Certain sports are greatly impacted by the athlete’s diet, while others are pretty much unaffected. For example, a bodybuilder’s success is hugely determined by their diet, and a golfer could have the best round if his life on a hot dog and a beer. I think that a rock climber’s success is definitely affected by their diet, I’m just not sure to what degree. In my opinion, the two main ways in which a climber is affected by their diet are:
- Food Mood
This one is pretty obvious. If you’re super heavy, you have to carry all that weight up with you on the wall. When you realize this as a climber, your first thoughts are to lose a ton of weight so you can climb harder! Many climbers have done this and have had great success! Also, many climbers have done this and ended up with eating disorders, become extremely skinny, lose all their muscle and don’t improve. So, yes, bodyweight is a pretty important factor in climbing, just don’t over do it.
By the way, I’m not suggesting that bodyweight is entirely determined by diet! The amount of fat your body naturally keeps on is almost entirely determined by your genetics. Also, women naturally have higher levels of body fat than men, so women will have a harder time losing fat. If you’re looking to experiment with your bodyweight, take it slow and don’t cut for extended periods of time. And remember, being light won’t improve your climbing skills.
We all know how food affects out energy level and mood. If you eat a huge volume of food in a short amount of time, you’re going to feel lethargic. If you eat a high amount of sugar, you’ll get a huge boost of energy and then immediately crash, and want to take a nap. On the other hand, if you eat a plate of chicken and veggies, or some fruit and organic peanut butter, or any other nutritious meal, you’ll probably feel satisfied with a steady amount of energy for hours.
By food mood, I’m referring to how your mood and energy levels are affected by the food you eat. This aspect of diet is not specific to climbing at all. Every athlete should be thinking about how they fuel their bodies before a workout. What works best for me is the following:
- I give myself at least an hour and a half since my last meal before I start to climb/workout
- This meal is composed of vegetables, with a serving of a protein (chicken, shrimp, beef etc.) and a carb (rice, potatoes etc.)
- If I feel hungry during my session, I’ll only eat fruit
Everybody’s got their own thing going on when it comes to their nutrition and diet. The above is simply what works best for me pre-workout, and I’m sure you’ll prefer to do something a bit different!
The main point of this post is that diet does in fact affect your climbing, but not that much. Your diet can only impact the quality of your training sessions, which is where you will make improvements. In other words, diet does not directly make you better at climbing. It can simply allow you to have more energy and focus when you train, which allows you to train better. It’s the better training that improves your climbing, not the better diet.