Alpine Climbing Nutrition July 25 2016, 0 Comments
Alpine climbing nutrition can be a problem in the extremes encountered in thin air. Read how to power your next summit push with Fuel100. Photo Source: mountain-equipment.co.uk
Alpine climbing nutrition can pose one of the biggest challenges for mountaineers. Research has shown that climbing at altitude can burn 6000 calories per day. When alpine climbing, the body must battle the steep elevation, thin air, and cold – all while carrying heavy loads. However, food intake by alpine climbers at altitude has been shown to fall by 10-50% depending on the speed of ascent, the individual’s tolerance, and conditioning. Climbers must also struggle with bulky clothing and the likelihood that the exertion and altitude can greatly reduce the desire to eat. Alpine climbing nutrition is particularly important because, unlike many other endurance sports, the alpine climber must get themselves down the mountain. Rescue on a big mountain can be dangerous and take days, especially in bad weather.
Many alpine nutritionists recommend eating about 200 carbohydrate calories every hour to help prevent climbers from “hitting the wall” or “bonking” which is caused by depleting your muscle glycogen reserves. Avoiding this condition is particularly important for climbers because bonking can also affect the climber’s decision making and desire to continue. The question becomes, how does one constantly consume enough calories to stay fueled in such extreme conditions?
Research has shown that carbohydrates are the most efficient source of energy to consume at high altitude. Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grain bread and cereals, potatoes, dahl, rice and pasta. Complex carbohydrates take several hours to digest, but provide the body with a sustained long lasting source of energy. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly and provide instant energy for working muscles. Simple carbohydrates are found in honey, jam, candy, sweet drinks, and fruit juice. Choosing the right food with the most energy and is easy to digest is the best choice while working hard at altitude. Here are some alpine climbing nutrition strategies that can help the mountaineer stay fueled and motivated to complete the climb.
- You are not going to stop to eat during your push for the summit. Find high-energy food that can be easily consumed while walking or on short rest breaks.
- Common backpacking foods like jerky, trail mix, chocolate, cheese or nuts may take too much energy to chew, swallow and digest. When it is taking all your energy and willpower to kick-step six inch steps into a glacier wall, the last thing you want to spend energy on is fighting with your food. Your fuel source should be easy to get to and packaged in bite-sized portions so you can just pop it in your mouth and forget about it.
- Your fuel choice must be tasty and easy to swallow and digest without a lot of water. A tasty snack provides additional motivation to eat. You don’t want to have to stop and deal with a water bottle every time you need to choke down a snack. Your ideal alpine climbing nutrition should melt in your mouth and be easily swallowed.
- Snack on small amounts of food frequently throughout the day and be sure to keep these handy and within easy reach. Your food choice has to be easy to get to, especially with thick gloves or mittens on. Consider the packaging and how you can access bite-sized potions without a fuss.
- Experienced mountaineers will agree that physical training and practice climbs are essential prior to the big expedition. Taking the time to practice with a variety of food and fluids is just as important as your physical training. You don’t want to reach altitude to discover that all the food you brought disagrees with you or is impossible to access without stopping the rope-team. Practice eating at altitudes above 10,000 feet to see what foods work for you and how you can best package them for performance.