Finding information on performance kibbles can be overwhelming and the most obvious ones such as Purina and Redpaw routinely sponsor athletes and elites or offer discount programs for breeders as well as large kennel facilities. Also, not all the brands offer the same information.
It is said that a hiker should have about a calorie density of about 5 kCal/g which means typical backpacker’s meal need to be about 30-40% fat. Since protein and carbohydrate are 4 kCal per pgram, they are not a very efficient source of energy. Fat has more calorie than protein and carbohydrate combined at 9 kCal per gram.
Unsurprisingly online, there is is a bit of a rabble about low-carbohydrate diet and athleticism. This lends itself to some pretty gruesome meals which most weekend warriors do not want to touch such as drinking olive oil and heavy cream shakes. Competitive people, on the other hand, will do whatever it takes to cross the finish line.
Similarly, one shouldn’t be surprised which dog food which also increases in fat percentage as calorie density goes up. It is said by the Inuits sled dogs not fed blubbers are poor runners. Similarly, Russian aboriginals are known to sustain their dogs almost entirely on frozen fish.
Unfortunately, aside from AAFCO and FEDIAF protocols, there is no real standard. The only things regulated are the following labels: Puppy/Reproduction, Adult Maintenance, and Light or Low Calorie. “All Life Stages” are essentially puppy kibbles due to the guidelines. As a catch-all phrase, the Adult Maintenance food is disguised as kibbles for dieting. There are no regulations in regard to what constitute as “Senior”, “Large Breed”, “Performance” or any of the other trendy phrases on the market.
Some manufacturers include calories from carbohydrates, others only calculate derived from fat and protein while a select few actually has the resources to examine metabolism in a laboratory setting. Results vary quite a bit. For this reason, breaking down the percentage of each macronutrient become crucial.
There are a few caveats: large corporations much despised by dedicated dog owners such as Iams, Eukanuba, Royal Canin and NutriSource often have much more accurate nutritional analyses. Paradoxically, going low carbohydrate does increase the calorie density of the products up to a point where the trade-offs are often diarrhea and kidney problems. Since high-protein diets such as EVO, Orijen, Solid Gold and Wellness CORE are popular, let’s stack them against other competitors.
Let us set the bar at dry kibbles which do not need to be rehydrated. Dehydrated foods are popular in the raw feeding community amongst campers, but hikers will quickly find dehydrated raw foods are not that great nutritionally when space in the rucksack becomes a premium. Kibbles, by far, are the most calorie-dense of all the commercial dog foods ideal for backpacking or long distance hiking. Canned food are bulky, heavy and must be packed out, and wet foods or raw do not keep for long outside the refrigerator.
Popular brands for performance-bred dogs with inconsistent calculations such as Black Gold and Sportmix are excluded. Claims of high-calorie density with less than 15% fat, such as Ol’ Roy, are also not listed here. Puppy kibbles are largely not included even though they are often used as substitutes in absent of high-quality performance kibbles. When one compares brands, puppy kibbles are the highest in protein and fats.
Here are some of the brands which are popular in mushing, hunting, agility and other dog sports:
|Brand||Product||Calories (kCal/kg)||Protein (%)||Fat (%)||Fibre (%)|
|Acana||Sport & Agility||3505||35||24||4.0|
|Diamond Naturals||Extreme Athlete||4710||32||25||4.0|
|Dr. Tim’s||Kinesis Grain-Free||3750||32||18||3.0|
|Eagle Pack||Power Adult||3840||30||19||4.5|
|EVO||Herring & Salmon||3821||43||18||3.0|
|EVO||Red Meat Formula||3976||44||24||0.4|
|EVO||Turkey & Chicken||4051||48||22||0.6|
|Kobuk||Young and Active||4100||28||18||2.0|
|Members’ Mark||Exceed Performance||————||30||20||4.0|
|Native||Level 3 Puppy||3900||30||20||3.5|
|Purina||ProPlan Active 26/16||3919||26||16||3.0|
|Purina||ProPlan Active 28/18||4160||28||18||3.0|
|Purina||ProPlan Performance 30/20||4178||30||20||3.0|
|Purina||ProPlan Performance 30/20 – Salmon and Rice||4250||30||20||3.0|
|Royal Canin||PRO Endurance 4800||4346||30||28||3.8|
|Solid Gold||Barking at the Moon||3855||41||20||4.0|
|Victor||Nutra Pro 38||3909||38||18||3.5|
|Wellness CORE||Grain-Free Ocean||3630||34||16||6.0|
|Wellness CORE||Grain-Free Original||3660||34||16||4.0|
|Wellness CORE||Grain-Free Wild Game||3734||34||18||6.0|
Disclaimer: Formulas and their nutritional compositions are often affected by food shortages and price crises. Do not expect the values to remain the same and always check the bag before purchasing. Some products on the list are left blank because neither wholesalers nor manufacturers list them on their websites. Please contact them directly for more information.
Only the fibre, fat percentage, calories and protein percentages are counted since those data are the only sets consistent across all the brands. Besides, comparatively speaking, our bodies value macronutrients more than micronutrients in times of stress. The micro are important for preventing illness, boosting the immune system and so on, yet they don’t seem to have a significant factor during crunch time; unless one is neck to neck with another athlete in a competitive sport.
As one can see, the most popular performance kibbles have a baseline of 30% protein, 20% fat, and 3 800 kCal/kg. As we go up the calorie density gradient, the higher the fat and protein ratios tend to be. There is a catch, however, as we migrate into the high 30s and low 40s for protein, one begins to find reports of kidney and bladder issues which suggest dogs, at least in the average pet homes, are not utilizing the excess and are passing it through the urine.
Ironically, grain-free kibbles also tend to have higher calories except for fish-based recipes which explain why obesity is a problem with most pet dogs today. One should feed their dogs moderately and only feed liberally when required.
Ideally Manufacturer’s Recommended Sale Price would be posted as not everyone has a wad of cash upfront. Unfortunately, those who are better off end up saving more money in the long run due to the value per 100 kCal. We would need to contact all the manufacturers on the list for a wholesale pricepoint in United States Dollar to fairly compare them.
Please do not take the list as the words of God. Each bag has varying micronutrients which can lead to either malnutrition either in the form of undernutrition or overnutrition. Some of the companies on the list have been questioned for zinc toxicity and other vitamins. The table is meant to give an idea how calories are derived from macronutrients and how each brand stack up with one another.