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?
Looking for on-the-go alternatives
I’ve had varying levels of success with different alternatives:
- Veggie sticks: Carrots, kohlrabi and radishes also aren’t my thing while I’m climbing―cucumbers more so. However, these don’t keep hunger at bay very long.
- Granola bars: Good as a small snack, nothing more.
- On-the-go cereal: A little soggy, but at least it’s easily digestible when hunger first strikes.
- Green smoothies: My absolute favorite for the rock climbing gym as well as outside!
- A salad with amaranth, some greens, zucchini, tofu and tomato: The flavor may take some getting used to (Carlos says it tastes like dirt), but this works great for me! Substitutes like millet or buckwheat can also be used.
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...
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?