For every athlete, diet remains a focal issue, and they never take it lightly. This is because the climbing diet has a long-term effect on the body’s shape to withstand the physical rigors of sports.
For rock climbing, this can not be more true. An activity that requires a great deal of energy, rock climbing requires climbers to be in the best shape, especially when battling challenging terrains.
As a result, climbers have sought to keep to a strict climbing diet to ensure they remain fit all year round.
For climbers who engage in rock climbing for recreation, diet, and nutrition, importance diminishes as soon as their climbing obsession has been doused.
But for full-time competitive rock climbers, who continue to smash records with heights they scale, climbing diet and nutrition are as crucial as their tireless training.
But the variety in diets and the unique health nature of each climber make the issue of diet and nutrition for rock climbing a conundrum, budding beginner climbers face.
Climbing Apex has sought to settle doubts about rock climbing diet and nutrition by considering the diet of famous rock climbers, foods every rock climber should avoid, and recommended rock climbing meals before climbing, during, and long after climbing.
What do Famous Rock Climbers Eat?
It’s only fair to review the diet of some famous rock climbers with astounding achievements in other to settle the endless questions regarding rock climbing diet and nutrition.
What does Alex Honnold Eat?
Arguably the most excellent climber of his generation, Alex Honnold holds the record for the fastest scaling of the Yosemite triple crown, which he completed in 18 hours, 50 minutes.
The climber, who is the only climber in history to solo climber, the El Capitan, dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley, to fully embrace climbing.
Honnold is an environmentally conscious individual, as seen from his Honnold foundation founded in 2012, and hence in other to reduce his carbon footprint, he has stuck to a vegetarian diet.
Honnold avoids eating dairy products, except for cheese and odd mac. Honnold recommends eating light meals before climbing.
On days he climbs for hours, he begins the day by eating a large breakfast, rich in carbohydrates, and continues with snacks until he concludes climbing.
On a typical day, Alex Honnold diet goes this;
- Muesli with flax meal, banana, hemp milk.
- On-the-wall snacks
- Avocado sandwich (fresh avocado on bread)
- Macaroni and cheese with spinach
- Red peppers
- and yellow squash, topped with pumpkin seeds.
What does Ashima Shiraishi Eat?
In the climbing world, Ashima Shiraishi is the next big thing. This isn’t surprising as the young climbing prodigy who has been climbing since she was six years old has recorded multiple astounding feats.
These fears include being the youngest climber to ascend a 5.14d/5.15a (9a/9a+) route, which she did at the age of 13, and becoming the first female climber to climb Japan’s Mount Hiei, Horizon, a Hueco Scale V15 route, which she did at the age of 16.
In stark contrast to Alex Honnold, Ashima Shiraishi prefers climbing with an empty stomach. This s because she says, “I hate the feeling like I ate a lot and my stomach is all over the place.
I usually eat more right after the climb to get energy back.” But on days, she isn’t up for scaling towering heights.
Ashima Shiraishi’s diet typically is this;
- Toast with peanut butter and honey
- Pasta with marinara, zucchini
- Almonds, pistachios
- Chocolate Hazelnut CLIF Nut Butter Filled Energy Bar
What does Adam Ondra Eat?
For climbing enthusiasts, Alex Ondra is the best competitive climber of his generation, and he has proven this with several historic accomplishments.
The climber specializing in lead climbing and bouldering became the first climber to claim World Championship titles in both disciplines in 2014 and won the World Series.
Of all his accomplishments, the most recognized to date is successfully ascending the Silence route, located in the Hanshelleren Cave in Flatanger, Norway.
The route is one of the most challenging climbing routes globally, and Ondra made history by scaling it. Ondra, who is currently preparing for the Summer Olympics, says his diet is primarily Chinese medicine.
Typically, Ondra’s climbing diet consists of;
- Beans, cereals, legumes, steamed or baked vegetables, whole-grained cereals.
- He adds cumin and curcumin to his diet to aid digestion.
- During the winter, Ondra says he avoids eating vegetables and raw fruits.
- He also wants high-quality chicken and fish.
This is typically what Adam Ondra eats. But he reveals that he avoids eating sugar, white flour, and dairy.
From the diets of three famous rock climbers, we can perfectly deduce the sort of means famous rock climbers eat.
There may not be an exact climbing diet you have to follow, but what matters is your body’s nutrie nts derived from your diet.
Going ahead with the climbing diet of the above-listed climbers may work well for you, but if you’re allergic to a particular food, you most likely have to reconsider.
Whatever you choose to take, ensure your climbing diet consists of calcium, protein, and iron in reasonable amounts. Vitamin, and minerals such as omega-3s, zinc, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B-12, should also be included in your climbing diet.
Vegetarians may find it challenging to meet these nutritional recommendations, but with the addition of supplements, well-planned foods, and fortified foods, you’re good to go.
Food Rock Climbers Should Avoid
Blacklisting certain foods for climbers is undoubtedly not the way to discourage climbers from eating a particular food.
Climbers are at liberty to eat what they prefer, as long as there are no side effects from allergies. But, to be in great shape during climbing, it is best climbers avoid eating specific means before climbing.
These foods include:
You’ll notice from the diets of Alex Honnold, and Adam Ondra (with exception to cheese and odd mac in Alex Honnold’s case) diary products are completely avoided. This is because most people are sensitive to dairy products. So it is best it’s avoided before climbing.
For some, spicy food is gladly embraced. If you are among the few who enjoy it, it is best it is avoided before climbing. This is because you risk having heartburn while climbing.
As sweet as they are in your food, they can cause stomach upset, which you will agree, is greatly inconvenient when climbing.
Overly Processed Food
Most overly Processed Food serves to do justice to your cravings and doesn’t contribute meaningfully to your nutrition. Rather, they most like would result in a blood sugar level spike, and fatigue.
For climbers who prefer eating beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, thus particularly for you. Gassy Food would mostly result in flatulence, and intestinal discomfort, which would inconvenience you and cost you embarrassment while climbing.
Just the right amount of sugar in your food is needed, but if you opt for anything extra, you will get a temporary boost at the moment. But you will have to pay for that with a “crash” later on.
Fibers are recommended for climbers, but only in the right amount. Anything past the normal would result in stomach upset.
Before climbing is the worst time to ingest carbonated beverages. This is mainly because carbonation would leave air bubbles in your stomach which can cause stomach distress.
The right amount of fat is just what is needed. Anything extra would result in stomach distress and being unnecessarily slow.
When you need your body to be in its best shape, you will agree that anything that doesn’t contribute to that is not needed. Hence drop candy and sweets.
Alcohol boast of dehydrating and diuretic properties, which are not the ideal properties needed during climbing. Also, climbing while under the influence of alcohol can be devastating.
Rock Climbing Nutrition
As a believer and fierce supporter of variety, I do not necessarily subscribe to the idea that climbers should follow a specific climbing diet plan.
I believe what’s important are nutrients in your diets, and any meal that could give you their nutrients is just what is needed.
However, I do understand that some climbers prefer a recommended climbing diet plan. As a result, this section would be in two-part.
One indicates the needed nutrients climbers need in their diets, and the other is a detailed plan on climbing diet as recommended by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and rock climber.
Whatever you choose to eat, ensure your diet contains the nutrients discussed in detail, in the right proportion.
In any diet rock climbers eat, protein ranks as the single most important nutrient. This is because protein gives climbers increased strength and endurance, which helps in maximizing their performance.
Protein also is needed as it helps climbers build and maintain lean body tissue. A well-planned protein intake regimen must be planned for climbers who are vegans or are on vegetative diets.
Now that it has been established that protein is required in the diets of rock climbers, that begs the question, just how much protein is required in a rock climber’s diet?
Every climber must know just how much protein the body requires because a high-protein diet would provide energy, with nothing left for muscle building.
Also, a high protein diet would be working against a healthy balanced diet, which the body requires. Knowing the right amount of protein a climber needs largely depends on the climber’s body size, weight, age, energy intake rate, and exercise intensity.
You may seem confused at all this, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Also, one factor that largely influences a climber’s body intake is the climber’s goal.
The protein intake a climber who is focused on having more strength requires is different from that of a climber who is focused on improved endurance.
Climbers who are focused on having more strength while climbing typically need 1.2 – 1.7 grams of protein for every kilogram of the climber’s body weight.
This is largely needed by climbers who engage in bouldering, as strength is mostly required. Climbers who are focused on improved endurance require 1.2 – 1.4 grams of protein for each kilogram of the climber’s body weight.
This is largely needed by climbers who engage in lead climbing, sports climbing, free solo climbing, free climbing, and multi-pitch climbing.
Calculating the amount of protein your body needs as a rock climber is simple maths discussed in detail below.
- Say a climber weighs 160 pounds.
- Begin by converting the climber’s weight to kilograms.
- That can easily be done by dividing 160 by 2.2, which gives approximately 73 kg.
- Multiply 73 by 1.2 grams which gives 88 grams of protein per day (lower limit).
- For the upper limit of protein, the climber requires, multiply 73 by 1.7.
- That will yield 124 grams of protein required by the climber.
- So, based on the quick maths we did, a climber who weighs 160 pounds requires between 88 and 124 grams of protein each day.
- 88 – 124 grams of protein each day may seem like a lot, but it is pretty close to what you have been taking each day.
Hence, you don’t necessarily have to make major changes to your climbing diet.
Consuming 88 – 124 grams of protein at once would not be practical, hence to effectively take as much protein as this, you’ll have to supplement what you take during meals with your snacks.
The body does not store extra protein; hence, you can replenish your supply of protein every 3 -4 hours.
It would be best if you also spaced your protein intake out in this manner.
- During breakfast, take between 20 – 30 grams of protein,
- Take 20 during lunch.
- For dinner, take between 20 – 30 grams of protein
- While about 20grams of protein can also be taken in snacks during the day.
You may be clueless as to what meals can give as much as 20 – 30 grams of protein.
Well, here are some examples;
- 2 slices of cheese with crackers
- 2-4 oz of chicken (a medium-sized chicken breast would do)
- 2-3 hard-boiled eggs
- Crackers, apples, and celery, along with 4 tablespoons of peanut butter (high in calories)
- 3/4 cup cottage cheese along with fruits
- Chocolate Milk – 2 Cups
- Protein Powder mixed with yogurt, oatmeal, smoothie or protein shake, water, and water. (2 spoons would do)
- 3 oz can of tuna with crackers
Protein Supplements can be added for convenience, but it’s recommended you get your proteins from food. However, on days you do prefer protein supplements for convenience, useful protein supplements you should try to include
Recommended protein bars include;
Keep in mind that it is best you get proteins from food rather than supplements. Protein Supplements are best for convenience. Also, keep in mind that consuming extra protein supplements equates to wastage, as the body does not store extra protein.
Consuming proteins alone won’t get your body in the right shape to keep fit for climbing. Hence, it would be best if you combined your protein intake with a healthy diet that includes other nutrients such as;
Rice, oatmeal, wheat bread, quinoa would provide the right amount of protein needed. Do not consume too much pasta, candy, crackers, and overly processed food, as they are not healthy.
Try out lean protein such as fish, red meats, seeds, and nuts.
Avocados, fatty fish, olive oil would provide your busy with unsaturated fats, which are greatly needed. Limit consumption of saturated fats, such as butter, cheese, cream, and pork.
Below is a one-day food plan for rock climbers
- A cup of oatmeal mixed with cinnamon
- flax seeds
- and raisins
- alongside protein shakes with a scoop of protein powder
- Snack: Apple with small with a handful of nuts
- A cup of rice,
- ½ cup of black beans
- 3 oz of shredded chicken
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/2 tomato
- 1/2 cup of veggies along with a cup of leafy green.
- Snacks: 6 whole-wheat crackers with banana and string cheese.
- A medium-sized sweet potato (baked)
- A cup of roasted veggies with hummus
- and 3 oz salmon.
Ensure you drink plenty of water during the day.
A day food plan for Vegan rock climbing diet
- A cup of oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, and flax seeds, along with a scoop of vegan protein powder
- and protein shakes.
- Snacks: Apple and a handful of nuts.
- 1/2 cup of TVP
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/2 cup of black beans
- 1 cup of quinoa
- 1/2 cup of veggies
- a handful of blue-corn tortilla chips (crushed).
- Banana along with edamame snacks.
- A medium-sized sweet potato (baked)
- a cup of roasted veggies
- and 1/2 cup of roasted tofu.
To get a detailed weekly plan for rock climbers, check here.
What to eat pre-climb, mid-climb, and post-climb
What to Eat Before Rock Climbing
You probably have heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important good of the day.” That saying applies the most when it comes to rock climbing.
Before you engage in a day of rigorous climbing, it is integral that you fuel your body with the right amount of energy to ensure you remain in great shape during the day.
Before you engage in climbing, you should treat yourself to a healthy breakfast about 1 – 2 hours before your climbing session.
Earlier, we discussed how vital protein is to a climber’s diet, but as you prepare to climb, limit your protein, as it’ll cause flatulence which could be embarrassing.
Ensure your breakfast is rich in carbohydrates mainly, but not without other nutrients such as lean protein, vitamins.
Feel free to start your day with some pancakes, oatmeal, a green smoothie, one hard-boiled egg, along with fruits. You could also opt for peanut butter, toast, a sandwich, and a banana.
Whole wheat cereal, toast, veggie omelet, milk, and fruits will also do. You could also try granola, berries, and yogurt.
Your choice of a meal should largely depend on the sort of climbing. Typically, outdoor climbing requires a lot of energy compared to indoor climbing; hence a diet that would fuel your body intensely would be required.
For indoor climbs, a light breakfast but rich in carbohydrates and lean protein is recommended. For others who prefer not eating before an indoor climb, try as much as possible to eat snacks that would fuel your body.
It is best that you do not engage in a day of rigorous climbing without breakfast, as you’ll get tired, and the climbing experience would end up on a disappointing note.
Depending on the sort of meal taken, ensure there’s a 1-2 hours interval before you climb.
What to eat Mid-Climb
At this point, you’ll probably meter above the grand, and only with gears and snacks you brought along. So it would help if you took along snacks that would give you the nutrition boost you need while climbing.
Snacks you could take mid-climb include a jelly sandwich, peanut butter, apple with almond butter, trail mix, banana, crackers, and hummus with 8 oz of water.
One thing to keep in mind while climbing is the need for hydration. While climbing, a lot of energy is being exhausted; hence you lose a lot of moisture, which the body greatly needs for an energy-intensive activity.
Hence, drink a lot of water, as much as possible. About 4 – 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes would keep you hydrated and in good shape to climb.
What to eat After Rock Climbing
After a stressful day out climbing, you most likely arrived at the apex of your climbing route.
Your heart swells with pride. That enough to uplift the mind, but the body requires some food to recover and be re-energized, or you risk suffering long-term effects of the strain your body just passed through.
Hence, you have to treat your body to a healthy meal. Yes, a healthy meal, not a post-climbing snack, to keep the body afloat.
If you prefer not to eat immediately after climbing, a post-climbing snack, a handful of nuts or dried fruits, string cheese, protein shakes, peanut butter sandwich, greek yogurt with milk, or whole wheat crackers will do.
Whatever you choose to eat, ensure the snacks you bet after climbing are rich in carbohydrates and protein.
Afterward, you should treat yourself to dinner as indicated in the recommended food plan section.
Please let us know your thoughts on our climbing diet in the comments section below.