Nutrition For Climbers: 10 Tips for a Stronger Body

IMG_0008Recently I had the pleasure of getting to spend a morning with Lisa Caldwell, nutritionist, chef, and climber (who you may remember from her post Nutrition for Climbers: Basics of Food). We spent some time climbing, split a snack, and then got down to talking all about food, one of her favorite subjects. I talked to Lisa about some of my concerns and also some of my not-so-great habits (e.g. skipping breakfast, not eating when I’m hungry, just reaching for “whatever is available” i.e. processed foods) and got some great tips in return. While a lot of these were common sense, it was really helpful for me to hear them in the context she provided me with, so I thought I would pass it along to you. Read on for 10 tips to a stronger, healthier bod!

1. There is not one dietary lifestyle that is effective for everyone. Not to equate humans to cars, but some run better off diesel, some better off ethanol, so you have to think, “How do I feel after eating a load of carbohydrates?” or “How do I feel when I eat animal protein?” Maybe you run better on a vegan lifestyle, whatever it may be, notice how the foods you eat make you feel.

2. EAT BREAKFAST! It doesn’t matter if it’s a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and jelly, or something like I make for myself: a bowl of brown rice, two eggs, avocado and kale, and sriracha sauce. Just get something in there. Some people are psyched on a high protein breakfast, some people feel satisfied with a fruit smoothie cause they just don’t have the time. By sleeping, you have just fasted for at least 10 hours, so regardless of what it is, you gotta put the key in the ignition to get started, and that’s what breakfast does. Click here for some quick breakfast ideas.

3. Eat when you’re hungry. Ask yourself, “Is it lunchtime because it’s 12 o’clock, or is it lunchtime in my world because my stomach is growling and I can’t concentrate?” As your day goes on, check in with yourself, and if your body is telling you “hell yeah it’s time to eat” give your body the fuel it needs.  If you don’t feed your body when it’s hungry, chances are good that later on you will be eating everything in eyesight.

4. Eat whole, real foods. We as humans have to consume to survive. We need raw products – and I don’t mean a “raw diet” – but we need nutrients. Water, vitamins, minerals, fats, complex and simple carbs and proteins, raw nutrient-based products. Because if you really think about it on a cellular level, your cells aren’t asking for red dye #5! Think of it this way: If I put high quality stuff in, I will get high quality performance out.


5. Plan, plan, plan.  It can be a bummer, I know, but you have to plan ahead in terms of what you are eating through the day in order to sustain yourself. It is the number one thing aside from a focused mindset that is going to allow you to get up that wall, send that climb, and keep you climbing forever. If you are running on empty you are going to go nowhere.

6. HYDRATE! The more muscle you build, the more water you need. Muscle retains water, and if your muscles are dehydrated, when you say to them “I need you to high step right now so I can send my project” it ain’t gonna happen! Your brain also needs to be hydrated. As athletes, we need more of a lot of things. That might sound like a vague statement, but, it’s true.

7. Eat something right after you work out. The positive thing about eating right after working out is that you are going to end up giving your cells the fuel to do their job, in the areas of repairing, restoring, and building muscles, tendons, or ligaments, and revive your energy levels. Post-workout insulin levels are high, and cruising around your bloodstream looking for glucose, so having a simple carb, like a piece of fruit right away is a really good way to say, “Hey, I got you man, don’t worry, I’m going to feed you. Take this in the meantime.”


8. Get a 4-to-1, carbs-to-protein meal in your body ASAP.  After you’ve consumed something initially, I would go home and have a meal. I would focus on a lot of vegetables, pound down as many colors as humanly possible at one time. Do your body that favor, and it will pay you back ten-fold. If you eat animal proteins add 4-5 oz of animal protein. Anything more than that, your body is just like, “Dude, seriously, I am so tired now and now I have to work even harder” as foods with a high concentration of protein can be hard for the body to. Then if you want, you can add a little bread, a little pasta, or a little rice. Click here for some meal ideas.

9. Don’t hyper-focus on protein. Protein is found in all living things. There is protein in every food, including vegetables.  Our body is extremely efficient at recycling proteins, and usually your body is working off the protein you gave it a day and a half ago, not the protein you just gave it.

10. Your stomach needs two things to be truly full 1) to be filled and 2) to have nutrients. So if it’s just full (and it’s only 1/4 cup in size, though it can stretch) your stomach is like “Yay, I’m psyched because I’m full!” but then there is no nutrients, so  an hour later it sends you the message, “We gotta do this again”, and then you end up reaching for more food. This is when we end up consuming extra calories, because the stomach will keep prompting us until it gets what it needs.

To read more about nutrition, and specific suggestions on food to bring to the crag, check out Part One of this post. Stay tuned for more meal ideas from Lisa and email us a cruxcrush(at)gmail(dot)com if you want to ask Lisa a question for a future post!

-Climb On!

Lisa Caldwell has been in love with food, cooking and nutrition since she can remember. This love of all things food has assisted her in all her athletic endeavors, helped her maintain an optimum level of health and has taught her more about the world than she thought possible. She started by cooking for her family, obtained a B.S. in Human Foods and Nutrition and rose to the rank of Executive Pastry Chef at Resorts and Hotels. Due to these experience and years spent traveling for the sake of food, she currently works as a Healthy Eating Specialist for Whole Foods Market. This gives her the opportunity to be connected to the modern day food movements, be a part of a community that celebrates food and to share her knowledge and experience with all who want to learn more for the betterment of themselves and the people they love. She has been climbing for 4.5 years and has been lucky enough to see a beautiful world from crags in Maine, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Utah and Spain. She has a curiosity about all forms of climbing, having had some experience with trad and ice, and more recently seeking out cracks climbs in the Northeast.

Photo Credits: Abigail Neal.  Liked her photos? Yeah, we do too. You can follow her @abneal on Instagram to see all her gorgeous food pics, meal and travel inspirations, and more!

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One thought on “Nutrition For Climbers: 10 Tips for a Stronger Body

  1. Cristina says:

    Great article! Very well written 🙂 I am also one to neglect breakfast…especially on weekends..

    Also, feeling hungry is a way that your body tells you that you’re thirsty. Whenever I feel hungry but I know that I’ve eaten plenty, I go and grab a glass of water! It’s probably why so many of us are dehydrated, because we mistake dehydration for hunger.

    p.s. love this blog 🙂

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