Appetite Loss at Altitude

Perry

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How many of you experience a loss of appetite when you are at high altitude? I just got back from a nine day stretch on the Highline Trail where both my brother and I had a real hard time eating the whole time. Neither of us had any other symptoms of high altitude sickness. My brother has never had any problems with altitude but I always get the usual headache and periodic breathing while trying to sleep. On this trip I took Diamox and was pleasantly surprised to have neither of these symptoms. Appetite was definitely a problem though.

Anyone else have this problem?


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Jackson

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Ya know, I never thought much about a correlation between the two. When I'm moving, I usually have a decent appetite, but once I get settled down in camp after a long day, food isn't quite as appealing to me.
 

Perry

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Altitude is the only thing we could chalk it up to. Every time we took a break to have a snack or tried to eat breakfast or dinner we kept questioning how come we weren't starving after hauling 50+ lb packs up over 12k passes. It was extremely puzzling and concerning that we were not eating anywhere the amount of calories we should have needed considering the effort. The proof was in the pudding though as soon as we got to Evanston we were totally hungry and had to make a stop at Legal Tender for a full meal.
 

LarryBoy

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There's definitely a correlation between increased altitude and decreased appetite, but I think the lion's share has to do with the fact that no backpacking food, no matter how delicious, is comparable to a burger. Mmmmm burgers...

...I lost my train of thought.
 

Venchka

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I concur. My first backpacking trip since forever. In 4 days in the 3 Forks area of the South San Juan Wilderness I didn't eat much. On the second day I went above 11,000', topped out at 12,200' on the third day, and went below 11,000' on the morning of the last day.
I then proceeded to murder the #1 Combo at The High Country Saloon in Chama, NM. A great place.
Wayne


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HomerJ

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I used to lose my appetite at altitude, so much so I had to kind of force my self to eat to keep my energy even though I didn't really feel hungry. I have noticed that my appetite is more normal now at altitude since I've lost a bunch of weight (45 lbs). I've also noticed that *most* of my skinnier friends (weighing around 150) eat like a starving teenager. For example, after hiking into Seneca Lake in the Winds my friend (weighs about 150) downed a 2 serving Mtn House and some snacks afterwards. I could barely eat half of my 2 serving Mtn House (we both had the lasagna that evening). In face, he suggested I try and eat it all to re-build my energy and that didn't go so well as it came back up. So I think your weight has something to do with it (along with a steep long hike too and a heavy pack).
 

WasatchWill

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The first few nights of our Highline trip, I experienced the same thing. Despite being real skinny myself like @HomerJ mentioned, finishing my 2 serving sized dinners was about as challenging as any of the passes we did. On the last couple of nights though, I was real good and hungry coming into camp and had no issue eating my 2 serving Mountain House meals those nights. In fact, those last few days, my appetite really took off. I had no trouble with my breakfasts on any of the days we were out though.

I've actually read that it is fairly normal for long distance thru-hikers to have a reduced appetite for up to 1 to 2 weeks when first starting out. After about 2 weeks on the trail, it's pretty standard that their appetite comes into full swing and they can't seem to ever be fully satisfied except when they hit a trail town and can get a real good meal. From there on, they just about constantly crave anything with calories in it. So, it may have just as much to do with just the strenuousness of all the miles being hiked as much as it does the altitude, which no doubt can play a big role too. I suppose that when combining lots of miles with higher elevation a reduced appetite can really take effect when starting out.
 

Perry

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Very interesting observations. It does seem that this is more common to one degree or another so I feel a bit better about it.

I had to find which foods I could eat and focus on those just so I was getting some calories. Most of the candy/cookie kinds of foods where the hardest to get down (Snickers, Lorna Doone, Fig Newtons, granola bars, etc). I found I could do most of the proteins like string cheese, jerky, pepperoni sticks, Slim Jims were okay. Twizzler Cherry Bites were actually very enjoyable but no fat there, just pure carbs, which I guess is better than nothing. MH breakfasts were *definitely* out.. like one more bite and that baby's coming right back up :( We had Steven's hot chocolate every night with dinner and that was never a problem. It did seem like on our last two nights we were able to eat MH dinners a bit better. So maybe with more time it would have gotten better.

Maybe I just worried about it too much. At may age (I'll be 58 in a couple of weeks) I just had visions of a starving heart and a subsequent heart attack (Yikes!) I'm definitely not lean by any stretch of the imagination but I did manage to loose almost 20 pounds training in the 4 1/2 months running up to the trip. I lost an additional six pounds on the trip putting me at 196. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens the next time I do a multi-day trip.
 

SKLund

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How many of you experience a loss of appetite when you are at high altitude? I just got back from a nine day stretch on the Highline Trail where both my brother and I had a real hard time eating the whole time. Neither of us had any other symptoms of high altitude sickness. My brother has never had any problems with altitude but I always get the usual headache and periodic breathing while trying to sleep. On this trip I took Diamox and was pleasantly surprised to have neither of these symptoms. Appetite was definitely a problem though.

Anyone else have this problem?


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Loss of appetite at altitude is a commonly observed and well documented symptom. It is very difficult to associate cause and effect in your situation because it is a statistical correlation with multiple causes depending upon the time spent at altitude. You indicate that you were taking Diamox. One of the side effects is appetite loss. Headache and trouble breathing, especially during sleep at altitude are symptoms of altitude sickness.
 

LarryBoy

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I've actually read that it is fairly normal for long distance thru-hikers to have a reduced appetite for up to 1 to 2 weeks when first starting out. After about 2 weeks on the trail, it's pretty standard that their appetite comes into full swing and they can't seem to ever be fully satisfied except when they hit a trail town and can get a real good meal. From there on, they just about constantly crave anything with calories in it. So, it may have just as much to do with just the strenuousness of all the miles being hiked as much as it does the altitude, which no doubt can play a big role too. I suppose that when combining lots of miles with higher elevation a reduced appetite can really take effect when starting out.
I never had any appetite reduction when starting out the AT (trivial elevation). But yes, the hiker hunger really kicks in after a week or two. After a month or so, you've more or less stabilized as an absolute black hole of food consumption.
 

piper01

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There's definitely a correlation between increased altitude and decreased appetite, but I think the lion's share has to do with the fact that no backpacking food, no matter how delicious, is comparable to a burger. Mmmmm burgers...

...I lost my train of thought.

I found your train...it's right over there by the fries. But yeah, part of the reason I don't feel like eating sometimes is because nothing sounds appetizing.
 

craigtd

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Dec 20, 2021
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How many of you experience a loss of appetite when you are at high altitude? I just got back from a nine day stretch on the Highline Trail where both my brother and I had a real hard time eating the whole time. Neither of us had any other symptoms of high altitude sickness. My brother has never had any problems with altitude but I always get the usual headache and periodic breathing while trying to sleep. On this trip I took Diamox and was pleasantly surprised to have neither of these symptoms. Appetite was definitely a problem though.

Anyone else have this problem?


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To all who posted on this appetite/altitude thing, same problem here. A little research produced this great finding; it will explain up 'till now that which was inexplicable to me too: https://bit.ly/3yKsT9s
 

Bob

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Everyone talks of 10000 11000 or 12000 feet..... Altitude sickness and or early symptoms can happen at 6000 ft. Don't be fooled. All in your party should be aware of others symptoms showing.
 

LarryBoy

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Everyone talks of 10000 11000 or 12000 feet..... Altitude sickness and or early symptoms can happen at 6000 ft. Don't be fooled. All in your party should be aware of others symptoms showing.
Long-term acclimatization is also a huge factor. I hiked with a bunch of CDT thru-hikers who got their butts kicked by the altitude in Colorado. Invariably, they lived in low-elevation places (say, Portland or Paris) and despite ample hiking experience, just hadn't spent a lot of time at altitude. Even after a month of gradually increasing altitude, they just didn't have as much long-term adaptation as someone who lives at 4,500' and regularly recreates at 10,000-13,000'.
 

Bob

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Long-term acclimatization is also a huge factor. I hiked with a bunch of CDT thru-hikers who got their butts kicked by the altitude in Colorado. Invariably, they lived in low-elevation places (say, Portland or Paris) and despite ample hiking experience, just hadn't spent a lot of time at altitude. Even after a month of gradually increasing altitude, they just didn't have as much long-term adaptation as someone who lives at 4,500' and regularly recreates at 10,000-13,000'.
Yep makes a difference.
 

regehr

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like a bunch of you I have severely decreased appetite when backpacking, especially on, but not limited to, high-elevation trips. I don't worry about it cause I'm like 20 pounds above target weight and I don't tend to do long trips. on recent trips I've packed quite a bit less food than my teenage son and he ends up eating like half my food anyhow.
 

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