Rock climbers know that nutrition and diet have a lot to do with athletic performance.
But with all the conflicting information out there — is coffee good for you? Bad? Should I skip the fats altogether? — It can be hard to know what to put in our bodies.
At the end of the day, proper nutrition is very individualistic.
While we can offer some tips and guidelines, be sure to listen to your body and your needs. Some people have a sensitivity to gluten, for example, while others may benefit from a small sugar intake. Some people drink coffee daily (and therefore should the day of a climb) while others stay away from it.
So, let’s take a bite out of this essential question. What should climbers eat pre-climb?
High-Carb Meals and Snacks
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for rock climbing and athletic performance in general.
They single-handedly power our exercise. For shorter, more intense climbs, consider carbs that digest quickly — such as bananas, fruits, sweet potatoes, bagels. For longer, less intense climbs, consider the opposite (slower-digesting carbs) — whole-grain bread, quinoa, brown rice, lentils.
These foods spike your blood sugar levels, giving you more energy, and restore your muscles’ glycogen supply.
Avoid Fats Pre-Climb
Since fats take longer to digest, it’s best to avoid them before a climb sesh.
This may leave you feeling too full mid-climb and could even increase your urge to use the bathroom. High-fat foods like avocados stimulate digestion, which could lead to cramping or discomfort.
If that’s the only thing you’ve got available, eat it in small doses — like a tablespoon of peanut butter combined with carbohydrates, like an apple.
Protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery.
Try to mix your high-carb snacks or meals with a low to moderate amount of protein.
This not only aids in your muscle’s growth and recovery pre- and post-climb, but it can be a source of energy, too. This essentially improves your strength and prevents detrimental muscle breakdown.
Try having two eggs, a few ounces of turkey or chicken breast, or a scoop of protein powder in a smoothie.
Eating at the wrong time is one mistake climbers should try to avoid.
We’ve mentioned avoiding high-fat foods. However, if you’ve already had your meal and you still want to climb, try to wait for at least one to two hours before getting on the wall.
The same goes for your high-carb meals, too.
Give them the opportunity to digest and make their way into your system. Try to wait at least one hour before an intense climb sesh.
Small snacks, like jerky or bars, are appropriate thirty minutes before a climb.
Rock Climbers: We Gotta Eat!
Remember — not only is what you eat important, but when you eat it matters, too.
Try to avoid eating directly before an intense climb. Similarly, don’t avoid eating, either. Your body needs a source of energy to allow you to excel at sending that route.
A great diet is only one of many essentials for rock climbers.
Click here for a checklist of everything else you’ll need, whether at the crag or at your local gym!