“Before trying anything else, athletes should consider a regular consumption of carbohydrate with plenty of fluids. This is, perhaps, the single most important thing an athlete can do to ensure both an adequate total energy intake and an appropriate consumption of the energy substrate most easily depleted.”
(Dr. Dan Benardot in “Advanced Sports Nutrition-2nd Edition“)
The nutrition series’ final entry summarizes key nutritional aspects of athletic performance and recovery according to Dr. Dan Benardot, leading nutrition expert and author of “Advanced Sports Nutrition-2nd Edition” (ANS). Top takeaway points from this series, based both on my interview with Dr. Benardot as well as on the information covered in ASN, include:
• Never get hungry, never get thirsty, and eating six smaller, well-balanced meals a day is a better plan for optimizing body composition than eater three larger meals a day. These were the top three pieces of advice given by Dr. Benardot for optimizing athletic performance and body composition via a solid nutrition plan.
• Focus on getting calories in regularly in relatively small doses in order to sustain muscle mass and keep body fat levels desirably low, as well as engaging in sport-specific training programs that continuously challenge the body in new, more intense, ways.
• Body weight is not the measurement athletes should use to assess their body composition and/or strength-to-weight ratio; body fat assessment is a much more helpful and useful metric to employ.
• Alcohol works against athletic performance both acutely and chronically. In other words, if you want to drink alcohol, drink. If you want to be an athlete, be an athlete.
• Supplements should be used to be used to supplement known biological weaknesses, not as a preventive measure. Increasing carbohydrate consumption and timing carbohydrate delivery properly would likely have a greater positive impact on athletic performance for most people than any supplement would.
• Carbs are not your enemy. Carbs are your muscles’ preferred fuel. Aim for a diet made up of 55 to 65 percent carbohydrates, and ingest carbohydrates at regular intervals throughout climbing/training sessions.
• Start your climbing day or workout hydrated, and stay hydrated and fueled by drinking sports drinks regularly throughout the workout or climbing day.
• Nutrition is a key part of optimizing your climbing performance. As Dr. Benardot says in ASN, “Athletes would do well to remember that training alone, without a sound and dynamically linked nutrition plan to support the training, will be self-limiting.”
This multipart series of 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!