Nutrition for Climbing Performance with High Performance Dietitian Rebecca Dent

There is a lot of mis information and misguidance out there when it comes to nutrition and trying to suss out what to eat and when that will benefit your climbing.


Regardless of your dietary preferences following these general nutrition principles, consistently, day after day will go along way to helping you reach your full climbing fitness potential.


Top tip 1: Eat enough protein at each meal and in total through out each day.

Practical Advice: Aim for a minimum of 20g of protein per meal, in your recovery snack and before bed e.g. 1 x salmon steak, 1 x chicken breast, 1 tin of fish, 150g cottage cheese, 4 eggs, 1 scoop of whey protein, 100g tofu, 200g good quality greek yoghurt (these serving suggestions will provide a minimum of 20g of protein).


Top tip 2: Eat your greens! We’ve heard the message time and time again, eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, but many people still don’t achieve this recommendation. Fruit and vegetables (particularly green leafy veg and berries) have been widely shown to promote health, support the extra demand for nutrients with increase in activity levels and also help recovery following exercise.

Practical Advice: Include a serving of berries and green leafy vegetables daily in your diet. Fill up 1/2 your plate of vegetables at each meal including a serving of green leafy veg e.g. rocket, spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, water cress, bok choy. Add berries to your breakfast bowl, into a yoghurt as a post climbing recovery snack or eat a handful of berries with some nuts as a between meal snack.

 climbing food vegetables

Top tip 3: Include a healthy source of fat at each meal. Choose mainly poly unsaturated and mono unsaturated fat rich food sources e.g. olive oil, olives, avocado, oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, fresh tuna), nuts, seeds, nut butters.

Practical advice: Add one dessertspoon of seeds in to your breakfast bowl or yoghurt (with your berries), eat a handful of nuts and seeds as a snack, eat 1/4-1/2 an avocado with your eggs at breakfast, or slice into a salad. Aim to eat 3 servings of oily fish per week (tinned fish counts), using olive oil when cooking. Spread some nut butter on your rice cakes as a snack before or during a climb or eat a sliced apple with a dessertspoon of nut butter as a between meal snacks.


Top tip 4: Start each climbing session hydrated!

Practical advice: This can be achieved easily by sipping regularly through out the day on fluids e.g. water, tea, coffee, soup, fruit juice all count. The easiest way to check you are hydrated is by checking the colour of your urine. It should be a pale straw colour.

 climbing hydration

Top tip 5: Eat a source of carbohydrate in the meal 2-3hours before a climbing session.

Practical advice: Include 1-2 fist size portions of whole grain carbohydrate in this meal e.g. sweet potato, potato, brown rice, wholegrain bread, quinoa, oats, lentils.


Top tip 6: During climbing: If you are climbing for longer than 2 hours then eat an easy to digest carbohydrate containing snack.

Practical advice: E.g. Cereal bar, banana, rice cakes + nut butter. Approximately 60-90minutes into your climbing session take a mouthful of food (e.g. 1/2 banana, 1/2 cereal bar, 1 x rice cake) then again every 20-30minutes until the end of your session). This will help drip feed you with energy until the end of your session.


Top tip 7: Recovery: If you have had a hard climbing session lasting 60mins or have been climbing for longer than 2hrs then aim to have a protein containing snack within 30-60mins of finishing the session. If you are going home for your next meal then make sure it contains a source of carbohydrate and minimum of 20g of protein.

Practical advice: 1 scoop whey protein mixed with milk (any variety) + 1 banana, shop bought recovery shake, a good glass of milk, 200g good quality greek yoghurt, 150g cottage cheese on 2 x rice cakes/oat cakes, vegan blend protein powder shake, any of the above suggestions in point 1 for meal time choices.


Final note: Keeping a food diary will help you identify any areas for improvement and also show you perhaps what you are already doing well.


Rebecca Dent is a highly experienced performance dietitian who works with numerous professional outlets and athletes. For more information and advice, contact her or go to her website linked below.

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