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What’s the best food for climbing?

Stefanie | August 25, 2018

Food is crucial. Climbing without having eaten enough is like trying to drive without fuel―it doesn’t work very well. What foods can make you feel full while also being easy to digest so you can keep climbing? That’s a tricky question...

Food has always been an important topic for me. If I’m hungry and don’t have anything to eat within reach, I quickly become anything from annoyed to grumpy. I envy the climbers who don’t seem to have to eat much and still have plenty of energy for climbing!

Finding the balance between full (–> energy) and not overeating (–> sluggishness) in climbing is a real challenge for me.

Eating a good breakfast before climbing or grabbing a bite at a bar beforehand (this is typical in Spain―plan on bringing your patience along if you’re on the road with Spanish climbers) usually works well for me.

The problem is whenever I don’t eat enough before climbing or wait too long to eat mid-climb and then suddenly have a hunger attack. I’ve tried several things, some of which have worked better than others for climbing.

Picking the right food is a challenge

Something that isn’t a problem for me at home but isn’t a good idea in combination with climbing: Bread.
I remember an afternoon when we ate two pretzels and cheesy bread sticks right before climbing.

For the first few routes, climbing went well―until suddenly I felt an overwhelming feeling of fullness and discomfort spread, which lasted the whole afternoon.

After this unpleasant experience, I took a closer look and noticed that this often happened when I ate bread while climbing, even if the effect wasn’t always as strong.

That bothered me quite a bit because I previously thought bread was a good choice to help me feel full while still allowing me to keep climbing. Plus it’s easy to prepare. On the other hand, I wanted to enjoy climbing and have energy―not be held back.

I wondered: If not bread, then what?

food for climbing cooking
Yum, pasta! A great meal for me after climbing, but I find it more difficult to find foods that allow me to keep going mid-climb.

Looking for on-the-go alternatives

I’ve had varying levels of success with different alternatives:

foor for climbing break after climbing
We found a German grocery store in Spain! After a long day of climbing, we’re so hungry that we start eating right in the parking lot.

Smoothies and yerba mate are definitely must-haves and work great for shorter afternoons or evenings spent climbing. For longer climbing outings or day trips, though, these probably wouldn’t quite do the trick...

green-smoothie great food for climbing
Love it! Green smoothies are just amazing for climbing, especially in the gym.
food climbing mate
Yerba Mate has a strong taste you might get used to after a few times. It really helps me to focus more on the activity without getting hungry that quickly.

In summary

It’s not that easy to find the right foods for climbing! I think it’s important to try out different things―including new things―and to figure out what works best that way.

“What about you? What’s your must-have “fuel” when climbing?

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