Nutrition for Multi-Pitch Climbing with Amity Warme

By Amity Warme (Instagram @amity.warme)

Amity crushing it in Yosemite on Golden Gate on El Capitan! photo credit Felipe Nordenflycht @felipesh

Optimize your energy: fueling strategies for your multi-pitch adventure

Climbing a multi-pitch route requires a lot of energy. Often these adventures involve a long approach with a heavy pack, hours of climbing, exposure to heat, cold, wind, and altitude, hauling or climbing with a pack, and a long descent. All of these factors increase your daily energy expenditure. In order to perform your best, maintain mental acuity throughout the day, and recover quickly, it is critical to fuel yourself with adequate intake before, during, and after the climb. Continue reading for tips, tricks, and examples of how to fuel for your multi-pitch adventure. 

The night before:

  • Packing snacks for your big day is important but don’t neglect nutrition the day before either. Eating a nutrient rich dinner with plenty of carbohydrates the night before your multipitch mission will help maximize your energy for the next day. Your muscles store energy in the form of glycogen. Consuming carbs before your adventure ensures that your glycogen stores will be topped off and ready for big energy expenditure the next day. 
  • Examples of balanced, nutrient dense meals include the following:
    • Grain bowl:
      • Brown rice or quinoa
      • Grilled chicken or tofu
      • Roasted veggies 
      • Garlic tahini dressing
    • Pasta:
      • Whole wheat or chickpea noodles
      • Plant based meatballs or grilled chicken
      • Sauteed veggies
      • Red sauce or pesto
    • Tacos:
      • Grilled chicken or tempeh on tortillas
      • Roasted veggies
      • Black or pinto beans
      • Fresh salsa and avocado

The morning of:

  • Start your day off fueled up and well hydrated. Combine carbohydrate rich foods for quick energy with protein and fat for more sustained energy. A nutritious breakfast is especially important if your multipitch climb involves a long approach. If you don’t fuel well and hydrate early, you risk arriving at your climb already in an energy deficit for the day. This sets you up for decreased performance and reduced mental capacity.
  • Examples of pre-climb breakfasts include any of the following or a combination:
    • Oatmeal with the fixings (options include):
      • Oats 
      • Hemp, chia, or flax seeds
      • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
      • Berries or other sliced fruit
      • Raisins or other dried fruit
      • Peanut butter
    • Granola with milk of choice or yogurt
      • Topped with fruit 
    • Omelet or scrambled eggs
      • Potatoes 
      • Diced veggies 
      • Toast with jam
    • Pancakes or protein pancakes
      • Topped with peanut butter and fruit

Throughout the day:

  • Choose snacks that are easy to eat, easy to digest, and efficient to pack. Avoid heavy foods that will take up extra space and weight in your pack but also include foods that you like and will be excited to eat. Aim to munch on something every hour you are out on your climb. Continuously taking in small amounts of fuel will help keep you going all day and prevent bonking from letting your energy levels get too low. A good way to do this is to eat a few bites between each pitch while you are belaying or waiting for your partner to rack up. Staying ahead of your hunger is extremely helpful. Don’t wait until you are ravenous to start eating. Munch on small, carb-rich snacks and sip fluids consistently. Keep snacks easily accessible in a chest or pants pocket or in a small pouch clipped to your harness.
  • Examples of easy to pack and easy to eat crag snacks include:
    • Dried fruit (dates, figs, mango, apricots)
    • Energy bars with simple, whole food ingredients
      • EnduroBites, RX bars, KIND bars
    • Tortilla with some combo of peanut butter, honey, banana, nutella
      • These tend to get less smashed than sandwiches
    • Peanut butter and honey/jam/banana sandwich
    • Trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, seeds
    • Granola
    • Pretzels (something salty is nice and encourages you to keep drinking fluids)
    • Nut butter packs sweetened with honey
    • Honey stingers
    • String cheese
    • Chocolate 
    • Jerky
    • Caffeinated gel packs

After the adventure:

  • The sooner you start refueling after your big day, the faster you will recover. Have some snacks or a meal packed and waiting for you in the car that you can eat when you get down. A combination of carbs and protein is ideal at this time. Carbs will help reload the glycogen stores in your muscles and protein will help jumpstart repair the repair of any tissue and muscle damage incurred throughout the big day.
  • Examples of recovery foods include:
    • Protein shake, fruit, and pretzels
    • Sandwich
    • Smoothie
    • Tortilla wraps with hummus and avocado
    • Fruit dipped in nut butter
    • Leftovers from dinner the night before
  • Energy expenditure is HIGH on multipitch climbing days.
    • Approach (often long)
    • Climbing for hours of the day
    • Exposed to the elements all day (heat, cold, wind, altitude)
    • Often hauling a pack or climbing with a pack which increases expenditure
    • Moving almost constantly throughout the day
    • Descent (often long)
Want more climbing nutrition tips! Check out Nutrition for Climbers: Fuel for the Send