Food as Fuel

Food as Fuel

Season 2 Episode 5

Food as Fuel

UTTS: S2:E5: Food as Fuel W/ TINA LABOY



Whether you see birds darting in and out of the tree canopy above…


…or small animals rustling through the leaf litter below… each is on a singular mission—a biological imperative—to locate and consume adequate sustenance to not just survive but to thrive.

By observing wildlife, we begin to understand that by nourishing our bodies we may fully enjoy and sustain an active and rewarding outdoor lifestyle.

Just like the wildlife we view at Texas State Parks or even in our own backyards —if we’re expending energy outdoors, then we need the best fuel available to keep us healthy, alert and on our game.

You might wonder if easy-to-transport, sugary, fast-acting high-carb calories in boxed and bagged convenience foods fit the bill.

[TINA LABOY] If that’s what you’re going for…cool.

We’re talking with her today about feeding our bodies for optimal outdoor output.

[TINA] I’m Tina Laboy. I’m your anti-diet dietician. That’s me in a nutshell.

And—as long as you’re not allergic—nuts are a healthy source of slow-release energy for outdoor endeavors. C’mon—can millions of squirrels be wrong?


Food as fuel for outdoor fun…that’s coming up on the podcast.

Stay with us.


From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.


So, tell me: what is food?


[TINA] That’s a complicated question Food is a lot. I mean, food is culture. Food is family. Food is enjoyment. Food is fuel…

Tina Laboy is a dietician who practices in Austin, Texas. We got together for an interview late last year on a cool, crisp fall afternoon at McKinney Falls State Park.

[TINA] When I moved here last May, this is one of the very first places we came. So, yeah, when I was pulling up here to meet you, I was like: This is amazing. I love it. Full-circle here.

We sat at a picnic table outside the park’s dining hall, surrounded by tall leafy trees, bird songs and a few too many bugs. We were there to talk about the importance of fueling our bodies with energy-sustaining foods when our plans take us outdoors. And this isn’t just theory for Tina.

[TINA] Yeah. One of my favorite things to do is go camping. I’m a car camper. We have a full camp kitchen, and we’re bringing the works there. We’re bringing snacks, we’re bringing meals, and all the tools to be able to support that.

Tina, a millennial, is strong and lean; she’s also an endurance runner and avid hiker—so keeping a well-stocked campsite pantry helps her to sustain an intense level of physical activity when outdoors. Of course, you don’t have to bring “the works” with you on your next park outing, but Tina recommends striving for what she calls “nutritional balance” to fuel your forays.

[TINA] The briefest education I could possibly give is having macro balance. So, what that really means is incorporating a balanced amount of carbohydrates, incorporating a balanced amount of proteins and fats; and then I add in color. Our magic one over here is hydration—that’s, like super important—but if we’re talking about food specific, those are kind of the three categories. And so, with that you want to incorporate a variety of all those things. And so, being a non-diet dietician, some people are like: ‘Oh, I’m gluten-free. And I don’t want to do that…’ I’m like—whatever floats your boat. It doesn’t matter, if that’s the road you want to go down, but make sure you’re getting in a variety: you know, get in a variety of carbs, a variety of proteins and a variety of fats. And then add in your fruits and veggies through that color.


If we’re honest—and no judgements here—the kinds of snacks most of us pack when we head outdoors usually consist of bags of highly processed cookies and pretzels and granola bars and other easy to carry snacks. Those things might stave off hunger and keep energy up for a while, but…

[TINA] They’re not sustaining. Yeah. So, I think, when you’re going out for something—let’s say you’re going for a nice stroll in this beautiful place—I’m always pretending to be the snack fairy… I will always have something with me. Because you just never know. You never know what your body is going to be communicating. And even if you’re like:

‘Eh…it’s just a walk. Who cares?’ I mean, your body does. So, bringing something that is a little bit more sustained… So, we have things like cookies and pretzels and things like that. Which, yeah, they’re great food and I don’t judge them, but when we look at the perspective of moving: those are simple carbohydrates; you know, they…they are digested quickly. So, I call that a quick snack. It is going to go into your body and be used really quickly, and your body’s going to tell you, ‘Yep. I need energy again,’ probably relatively soon.

But, most of the time we’re looking for something that’s a little bit more sustained. And so, that would be something—again—with that macro-balance of the carb, protein, fat. So, some of my favorites are like a trail mix, where it’s having nuts, where you get those proteins and fats, and then maybe some dried fruit or fun piece s in there that’s giving you, you know, some color.

Um…different bars of some sort. I mean, we…nowadays we live in this like crazy world of bars, where you basically walk into a store and there’s a hundred bars you can choose from. So, really just making sure that you’re getting something with that balance of carb-protein-fat. Unless, you’re wanting that quick snack purpose, which then you’re mostly just getting like a granola bar or something along those lines.

There’s no way to talk about food as fuel without also addressing the vital role hydration plays in an active outdoor lifestyle. But here’s the question: is water enough?

[TINA] Water just isn’t really necessarily going to cut it all the time. Actual hydration means making sure that your body is replenished. And so that means electrolytes as well. So, we can be liquid hydrated through water, but our body not getting sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium…all those really important electrolytes that we don’t even really think about.

And, so, there’s a lot of different options for that. One of my favorites…I don’t want…I’m not like endorsing anybody, but these are just like personal preferences…The Nuun…the n-u-u-n…or the none tabs. I don’t even know how to say it. But I like them. And, so they’re little like fizzy tabs…


…that you put in your water and it fizzes up and its full of electrolytes. There’s also like Trailwind… As an endurance runner, those are kind of two electrolytes that I use.

You could also use something like a Gatorade and, maybe if you’re not looking for something that’s THAT kind of sweet, then maybe you water it down a little bit. But electrolytes are super important.


Here’s a quick tip: you can make your own electrolyte drink from ingredients you may already have on hand. In a quart of water, add the juice of a fresh lemon, a half teaspoon of sea salt…


…shake it up and drink it up. You can also put a little honey in it if you prefer.


As for me—I like this drink on the savory side, so I make it in a blender and add a peeled garlic clove, a splash of olive oil…


…and whizz it all up. It’s a little like drinking a watered-down vinaigrette. It’s tasty—try it.


This is Under the Texas Sky from Texas Parks and Wildlife…a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.


Imagine taking a hike at a Texas state park… natural area…or wildlife management area… and halfway down a long, hilly, winding trail you poop out because you feel depleted.

Turning back would take as much effort as going forward. Here’s what you do: find a place to sit and rest.

If you planned ahead, this is the time to pull out that snack you packed; hopefully something with balanced macronutrients along with a bottle of water or an electrolyte drink.

But, registered dietician and endurance runner, Tina Laboy of Austin, says the real time to act on both hydrating and fueling our bodies starts long before we ever set foot on a trail.

[TINA] So, this is one of those things—like it’s a lead up. It’s not even like—that day—I’m only going to think about that day. Because, your body is functioning over a period of time, you know? So, make sure you’re getting enough hydration daily in the week before you’re engaging in activities. So, kind of a basic standard—and again this is so basic it’s not individualized at all but, it’s two liters for women and three liters for men.

[CECILIA] Daily?

[TINA] Daily. Yes. And most people are like: ‘Oh my goodness.’ And that doesn’t include diuretic type beverages. So, if we’re looking at coffee or things like that…yes, it’s still liquid, but it’s also making you go to the bathroom more. So, if you’re going to go out on a hike, if you’re going to come out on the trail, make sure you’re hydrating yourself leading up to that... Day of—you know, it depends on how long you’ve been awake or whatnot.

But I would always make sure that you’re taking in around one to two cups of liquid at a meal. One cup at a snack. And if you’re doing that, you’re going to get relatively close to that recommendation.


Um, if you’re going on a longer hike, and you need something that’s going to sustain you, I would really recommend having a substantial meal, but then giving your body time to digest a little bit. We’re not saying, hey, go have a really hardy breakfast and then twenty minutes later come out on the trail and start jumbling around. I don’t want things coming out the wrong way. We want it to stay down so it nourishes your body. But, um, you know, having something so like…


One of my favorite breakfasts—I love eggs. So, like having eggs and some nice toast…and avocado…and maybe you’re making and omelet with veggies…or you have some fruit on the side. And then listening to your hunger/fullness… That would be great.

And then, really packing those snacks. Making sure that you have something available, but not skimping it. So, I overpack. I’m an over-packer. In all areas. Travel. Whatever. But, especially with snacks. I always have extra snacks, because you just never know. What if you were out on the trail and you’re like I am very lost? It can happen. So, maybe not here, but it can. You never want to be left alone without any food. Yeah.

[CECILIA] Amen, sister.

[TINA] Yeah…yeah.

[CECILIA] {laughs}

So, be like the wildlife you love to watch…nourish your body with good wholesome food and drink to sustain your energy levels when you’re outdoors.

Non-diet dietician, Tina Laboy of Austin also has her own podcast called Mom Genes, the Podcast. Genes is spelled G-e-n-e-s. It’s where she and her co-host Rachel Coleman say: Finding the right jeans is hard. Accepting your genes is harder. Check ‘em out at


If you’re sticking close to home and are up for something more substantial than a snack, go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and search for wild game recipes.

You’ll find recipes for Redfish Fried Three Ways, Duck Yakatori, Grilled Venison Loin with Horseradish cream, among others. These recipes don’t disappoint.

While we’re on the subject of tasty treats--what’s your favorite trail snack or wild game recipe? We’d love to know. Just go to the Get Involved tab at, send us a message and we’ll be in touch.


And so, we come to the end of another podcast. Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife and is available at or wherever you get your podcasts.

We record the podcast at The Block House in Austin, Texas. Joel Block does our sound design.

We receive distribution and web help from Susan Griswold and Benjamin Kailing.

I’m your producer and host, Cecilia Nasti, reminding you that life’s better outside when you’re Under the Texas Sky.

Join us again next time for Under the Texas Sky.

[TINA LABOY] I’m always pretending to be the snack fairy. I will always have something with me. Because you just never know.