Climbing is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, skill, and proper nutrition. As climbers, we often hear tips and tricks about what to eat before, during, and after a climb. However, not all of this advice is grounded in science. In this article, we’ll debunk common climbing-related nutrition myths and provide evidence-based dietary guidance to enhance your performance on the rock.

The Myth of Fasting Before Climbing

Understanding the Myth

One prevailing myth in the climbing community suggests fasting before climbing can lead to better performance. The idea is that an empty stomach results in a lighter body, providing climbers with a supposed agility advantage. However, this myth neglects the fundamental role of energy in sustaining physical exertion.

Debunking the Myth

Research and Expert Opinion: Nutritionists and sports scientists agree that fasting before climbing is counterproductive. Climbing demands energy, and a lack of proper fuel can lead to premature fatigue, decreased strength, and compromised decision-making. A study published in the H1Journal of Sports Science & MedicineH1 found that climbers who consumed a balanced meal before climbing exhibited better endurance and focus.

Evidence-Based Advice: Instead of fasting, climbers should aim for a balanced pre-climbing meal that includes a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Carbohydrates provide quick energy, proteins support muscle function, and fats offer sustained energy. Opt for a meal rich in complex carbohydrates like whole grains, lean proteins such as chicken or tofu, and healthy fats like avocados.

1 Hydration Myths and Realities
2 The Myth of Overhydration

Understanding the Myth

Another prevalent myth in the climbing world is that overhydration is unnecessary or detrimental. Some climbers believe consuming too much water before a climb can lead to discomfort or increased restroom breaks, impacting their focus on the rock.

Debunking the Myth

Research and Expert Opinion: Proper hydration is critical for optimal physical performance. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, reduced endurance, and impaired cognitive function—particularly detrimental factors in climbing, where focus and strength are paramount.

Evidence-Based Advice: Instead of fearing overhydration, climbers should focus on maintaining proper fluid balance. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking about 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before climbing, followed by 8 ounces 20 to 30 minutes before. Aim for 7 to 10 ounces during climbing every 10 to 20 minutes. Adjust these recommendations based on factors such as sweat rate and environmental conditions

This evidence-based approach ensures that climbers are neither dehydrated nor overloaded with fluids during their ascent.

The Protein Timing Myth

There’s a common belief that protein intake immediately after climbing is crucial for muscle recovery and growth. Some climbers agree that consuming protein within a specific “anabolic window” is essential to maximize its benefits.

Research and Expert Opinion: While protein is vital for muscle repair, an immediate post-climbing protein window is more flexible than previously thought. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, protein timing doesn’t have to be as precise as once believed. As long as you meet your daily protein requirements, the timing of consumption becomes less critical.
Evidence-Based Advice: Rather than fixating on an immediate post-climbing protein intake, climbers should focus on achieving their daily protein goals. This involves distributing protein intake throughout the day, including meals and snacks. Opt for protein-rich foods such as lean meats, dairy, legumes, and plant-based protein sources to support muscle recovery over the long term.

The Carb Loading Myth

Carbohydrate loading, a strategy often associated with endurance sports, involves significantly increasing carbohydrate intake before an event. Some climbers believe this practice can provide an energy boost during prolonged climbs.

Research and Expert Opinion: While carbohydrate loading might benefit athletes in sustained endurance activities like marathons, it might be less relevant for climbing, which involves intermittent bursts of intense effort. The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that for shorter-duration activities like climbing, maintaining adequate carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to the climb is more important than a specific loading phase.

Evidence-Based Advice: Climbers should prioritize a balanced carbohydrate intake in the days preceding a climb rather than attempting a one-time loading. To ensure a steady energy supply, include complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your pre-climbing meals.

The Post-Climbing Fasting Myth

Some climbers believe that refraining from eating after a climb, especially in the evening, helps with weight management or promotes better sleep.

Research and Expert Opinion: Post-climbing nutrition is essential for recovery, muscle glycogen replenishment, and overall well-being. Fasting after climbing can hinder these processes and may lead to delayed recovery.

Evidence-Based Advice: Instead of fasting post-climbing, climbers should focus on a balanced meal with protein and carbohydrates to aid recovery. A combination of protein and carbs can enhance muscle repair and glycogen replenishment, supporting the body’s recovery process.

Namah offers a range of premium climbing ropes for climbers seeking reliable equipment to complement their performance. Our commitment to safety and quality ensures that your ascent is thrilling and secure. Fuel your climbs with knowledge and equip yourself with the best tools for the journey.

Continue to climb higher, explore further, and nourish your body wisely. Happy climbing!