This is the final post of the Rock Climbing Diet series. In Part 1 and Part 2 we looked at what you should be eating before and during climbing. Now it’s time to understand the role of proper nutrition after climbing.
I’m sure you’ve realized by now how much nutrition can improve your performance. Proper nutrition before and during climbing both help to maintain endurance and peak performance for your climbing session. So, if you’ve already gotten the max out of your performance, then what’s the point of a good diet after climbing?
Well, a good diet before and during can help you improve your climbing NOW and a good diet after is to help you improve your climbing LATER. Don’t make the mistake and think that putting in a solid session is all you can do to get stronger. Nourishing your body after climbing is key to helping your muscles refuel, repair and recover. It’s a short window of opportunity so you must take advantage of it!
Any type of exercise results in tears in your muscle fibers. That may sound awful, but it actually presents a great opportunity. Practicing proper muscle recovery is what makes your muscles stronger. But, what does proper recovery look like?
Immediately after a climbing session, or any workout for that matter, your body starts to refill its energy storage tank and repair muscle damage. That’s great, but if you want to ensure that your damaged muscles are being repaired and restored to their best, then your body needs your help. It’s said that you have a window of opportunity, lasting about an hour, where your body is in a heightened state and more receptive to what you consume. Well, knowing that carbohydrates and protein are excellent ways of restoring muscle energy and repairing damaged muscle, you’re looking at a pretty awesome opportunity here.
By eating some carbs and protein (more carbs then protein) within an hour of the end of your climbing session (the sooner the better!) you are helping your muscles achieve better recovery, which means they will be stronger the next time around. Research seems to be pretty strict with this 45 minute to 1 hour guideline. After this time it’s said that you will loose most, if not all, of the benefits of this heightened activity. Your muscles just are not nearly as receptive after this time than they are immediately after a workout.
Maximize your recovery. That’s your goal. You’ve put in a solid session so you want to benefit from it to the max! Eating good recovery foods not only helps your muscles refuel and repair themselves better, it also helps them recover faster. That means more climbing, and more climbing means a better and happier climber 🙂 . With a properly nourished body you’ll notice that you won’t need as many rest days as you used to require to get back to climbing at 100%.
To make sure you don’t miss this key opportunity, pack some extra snacks so you don’t have to wait until you get home and potentially lose out on the benefits. There are many good carb options, like yams and beans, but they don’t really make for an easy or quick snack. Instead, go for easy recovery promoting snacks like some blueberries with a handful of walnuts or vegetables with hummus. Your muscles will start the process of recovery immediately. The protein you eat helps to repair the torn protein fibers in your muscles as well as build more muscle and the carbohydrates help to restore your muscle energy.
Now, as important as recovery foods are, it is not as effective if you don’t have other good habits in place as well. Over training and not taking enough rest days seems to be very common in climbers that are very eager to climb better. If you get into this kind of cycle, you are not giving your body enough time to recover. When damaged muscles are not given the opportunity to heal property and get stronger, it can eventually lead to injury (especially overuse injuries). So, climb and eat smart if you want to be in it for the long haul!