As everyone gears up for this year’s hiking and hunting seasons, we’ll begin to feature a few adventurers we’ve encountered who have found a way to take their keto diet on the trail, or have been a source of inspiration to us and others.
Meet Ketogenic Backpacker: Lori O’Connell
Tell us briefly about yourself: who you are, where you’re from, some fun facts, etc…
I grew up in Ottawa, Canada but was born in Bermuda (my dad was stationed there for the military at the time). I now live in the greater Vancouver area in Canada with my husband. I am a stunt performer for the film industry here and I run a martial arts school, Pacific Wave Jiu-Jitsu, teaching a Canadian style of Jiu-jitsu focused on teaching self-defense for civilians and law enforcement.
My blog, FeedNFlow.com, is dedicated to sharing my life adventures with a special focus on keto cooking & eating, outdoor exploration (hiking, camping, kayaking, etc.) and hacks for living a happier, healthier life.
How did you get into backpacking/hiking?
I did my first adventure back when I was in university. I went on a week-long canoe portage trip at Algonquin National Park in Ontario with my boyfriend at the time. Neither of us had ever done anything in the backcountry so it was quite the adventure and learning experience. We made so many mistakes but somehow managed to make it through. It was years before I did any other backcountry adventures other than day hiking. Once I was fully settled in Vancouver and actually owned a vehicle, I started to get more involved in the outdoors and over the past few years, I went on more overnight backpacking adventures with really aggressive hiking plans in which me and my hiking partners would push ourselves.
Favorite piece of backpacking gear and why?
I know it might seem super basic, but my hiking poles were the most transformative purchase. Before I got them, I always thought they were for older people or people with injuries, etc, but after trying out my husband’s poles, I discovered it helped me go farther and/or go on more aggressive hikes with less toll on my body. It also led me to look more into reducing pack weight, by swapping out all my old school gear with modern light weight versions so I could handle even more.
Best backpacking trip you’ve ever gone on?
Definitely my first overnight solo backpacking trip on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. It pushed me to the edges of my comfort zone in a number of ways. It was the most physically challenging trail I had ever hiked. I was alone and for the vast majority of my hike, as well as my overnight camp, there was no one there. I had a number of mishaps on the trail that I learned a great deal from. The biggest one was being more conservative with my hiking plan, especially when on a solo venture. There are so many things I would have done differently had I known what I know now, but that’s how we learn. I definitely would like to NOT repeat the incident that led to me using my urine as a tool. 😛 You can read more about the details of that adventure here.
How would you categorize your diet on trail?
My trail diet is low-carb, high-fat and gluten-free. My carbs are slightly higher than a strict keto diet, but I consider my typical macro ratio a good one for me to maintain ketosis for my body. That being said, I’m not always as strict with my macros and calorie consumption while on the trail and try to eat according to what my body wants without getting too caught up in the details, since I’m out there to enjoy myself and appreciate my surroundings.
I originally undertook the keto lifestyle as a tool, in conjunction with intermittent fasting, to help me slim up for work. As a stunt double, I work more if I am a better physical match for the actresses in my height range. It is a simple fact of life right now that most of them are super skinny, so I decided to make more of an effort to get rid of that last bit of fat that likes to live around my belly (the “skinny” fat area). The keto/intermittent fasting lifestyle helped me achieve that goal. Plus, it was the first time that I actually liked the food better than what I had previously been eating, with particular emphasis on how that way of eating made me feel on a day-to-day basis. That’s why I decided to stay on it.
What challenges have you found as a keto adventurer?
The lack of variety of convenient food at an affordable price for keto is definitely something to consider when planning a longer adventure. Right now, I basically have to make everything from scratch to get good variety on the trail [ed. note: but our US readers can try a Sampler Pack!]. We don’t have the luxury of being able to pick up a few convenience bars or trail meals at any old store. There’s nothing low carb at any of the major outdoor retailers. That being said, exogenous ketones in pill form are an ultralight energy source that comes in handy on the trail when I need a bit more energy but don’t necessarily want to break fast or stop and eat just yet.
The food that I make to keep me low-carb on the trail really sustains me well. I don’t have to stop and take as many breaks. It also keeps my brain sharper and I don’t get any carb crashes. Fat is the perfect fuel for distance hiking, as long as you’re already fat-adapted going into the trip.
Any advice for people considering taking their keto diet on trail for the first time?
Make sure you’re already fat-adapted if you’re going to go low-carb in the trail and that you have plenty of electrolyte supplements. I find having them in pill form the most convenient option on the trail.
Also, be prepared to make more of your trail food from scratch if you’re doing keto. If you’re doing paleo, I think you’ll find an easier time. But whatever you are doing, plan ahead and make sure you’re able to get or make everything you need so you’re not scrambling to find or make things last minute.
Do you know a keto backpacker or healthy hiker that would like to be featured? We’d love to include them, just let us know!