Jen Segger is one tough cookie. She recently completed 17 laps of the Stawamus Chief, a summit in Squamish, British Columbia, with approximately 600 metres of elevation gain one way, in a period of 24 hours. Not only did she climb the equivalent of Mount Everest, but she also raised $15,000 for Girl in The Wild’s free confidence-building summer camps for teenage girls.
How does someone even contemplate pushing their body so hard? One important element is how you fuel your body to stay hydrated and ensure the proper nutrition. I chatted with Jen about what she eats during an adventure, her favourite go-to trail snacks and her partnership with XACT Nutrition.
Note: Conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m Squamish-based, 40 years old, and I’ve been doing endurance-based activities for the past 20 years. That ranges from ultra-marathons to mixed multi-sport adventure races. Anything long or endurance-based has been my focus. I’ve been an endurance coach for 15 years, working with people all over the world of all levels and training them. I’m also a certified ACMG guide and a mom.
I’m drawn to the full immersion in an outdoor experience for an extended amount of time. I love stepping out of regular daily life, away from technology and going deep into some place or seeing something new. Working through those challenges, it’s a rollercoaster from start to finish.
Q: As an adventurer, what importance does proper nutrition and hydration play in your outdoor pursuits?
Firstly, you’re going to enjoy the experience that much more when you’re fuelled and hydrated to be able to put out a good effort, but also to just be able to enjoy it! There’s nothing worse than embarking on something physical and not having enough food . . . your pace slows down; you feel terrible and you get a headache.
If you can be hydrated and fuelled going into it, and make sure you have the proper hydration and nutrition throughout the day, you’ll be able to focus on what you’re doing out there. You’re doing what you trained to do, moving faster, feeling good and you’ll be able to output better.
Q: How did you fuel up during your Stawamus Chief challenge?
During this 24-hour personal challenge, I started out early in the day staying on top of hydration and electrolytes, knowing it was going to get warm—and it did end up being the hottest day we’ve had yet. It was scorching at the top!
I knew from experience that as the hours ticked by, my body would start to reject a lot of fuel. Nothing really seemed appealing; exercise is an appetite suppressant. Having a variety of foods got me through.
Early on, I started with some of XACT's Energy fruit bars. I got in electrolyte drinks and one XACT Protein. My laps were taking just over an hour; I was aiming to get about 200 calories in per lap. My crew would present me with a mix of things: potatoes with salt and butter; shots of Coke; bananas. Later, I turned to grapes, coconut water, ham-and-cheese sandwiches, sourdough bread with butter and honey, smoothies and apples. I try to eat from start to finish. Even with three hours left to go, you still have to fuel to finish strong.
Fuelling is individual. Start by practising in your training and see what works for your body. You might realize you have desires for different textures and flavours at different times. What works early on is so different from what can work later. If you’re gearing up for a big backpacking mission, play with fuel on a day hike to see what works and what’s easy to get in.
Q: What are your favourite Xact Nutrition products for outdoor adventures?
I was going across the Arctic on a fat biking adventure, and we were looking for calorie-dense fuel that wouldn’t freeze. The fruit bars fuelled us throughout the day. I’m not a huge gel fan—if anything, I’d choose honey—but these bars give a super quick pick-up.
XACT has really good ingredients. They’re not focused on a whole ton of products; they focus on doing what they do really well. Each of their products has a specific place in how you fuel. I love the protein bars—to me it’s like a KitKat. They’re so easy to get down. I have to guard them from people in my house because my child and husband just want to eat them all the time! Everyone has to try it. The new vanilla one is my favourite.
The electrolytes are really mild in taste. When it comes to hydration, you want low carbohydrates, something in that one to four per cent range, because higher will lead to GI issues. I’m not looking for liquid calories—that’s a great way to get stomach aches.
It doesn’t matter if you’re paddling or hiking, if you’re sweating, you’re losing electrolytes. When I’m in the mountains and I’m filling up my bottle with cold, glacier-fed water, a lemon electrolyte tab to it is amazing—cold lemon taste out there on a hot day is so good. There’s a plain flavour if you want a very mild taste.
XACT Nutrition started with one idea: there has to be a better-tasting alternative to an energy gel. Our passion for food and sports led us to create products that work using natural ingredients that taste good.