Cover photo from http://www.positive-negative-studio.com/users/1/posts/83/photos/606
In today’s post I will be talking about nutrition, dieting, and weight loss with regards to climbing. I will start by saying that I am not a nutritionist and this is solely about my personal experiences. This is a touchy subject, especially, I have found, when it is coming from a petite female. I am not overweight by any standards, and I know this. However, this doesn’t change the fact that I still have to deal with societal pressures that the female body should look a certain way, and also the pressure from wanting to be a better climber, knowing that losing a few pounds can make a dramatic difference in climbing performance.
I often tell my husband that yes, I understand that in everyday life I am quite petite and shouldn’t have to even think about weight loss. Genetically I am a very small person. I have three sisters who are considerably less active than I am, and they are all very small, too. That being said, with climbing, I actually think about my weight and my diet quite often. This is probably one of the more unfortunate things about climbing… Before I was a climber, I rarely ever thought about losing weight or even eating healthy, but now, I am always looking for some kind of edge to get me one step closer to achieving my climbing goals, and for most people, losing weight is a viable option for achieving this. I have seen many male climbers I know lose a few pounds and instantly climb stronger. It makes sense. The less weight you have to carry up the wall, the easier it will be… It sounds very simple, but unfortunately I have found that it is not as straightforward as it seems…
First of all, I don’t have a lot of weight to lose. I know this. I definitely care about being healthy and I would never want to deny my body what it needs by going on some extreme diet (to be honest, I also just don’t have the willpower for this)… That being said, I think I have a weird relationship with food that has been brought on by climbing and having times in my past where I literally didn’t have enough food to eat. I struggle with food, not in a way that is outwardly apparent, but I often find myself eating past the point of feeling full, which is not a healthy activity physically or mentally. After some self-reflection, I have found that this happens most when I am trying to be the most mindful of what I eat, which can be super frustrating!
There is also so much competing information out there about what foods you should eat, what foods you should avoid, and what macronutrients make you feel the most “full”. Should I be paleo? Vegan? Eat mostly carbs? Eat no carbs?
First let me start by saying I don’t think there is a magic diet out there that will work for everyone and let you send a grade harder just by adding in goat’s milk or something… Every body is different and some things that work for one person may not work for another. For instance, I was vegan for a year and I felt pretty good most of the time, but my husband felt pretty awful being vegan. In the end, after my husband experimented with quite a few different diets, we both found that the thing that works best for us is just a diet that consists of whole foods (lots of veggies, eggs, salads, and some meats). My husband is currently trying to lose some weight for climbing, and he finds that what works best for him is to try and limit highly refined carbohydrates (i.e. breads and sugars)… We do leave room in our diets for a fresh croissant with our coffee most mornings, though, because YOLO or something… (Yes I realize I’m probably too old to use that acronym)
For me I’ve found that what works best is to be mindful of eating healthy foods, but to not focus on quantity or my weight, because doing so actually causes me to feel anxiety which makes me eat more! Instead of focusing too much on food, I try and focus on just being healthy and getting stronger by training versus losing weight. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way…
Make sure you eat enough food while you are climbing/training!
This is a must for me. There are people out there who can have a successful workout on an empty stomach, but I am certainly not one of them! I try and eat a good dose of carbs right before I climb and then I always have some sort of bar with me in case I feel myself losing energy while I’m training (my favorite bars are the chocolate coconut ones from ALOHA.com). On days where I know I have a hard training session or I’m working on a project, my ideal nutrition would include: eggs, sweet potato, and some greens for breakfast an hour or two prior to my workout; a carby snack just prior to my workout (this is when I’m most likely to eat a treat like a pastry or something); and then a good snack with some carbs and some protein for during my workout (this is when those ALOHA bars are great!).
Having something for recovery just after a workout can do wonders for your body!
Another crucial thing for me. Post-workout is actually when I feel the LEAST hungry during the day, but if I don’t give my body some recovery food, I will definitely feel way more sore the next day! My go to post-recovery snacks usually consist of one of the following:
- A homemade smoothie that is generally made from milk, vanilla extract, mint leaves, a banana, whey protein, and some spinach.
- Whole milk yogurt with a scoop of protein powder, vanilla extract, a tablespoon of matcha powder, and some coconut sugar. I often add fresh strawberries and some chia seed. This has actually been my go-to lunch for work (I got burnt out on salads) and I find that it actually makes me feel really satiated!
- If I didn’t plan ahead and bring something with me to the gym, I will generally stop at a coffee shop after climbing and just order a steamed milk with a little bit of vanilla syrup in it (I often feel like a grandma when I order this, but it is delicious!).
Try and be more mindful on rest days.
On climbing/training days, I get to eat a lot of good stuff because I know my body will use the fuel I give it during my workout… On rest days, however, I try and be a bit more careful of what I eat… I try to not eat anything with added sugar, not only because my body doesn’t need it on rest days, but because I know for me that sugary things don’t tend to make me feel great.
Don’t beat yourself up if you overindulged or had a bad eating day… If you’re like me, doing so will just stress you out which actually will make your body want to eat more. Instead, just do your best, and make sure you are not letting the stress of eating/proper nutrition/weight loss, etc. take over your life!