, not other weight like muscle weight.
Macronutrients and Micronutrients
While a negative calorie balance is a primary objective in order to lose weight, we want that weight loss to be mostly fat weight and not lean body mass. To help ensure this happens we also need to make sure we are eating a good balance of macronutrients and micronutrients.
There are three primary Macronutrients when it comes to calories. They are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All three play some kind of important role in the body. Protein primarily helps build and repair tissues, among some other important roles. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. Fats are responsible for many functions including hormone regulation, energy, and nutrient absorption. Fiber is also considered a macronutrient, but it is more of a subset of carbohydrates.
We need to consume adequate protein in order to help ensure we lose more fat and less lean body mass while in a caloric deficit. We need to consume adequate carbohydrates to ensure that we have enough energy for our daily activities. Lastly, we need to consume enough fats in order to help the absorption of nutrients and for the proper regulation of our hormones.
There are many micronutrients, and you may know them more commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals. It is next to impossible to track exactly how much of each vitamin and mineral you consume each day. The best thing to ensure you get an adequate amount of these micronutrients is to eat a diet that is high in well known healthy foods and eat a diversity of different foods on a rotating basis.
Lose fat and not muscle while camping
If you are camping for only a short period of time then muscle loss isn’t a huge concern. The best way to maintain or build muscle while trying to lose fat is to use resistance training. You only really need to worry about muscle preservation while camping if you are going to be doing a lot of strenuous cardio (like hiking) or camping for a prolonged period of time such as more than two weeks.
Muscle loss and strength loss is typically a slow process so you won’t lose it during a weekend camping trip. If you are going to be camping for more than two weeks then you need to find a way to use resistance to workout while camping. Bodyweight exercises can be a valid option to provide some resistance training that can help maintain your lean body mass while you are camping. If you are camping for a short period of time then just eat healthily and get some general exercise in.
What kind of food to eat
Generally, in order to lose weight (including while camping) you are going to want to eat mostly foods that are naturally grown. This includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, meat, rice, oatmeal, etc. Try to eat foods that are lower in calories and higher in fiber. Most of us know the difference between what is considered a healthy food and what is not.
There are a lot of different types of diets out there that have you restrict certain food groups, but the truth is that we don’t know exactly what the perfect diet it. The general consensus is to eat more foods that are grown and have the fewest ingredients. Generally, the fewer additives, the better. If the food is grown in the ground and not made in a factory then you should be good.
A good macronutrient calculator should be able to give you a break down of an estimated amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you should be eating daily based on your goals. From there you can get an idea of what kinds of foods contain what kind of macronutrients.
For example, meats contain mostly proteins. Fruits contain mostly carbohydrates. Vegetables mostly contain carbohydrates and fiber. Nuts typically contain fats. So on and so on you should learn what kinds of food contain what kinds of macronutrients.
After your camping trip
Keep a good diet and keep exercising well after your camping trip in order to continue losing weight. Weight loss is a slow and steady race. A short camping trip is not going to make much of an impact in the long run. What matters for weight loss is that you continue eating a proper diet and getting adequate exercise over the long term.
Depending on how much weight you want to lose, it could take several months to reach your goal. Typically, a regular camping trip is not enough time to worry about reaching a weight loss goal. Even an extended camping trip of two weeks is a small time frame for a significant amount of weight loss.
A general rule of thumb is to lose 1 pound to 2 pounds of weight per week. So as you can see, a camping trip is not enough time to lose a significant amount of weight, it matters what you do during and beyond the camping trip.
How much food to eat
Now that you know that calories are energy for our bodies, you also need to know how much energy you should consume. How many calories you need to consume while trying to lose weight is going to vary depending on many factors such as age, weight, sex, activity level, goals, etc. In order to get the best estimate of how much you should be eating, you should utilize a TDEE calculator.
TDEE stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Using this TDEE calculator is going to help you get a sense of how many calories you should be consuming based on many personal factors. In addition, you should try to use a calorie counting app to keep yourself accountable and to make sure you are not deviating from your recommended calorie intake.
You do not have to be 100% precise in measuring your calorie intake, but you should try to follow some kind of basic guidelines for getting a somewhat accurate measure of your calorie intake. It is impossible to know exactly how many calories are contained in the food we eat, but doing our best to guess will help us achieve our weight loss goals faster and more reliably.
One thing you also need to not forget about is water. Water plays a crucial role in helping you lose weight whether you are camping or not. Water helps keep you satisfied and feeling full, and it also helps with your body’s functions. There are many hard fast rules for how much water you should drink, but the most important factors are how much exercise you are doing and the climate you are in. I like to use the rule of half my body weight in ounces. If you weigh 180 pounds then drink at least 90 ounces of water per day.
What kinds of food to eat
The best foods for camping that are also healthy are hard to find. Not all hope is lost though because there are plenty of healthy foods that you can bring and eat while camping so that you do not stall your weight loss journey.
For breakfast, you cannot go wrong with eggs. Eggs are a very nutritious and healthy food that can easily be brought with you to cook while camping. One of my favorite ways to bring eggs with me while camping is to pre-scramble them into a container that I can easily pour them out of right onto a frying pan.
Another breakfast item that goes very well with camping is oatmeal. Plain oatmeal is best because you can add your own healthy ingredients to improve its taste. Add things like peanut butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract, bananas, and berries to your oatmeal and you will have a high filling and nutritious breakfast.
Lunch can be many things, but one of the easiest and most reliable lunches to eat while camping is something simple and easy like a wrap or a sandwich. My favorite is canned tuna because it is very lean and packed with protein. It is also easy to bring camping with you since it does not need to be kept in the ice chest. You can make your sandwich or wrap with any lean mean and eat it with some fruit and some vegetables.
Chili can be a good healthy meal to make for dinner while camping. However, you need to be careful because chili can be made healthy and low in calories, but it can also be made with higher calorie ingredients. For your low-calorie chili stick with lean ground meat like 93/7 or above. Add a lot of fresh vegetables like onions, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. Go easy on the salt and utilize a generous amount of beans. For dessert have a serving of your favorite fruit to clean the chili breath.
The best healthy snacks to bring camping are things like fruits (apples, bananas, oranges, etc.) Nuts/Seeds (almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, etc.) and vegetables (celery, carrots, broccoli, etc.). Snacks are where you want to be the most careful because regular snacks like chips are a no go for healthy eating.
Best practices for eating healthy while camping
If the packaging has only one ingredient then you’re probably eating something healthy. If the package has dozens of ingredients and you can’t pronounce most of them then you may want to reconsider. You don’t have to eat the foods I listed above, they are just some good examples of some healthy foods that are lower in calories.
Any diet that consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, beans, lean meats, and small quantities of whole grains should be low enough in calories and contain the right amount of macronutrients and micronutrients for most people. This is true whether you are eating at home or while on a camping trip. The biggest obstacle that comes while camping and trying to lose weight is avoiding the temptation of eating unhealthy high-calorie foods that we often associate with camping.
How much exercise to do
Hiking can be one of the best and most suitable ways to burn some calories and get some heart-healthy exercise in while camping. Hiking can burn a lot of calories depending on its intensity. Steep uphill hikes will burn more calories than more leveled hikes. Longer hikes will naturally burn more calories than shorter hikes. Also, the more weight you carry in your backpack, the more calories you will burn.
Swimming can be a great low impact way to get some exercise while camping. Swimming can be a fun way to get some exercise in. You can swim anywhere that it is safe to do so in a lake, a river, or the ocean. Some fancy campgrounds also have regular swimming pools. Rivers will stronger currents will most likely burn the most calories if you are attempting to swim against its current.
Swimming across a lake when it is safe to do so can be a fun, yet strenuous activity that burns a lot of calories. If you have access to a regular swimming pool then simply swimming laps is probably your best bet.
Rock climbing is an activity that requires a lot of strength and it burns a lot of calories in the process. Even if you don’t have any equipment or aren’t a rock climbing professional, just climbing on rocks (When it is safe to do so) can be a challenging and fun way to exercise. Activities like bouldering and scrambling are similar to rock climbing and yet they require less equipment so pretty much anyone can do them.
Running can be done just about anywhere, including when you are camping. You could do some running in your campground since they are often paved. You could also try out some trail running on some hiking trails. Running burns a lot of calories depending on the level of intensity you employ.
Bring your bikes from home and use them at your campground or on trails where it is allowed. Regular bikes can be used to zoom around your campground while burning some calories and having fun. Mountain bikes can be used on trails where it is allowed, and mountain biking can be very strenuous if you are biking up a hill.
Calisthenics is just a fancy way of saying bodyweight exercises. You can do bodyweight exercises practically anywhere, including while you are camping. Things like pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, burpees, and jumping jacks can be great ways to get some exercise in no matter where you are camping.
Just be generally active
Walk around your campground, set up all of your camping gear, and just move around. Sometimes just generally being active can be enough to help burn enough calories and its better for your health to just stand up and move every once and a while, even though it can be difficult when you are sitting in your comfy camping chair.
What really matters…
As long as you burn enough calories so that you are in a calorie deficit then you will lose weight. Exercise is one tool you can use to help create that deficit, but the best way to do it is with a combination of diet and exercise. Use a calculator online to estimate how much calories you will burn doing various amounts of activity. This can, however, be included in the TDEE estimate.
How do you eat vegetables while camping?
Keep vegetables in your ice chest until you are ready to cook them. Some vegetables like potatoes and onions do not need to be refrigerated and so they can be kept with your other dry camping foods.
How do you keep your bread from sweating when camping?
Bread sweating is caused by having the bread in a warm environment. To prevent this you need to try and keep the bread out of direct sunlight and in a cool and dry place. Consider a bread box with a paper towel inside to soak up the condensation.
My Favorite Camping Gear
- Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
- Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
- Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
- Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
- Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.