Improve Your Sport Climbing (16): Nutrition and Body Composition, Part 1 (HARD)

Image courtesy of foto76/

Image courtesy of foto76/

Yet another easy topic to cover in 10 short entries – not making this easy on myself at all, am I? And I am by no means a nutritionist, nor am I an expert in this area. However, I do commonly hear so many, many misconceptions about both nutrition and body composition bandied about among climbers that it seems important to try to share what I have learned here.

Most of my nutrition knowledge comes from reading several excellent books on sports nutrition, of which Dr. Dan Benardot’s “Advanced Sports Nutrition-2nd Edition” ranks top on my list (I just read it for the second time; great training books usually get reread numerous times by yours truly). I’ve also read a lot of articles and studies (yes, I’m nerdy enough to search PubMed for studies on sports nutrition and athletic training in general). Also, exercise nutrition is of course covered, albeit relatively briefly, as a part of becoming a certified personal trainer.

In any case, I’d like to preface my entries here by stressing that if you really want to learn everything you need to know to optimize your fueling strategies for peak climbing performance and recovery, start by reading Dr. Benardot’s book – or at the very least, grab a copy and read the main summarizing points at the end of each chapter. You won’t have any questions about or arguments with anything covered in these next few entries after reading it, unless you want to go head to head with an abundance of scientific research. But if you don’t have time to read the book, in the next few entries, I’ll try to cover what I consider to be a few of the most crucial aspects of nutrition for peak athletic performance for sport climbers in particular, and boulderers/other climbers in general.

As an added bonus for me and you both, I got in touch with Dr. Benardot to help me out with picking out areas in particular I should shine attention on when covering this (vast and somewhat overwhelming!) topic. He graciously consented to be interviewed for this series of entries to help clarify what the most important aspects of nutrition athletes – and more specifically, sport climbing athletes – should focus on for peak athletic performance.

Point No. 1 from Dr. Benardot: Nutrition and body composition optimization strategies should be integral components of any serious athlete’s training plan.

In other words, no matter how great your physical training plan for climbing or your climbing itself may be, without having a solid nutrition/body composition optimization plan in place to support your training/climbing efforts, you are not likely to reach your true potential, no matter how hard you try. (Hmm, this sounds strangely similar to the point made by Dr. Carlstedt about intelligent, scientifically supported mental training methods being an integral part of an overall training program; read more about that here). These things are not separate from physical training and should not be considered separately; everything you do has the potential to work for or against your climbing goals – and how much, what and when you eat can have a huge positive or negative impact on these.

More from my interview with Dr. Benardot will appear in the next few entries.


This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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