The trips of recent years have shown me, how important diet becomes on the long thru-hike. Its negligence and the lack of proper nutrition made me struggling to complete my crossing of Alps in 2017. After that adventure, I realized that I was limited not only by the weather and the snow, that came very early in the Alps, but also by the food. I was relying on cheap meals, rich in sugar, not providing long-lasting energy and poor in ingredients. Subsequent expeditions brought a change for the better. I started to keep an eye on my nutrition and made even more difficult challenges. One of them was the last winter crossing of Polish mountains with Runtime meals.
Winter crossing of the Sudetes and Carpathian Mountains led entirely through Poland. It gave me a lot of comfort during the preparations, because could I rely only partly on things I bought on the way. A considerable amount of food and fuel for the stove was waiting for me in previously sent deposits, which were waiting for me every 6-7 days. This meant that I could choose the food I wanted and have it at each stage. The foundation were the freeze-dried meals for every evening and breakfasts, which were Runtime.GG meals.
What is Runtime?
At first glance, Runtime is a powdered meal. However, it is not simply a protein supplement used after workouts. It’s a complete formula, providing all necessary ingredients, including minerals and vitamins – simply a complete meal to be consumed after mixed with water or milk. You consume it in a semi-liquid form. They are light and give you energy – 2 portions, 800 kcal in total, were my every day breakfast during 1100 km-long expedition. Despite the small size, they gave me energy for the first 3-4 hours of the day.
What does such a meal consist of?
The “core” of this meal is the source of energy, 2 types of carbohydrates. The first one is maltodextrin. In your body it’s being digested quite quickly (glycemic index 80-100), providing boost of energy and a rapid increase of blood sugar level. It is present in popular among runners. Its disadvantage is the fast “crush” that you experience after consumption: in a short time, the reserves of sugar created in this way are exhausted and you feel fatigue caused by its deficiency.
The second is isomaltulose, which gives a prolonged energy effect. It raises sugar level much slower and thanks to its low glycemic index (about 30) it also maintains its level for a long time. The combination of these two carbohydrates gives a long and balanced energy boost.
You also get proteins, which provide much less energy, but are responsible for muscles creation and regeneration. In this case, Runtime includes easily assimilated whey proteins, with significant amount of leucine, which slows down the process of muscle fibre damage and supports regeneration. Runtime also contains a small amount of vegetable fats.
The whole is complemented by a set of vitamins and microelements. These components should rather be obtained from wholesome meals, hence the importance of a varied diet in the mountains. However, in a situation when my nutrition plan does not cover the full range of those components, Runtime act as their source very well.
Runtime – how do you eat it?
Runtime meals come in several varieties, but the most convenient for outdoor use is are 100-gram packs. I quickly learned that 2 packets, which provide me with 800 kcal, are a perfect and quick breakfast.
At home I still use them as an element of post-workout regeneration, an ingredient of shakes after the return of mountain runs. It also happens, although rarely, to be my mid-day meal when I lack the time to prepare something sensible or when travelling. Pouring one sachet with 300 ml is enough (so just over 0,5 liters for both). At home I use soy milk, in the field just water. The taste remains almost the same.
In mountain conditions I put 2 packets into one liter bottle, then I pour warm water and stir vigorously for 20-30 seconds. The result is pleasant drink. During my winter crossing of Polish mountains such quick meal was my first activity. Having prepared 2 meals, I’ve started packing and been drinking in the meantime. After emptying the bottle it was enough to rinse it with a small amount of water. You can also pour water directly into the bottle and drink it, or (if you decide to make it thicker) eat it with a spoon from the bag, similar to freeze-dried meals.
Interestingly, such a meal is filling, although its liquid consistency might not indicate that. And yet. Although I thought the liquid would just go through and leave my stomach empty, I was satiated after each one. I reached for my first bite after breakfast after about 3 hours, then snacking at rest stops every 1.5 to 2 hours.
Runtime as “emergency” meal
On particularly heavy days I would reach for an extra third serving, which gave me an afternoon “energy shot”. The “nighttime meals”, on the other hand, were an interesting phenomenon. At the end of my 1000 km trek the snow conditions became very demanding and I spent several hours every day cutting across thick powder. The amount of energy I expended was so high, that I happened to wake up in the middle of the night hungry! In such a moment Runtime, sometimes supplemented with an energy bar, became a perfect meal too. Having a water bottle in my sleeping bag I used it to pour a small packet. The result was a quick recovery drink made in 60 seconds, after which I went back to sleep.
A separate category and one of my primary snacks during the day, however, were Runtime Megabite chocolate bars. A very different product than meal, as it was created as a quick bite of energy. But with the same basic ingredients. With two types of carbohydrates and a portion of proteins, the energy bar alone was a small but valuable mid-day meal. Between a variety of snacks I had 2-3 bars of this type each day to thrown in.
Flavors to choose from
Runtime.GG is produced in several flavours. Which one to choose? You can’t judge anybody’s taste, although I have a few favorites. Certainly it is chocolate, coconut, coffee and the so-called “original”, which tastes like cookies. Matcha and fruit flavors are also worth trying and in fact, out of a dozen or so, I only have one that I didn’t really fancy (lime).
Eating 2 packs per meal, I matched them in pairs – but not always. Chocolate with banana or coffee with coconut are very good combinations and you are limited by your taste and creativity.
After the winter crossing
Planning the next expeditions, including the nearest, summer one, I already include Runtime in my preparations. First of all, I use it during workouts and mountain trainings, especially as a regeneration meal after hard runs in the high heart rate range. Planning the summer in high mountains, I’ll also include Runtime into my diet. First of all, as a morning meal, which will be sometimes exchanged with local products. Secondly – as meals before the summit pushes, when the appetite at high altitude will be completely gone and stomach will protest against anything heavy. And thirdly – as a regeneration after big efforts and descend from high summits.
Long distance hiker, traveler, photographer, guide. Lukasz has spent several years exploring mountain ranges and trails in Himalayas, Karakoram, Central Asia, Europe, Middle East, crossing of Alps and Pyrenees. Solo thru-hike of Carpathian Mts 2004. Thru-hike of Iranian Zagros 2014, Israel National Trail 2017 and Abraham Path 2018. Winter Iceland crossing 2020.