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I will go hiking for 10 days, and the food I get in the lodges on the way is practically all starch, wtih < 15 g protein per day. I did this once and felt terrible. So this time, I want to take my own protein, but in the logistically best way.

Normal foods are out of question, even beef jerky doesn't breach 40% protein, and I don't want to lug such a low density on my back for several days. Protein bars are in the area of jerky. So my ingredient of choice seems to be the protein powder used to make workout shakes (82% protein). I don't want to take the powder as-is, because it is hard to handle on the road.

What I want to do is to make my own protein bars with this powder, but with a much higher density than the store-bought ones. I want to mix it with the least possible amount of a gluing agent. The end result should

  • present no spilling danger (no liquid or powder)
  • need no special utensils to eat
  • have a long (at least 2 weeks) shelf life in a backpack under strong sunlight
  • preferably not require special packaging (so not too sticky, but this can be relaxed if the solution meets the other criteria)
  • not require any special equipment to produce (I don't have a dehydrator or such)
  • not cause me to gag (I don't insist on a pleasant taste, but I should be able to get it down)
  • have a really high protein density, in the best case over 70% (there are no other nutrition criteria; I am not worried by lots of carbs, E numbers, or lack of other essential nutrients)
  • can be conveniently prepackaged as single portions (maybe 30 g protein per portion)

It is OK if the stuff is so concentrated in taste and dry matter that I have to gulp down half a bottle of water with it.

Any ideas what ingredients and techniques can be used for a solution which comes closest to fulfilling above criteria?

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My mom used to make a sort of edible play-dough out of peanut butter and dried milk powder. You might be able to use the protein powder in place of the dried milk, but I don't know how well it'd hold up in the heat for two weeks. If the powder tastes nasty on its own, you might be able to roll it in a nut flour or ground coconut to help sweeten it up, otherwise, roll it in the powder as a final coat before packaging. –  Joe Jul 27 '11 at 20:11
    
Meringue cookies with a non-caloric sweetener (or sugar if you prefer) would fit everything but the convenient packaging. They're high protein and tasty, but since they're a lot of air, there would be considerable bulk. Still, you might enjoy a batch or two to snack on to help round out some other meals. –  DHayes Jul 28 '11 at 16:43
    
@dhayes Dried meringue will be reduced to powder in my backpack. But maybe home-made marshmallows with a low syrup concentration could work, I don't know how dry I can get them. Please make this an answer, it deserves an upvote. –  rumtscho Jul 28 '11 at 16:55
    
Hiking with lodges, that's not hiking? Bring a gun and shoot something tasty along the way. Most countries have "pest" animals of some sort that need population control –  TFD Jul 28 '11 at 22:36
    
@Joe the "edible play-dough" was a good idea, but it requires a ratio of at least 1:1 peanut butter to powder, resulting in less than 45% protein. At this concentration, I'd rather have jerky, at least it tastes well. However, I will remember the idea of PB with dried milk for future desserts. –  rumtscho Sep 24 '11 at 14:43

7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

What about simply baking meringues? They're basically dried egg white with mostly consists of protein (Egg white nutrition data). You can simply take with a few as long as you can manage to keep them dry.

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I ended up mixing protein powder with slightly beaten egg whites (not as stiff as for meringue) and than baking the moisture out of the mixture. The taste was not very pleasant, but it was efficient. I had to pack each portion in a separate ziplock bag, because the dry stuff broke a lot. –  rumtscho Sep 24 '11 at 14:39
    
I'd say you could add sugar to create a better taste although I don't know the taste of protein powder since I've never tried it. Protein powder is available with different tastes here which might also help. For transportation a plastic box could be used. The “Lock & Lock” system would probably be suitable. –  Augustus Kling Sep 25 '11 at 16:19

I normally make cookies using 1 cup almond butter, 1 egg, 1 c. sugar, perhaps you can substitute some of the sugar for protein powder and see how it goes? Now I'm somewhat interested in trying that myself!

According to nutrional data it looks like protein powder and egg whites have the most amount of protein in them, the list Foods highest in Protein may help.

Update: I ended up making a new batch of cookies, and they turned out great. Used 1c. almond butter, 1 egg, 3/4 c. double chocolate whey protein powder, 1/4 c. sugar 1 tsp baking soda. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. They are a bit soft, but hold together well and aren't too crumbly until eaten, they seem to hold better after they are a day old.

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Beef Jerky is the seminal high protein, long lasting, trekking food... Never tried making it, there's recipes on the web though (for example), and many places selling it.
I usually keep a few packets around the house for emergencies.

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Indeed, the jerky made from an entire flank steak will fit into a small sandwich bag or two. A person eating dried meat to supplement the starches and vegetables being provided shouldn't eat more than a quarter of a flank steak a day, so the volume of jerky is unlikely to exceed that of a Tshirt or two on a trip of 10 days. To me this is a "good enough" solution. –  Kate Gregory Aug 1 '11 at 18:32

You could try using dates as the "glue" -- yes, they're sticky, but much less so if you cut them with something (your protein powder, or ground nuts, or whatever). And they're easy to work with; I've made date/nut/fruit bars with a potato masher (although a food processor makes it much easier).

Then after shaping, dry as much as possible (consider using an oven < 200 F ?) to get the water content down to reduce spoilage.

You may need to add sugar as a preservative: if the sugar content is high enough, it should prevent bacteria+mold growth. I'm not sure what the minimum sugar content for that but I would guess it's less than 30%.

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If the problem with protein powder was just mixing it, consider finding a wide mouthed water bottle. I prep packets of powder ahead of time (if you can get the mini zip lock bags, they're perfect) and then dump them in, shake while I'm walking, then guzzle/sip at my leisure. Nalgene are my bottle of choice, but your local camping store will have lots of options to chose from. The trick is the lid should be as wide as the bottle itself (or nearly so) and most water bottles don't do that, making it a pain to mix things. If you have water at your trailheads and you like your protein, you can't really get any better than that :)

If the problem was you didn't like carrying powder, then feel free to disregard. :D

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How do you feel about dried fish?

The link above has various size packages along with both fillets and bite size as you prefer, and it comes in at 81.8% protein. It pretty much meets all of your criteria, aside from not knowing if you like fish jerky or not. Anecdotal information suggests that hardfiskur is one of Iceland's more palatable native foods to foreigners.

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I like the idea. There is the risk of taste incompatibility - I'm not much into sea food, although I eat the less strong tasting kinds of fish. The problem is the price - I can get them from ebay.co.uk for 66 GBP/kg incl. shipping, and this is half as much as I'm paying for the whole vacation. –  rumtscho Jul 28 '11 at 14:33

From the "long-life" point of view I'm thinking something fairly dry. From the storage and transport point of view I'm thinking a sort of biscuit or rusk type thing. Probably a very "heavy" one volume wise. You could add sugar to the recipe to make it palatable - I'm guessing that's not all bad for hiking.

Other typical ingredients would be flour, salt and liquid (milk, water, etc). Flavor as desired - I'm thinking probably nuts is in keeping with the protein requirement, however other flavorings may be physically lighter. Maybe eggs for binding.

I think you would need to experiment to get the flour content as low as possible, but still have it hold together suitable for transport. You might be able to use ground almonds instead of some of the flour - that will improve texture, flavor, and protein value.

It's not exactly a definitive answer I know but hopefully gives you some ideas to work with.

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I like the idea. Looks that commercial rusk has only 8% moisture. On the other hand, I don't know if I can get it that low. –  rumtscho Jul 28 '11 at 10:23

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