Nutrition and Hydration for Climbing. Fuel efficiency, especially in the specific muscles used during climbing, is needed for optimal performance. Efficiency means that fat and carbohydrate are plentiful to fuel your climbing progress and that your energy systems are highly trained. For example, without sufficient fuel processing, fatigue will occur prematurely and hamper your climbing performance.

Nutrition, Hydration for Climbing

Furthermore, without adequate and timely food and water intake, your recovery from hard bouts of climbing will be hampered. Thus, plan to be wise about fueling up before, during, and after training in order to optimize performance, minimize fatigue, and speed recovery. The goal should be not to maintain your fuel stores so that your body is able to drive you farther when you most need it.

Climbers can lose energy if they become dehydrated. Therefore, you should consume anywhere from 3 to 10 liters per day of water and sport drinks if you’re at rest. You’ll need 3 to 6 liters per day if you’re exercising or climbing at a low-intensity work rate, and you’ll need 6 to 10 liters per day if you’re climbing at a high-intensity rate. Even during rest days, your body requires a fair amount of liquid nourishment. When you add exercise, the requirement goes up quickly with high-intensity work and even with increasing ambient air temperature.

World-class mountaineer and rock climber, is a good example of a climber who tailors workouts based on the use of muscle fuel. (Anderson is discussed in more detail in the next section.) To take advantage of his fat metabolism (used at low to moderate intensity), Anderson purposely paces himself to go slow during long- or short-approach hikes to ice or rock climbs so that his breathing and heart rate are low to moderate. He may not be able to sprint up a mountain, but he can go all day, primarily because he’s able to maintain endurance while his body conserves stored fuel.

Overall, energy balance is essential to maintaining lean mass, immune function, and athletic performance. Energy balance occurs when energy intake (from foods, fluids, and supplements) equals energy expenditure. If the body has inadequate intake of nutrients, then the benefits of training are diminished, and performance decreases to a greater degree. The body will begin to consume itself and a continuous loss in strength and endurance will occur if nutrient intake is insufficient for maintaining energy balance.

When purchasing sport bars, gels, and drinks, choose what works best for you. There is no one best type of energy food. Buy what you will eat and what tastes good to you. Do this through trial and error.

Before embarking on a training schedule for rock climbing, you should understand a few key elements about your program related to how your body operates under the stress of exercise. This is the same as beginning a long climbing expedition to a remote mountain region, which first requires research and inquiries about what you’re up against. The same is true now as you learn the basic language and variables included in your training plan.

While climbing, at times you feel out of breath with a high perceived effort and a great sense of muscular overload, which can be measured as rating of perceived exertion. Being out of breath and feeling a tremendous sense of muscular fatigue indicate that your body is becoming more anaerobic (high intensity) than aerobic (low to moderate intensity).

Keep in mind that anaerobic literally means “without oxygen” and aerobic indicates “with oxygen.” Once you cross the threshold into the realm of a high perceived effort, breathlessness, and a sense of constant high muscular force generation (or feeling more anaerobic), your muscles’ ability to sustain a great workload is becoming maxed out.

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