GOAL: To give rock climbers practical sport nutrition for at the gym or at the crag.


E-mail your questions and comments to: onsitenutrition@gmail.com

Dec 29, 2008


Hello All!

Hope the Holidays are going well. I have received a great gift this season...my rock climbing research paper has officially been published!!!

You may remember my September 22, 2008 blog post, where I described my research study on two guys who essentially ate rice for a month-long climbing trip. I wrote a scientific paper on the study, and it has been published!

My paper is titled: "Following 2 diet-restricted male outdoor rock climbers: impact on oxidative stress and improvements in markers of cardiovascular risk".

It is in Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 1250-1256 of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

You can find the paper on the journal's website at: http://pubs.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/rp-ps/journalDetail.jsp?jcode=apnm&lang=eng

Thanks to all those who helped out with my research! Hopefully more research into rock climbing is yet to come!

Krystal Merrells

Dec 16, 2008

Crag Cooking

Hey, it’s the holidays!! That means some climbers are packing up and heading to better temperatures and outdoor rock.

With nothing but a pot, a stove, and some utensils, its unlikely you will be cooking up a turkey at the campsite. But this holiday season, prepare more then just a pot of rice for your post-climbing meal.

Here are some simple recipes that you can cook at the crag.
For ingredient measurements that are “close enough”, use:
• 250 ml on a Nalgene bottle = 1 Cup
• Any camping mug ~ 1 Cup
• Any camping spoon ~ 1 Tbsp
• Half of any camping spoon ~ 1 Tsp

Vegetable Couscous and Chickpeas
This is so delicious and incredibly simple! I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore to prepare it.

2 Tbsp of oil
½ an onion and as much minced garlic as you like
1 Cup couscous
1 Envelope of vegetable soup mix (Example: Knorr, but any brand will do)
2 Cups boiling water

1. Heat oil in pot.
2. Stir/sauté onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add couscous to pot. Stir to coat grains with oil: 2-3 minutes.
4. Take pot off of burner.
5. Boil ~2 cups of water in another pot and add to couscous. Stir and cover.
6. Let couscous stand for ~7 minutes (it will almost quadruple in volume).
7. “Fluff” couscous (stir it) and serve it with chickpeas.

1 Can of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
2 Tbsp of oil
Herbs and spices of any kind (Examples: basil, oregano, cilantro, thyme, bay leaf)

1. Heat oil in pot/pan/pot lid.
2. Add chickpeas and constantly stir.
3. Add herbs.
4. Ready when chickpeas are soft.
5. Mix in with couscous.

This goes good with fresh zucchini if you have access to fresh vegetables:
1. Cut zucchini into even slices.
2. Fry in pan until soft.
3. Add whatever herbs you like or soy sauce (if available).
4. Grate cheese on top (optional).

Tuna Casserole
This is one way to rock Macaroni and Cheese. You can use any pasta in place of Mac n’ Cheese…just be sure to add some cheese to the recipe. Add a fruit and a glass of milk to this dish and you’ve got yourself a complete and balanced meal.

1 Box Mac n’ Cheese
1 Can tuna
2 Cups of vegetables (canned, frozen, fresh)
1 Can cream of mushroom soup

1. Make Mac n’ Cheese.
2. Add rest of ingredients to Mac n’ Cheese.
3. Stir and eat.

Coconut Risotto
You can purchase coconut milk in cans that do not need to be refrigerated, and bell peppers will last about 4 days in cooler drier environments (from my experience). Cumin is an awesome spice that makes a lot of things taste better…I suggest you get some ☺ Mix in some lentils or some canned tuna to this recipe to add a source of meat or alternatives.

1 Cup of rice
2 Tsp cumin
2 Bell peppers, minced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
½ Cup coconut milk

1. Cook rice, mix in the rest.

Burrito Night
I can’t take credit for this “recipe”, but I love burritos ☺ If you’ve been to Hueco Tanks, you know you can order up some fresh homemade burritos in the meat market behind the Vista Mercado for only a couple of bucks. You can also easily make burritos with just one pot at your campsite:

1 Can of chili
1 Can of refried beans
Carrot, grated/peeled/minced
Bell peppers, diced
Tomatoes, diced
Cheese, grated (optional)

1. Combine chili and refried beans in pot. Heat until bubbly.
2. Turn down heat and add vegetables.
3. Spoon mixture into tortillas, add cheese. Fold and enjoy.

* This is messy, but delicious.
* Add any other vegetables you like.
* Use vegetarian chili if you don’t want any meat.

What about pulses?
On climbing trips, you may like to bring different types of pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils) because they store well and are a good source of protein when fresh meat isn’t always available. Dry pulses may need to be soaked before preparation. Here are some soaking methods you can use when you only have access to dry, and not canned beans or chickpeas:

Overnight soak method (not for lentils or split peas)
1. Rinse beans and put in water: throw away those that float or are shriveled.
2. Soak in 3 to 4 times the amount of water. Ex. 2 cups of beans would need 6 to 8 cups of water.
3. Soak for 10 hours.
4. Simmer until tender with lid partially covering: This requires a long slow cook.
a. Simmer times:

Garbanzo (chick peas): 4 hours
Mung beans: 3 hours
Soy beans: 2 hours
Pinto: 2 hours
Black beans: 1.5 hours
Kidney: 1.5 hours
Black-eyed peas: 1 hour

b. Add water while simmering to replace water that has been evaporated

Short soak method (especially used for lentils or split peas)
1. Rinse beans and put in water: throw away those that float or are shriveled.
2. Bring beans in water to full boil for 2 minutes.
3. Remove from heat.
4. Soak in the hot water for 1 hour.
5. Return to stove - simmer in same liquid until tender (if not already).

* Without soaking, beans would need to be boiled for several hours (twice as much water and twice as long as above), which may be a waste of fuel.

* Do not use hard water or add salt or lemon juice to the water, as these will prevent softening of your beans and chickpeas.

General Tips
From my climbing trips, I have learned a few tips to help keep variety in my diet, and to assure I’m getting foods from each food group everyday. If you have any tips that have worked for you, send them to me at onsitenutrition@gmail.com, so that I can share them with everyone else! Here are my tips:

Vegetables and fruit
  • Bring a variety of dried fruit: apple rings, dried pineapple, banana chips, dried mango, raisins, craisins, etc.
  • Buy potatoes and yams (sweet potatoes), avocados, apples, oranges (anything with a tough outer skin or that needs to be peeled): these last longer in the trunk of your car, or in the food containers at the campsite.
  • Other vegetables that may last longer outdoors are: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas.

  • Try different kinds: pasta, couscous, quinoa, oats, rice, hot cereal, cold cereal…mix it up! If you get bored with your food, you’ll eat less, which means your body may not be getting all the fuel and nutrients it needs to recover and climb hard the next day.
  • Pancake mix: just add water, fry, and you’ve got pancakes! You don’t even need syrup: add chunks of fruit into the mix and top with peanut butter or Nutella.

Milk and alternatives
  • Get milk powder: it’s cheap, it’s an extra source of protein (same protein as in those protein powders some of us buy) and you can stir it into your morning cereals or into certain soups.
  • Try shelf-stable milks: you can get these in regular cow milk or soymilk. These packages are aseptic containers that don’t need to be refrigerated until opened. You can buy these in 1 L sizes, or juice box-sized containers.
  • Yogurt lasts longer: yogurt lasts longer then milk when not refrigerated because yogurt is slightly acidic. The last time I was in Hueco, we bought those yogurt tubes…they were great to throw into our crash pads and have for lunch on the mountain. Yogurt cups also work well.
  • Cheese: harder cheese tends to last longer.

Meat and alternatives
  • Experiment with pulses: beans, chickpeas, lentils.
  • Add nuts and seeds to trail mix, breakfast cereals, wraps and pastas: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, etc.
  • Spread peanut butter, almond butter, soy butter on sandwiches, wraps, crackers or fruit.
  • Beef or other jerkys may be high in sodium, but it may satisfy what some of you are craving.
  • If you have frequent access to a store, you could purchase some eggs and hard cook them.
  • Canned tuna and salmon are common favourites: add them to any pasta or other grain dish.

A lot can be done to oatmeal to make it more of a balanced meal:
  • Top with dried or fresh fruit: raisins, apple rings, craisins, banana chips, berries.
  • Add milk powder when preparing.
  • Mix in a spoon of peanut (or other nut) butter.
  • Stir in seeds.
  • Add in flaxseed: flaxseed is becoming very popular in nutrition news. It is a source of omega-3 fats, and an excellent source of fibre, meaning it may help keep your bowels moving when some climbers’ diets may be a bit refined ☺ You can buy flaxseed in seed form, ground up, or powder form. The form changes the taste.

Wherever you travel to this season, enjoy the climbing and enjoy your food!

Happy Holidays,

Krystal Merrells

Oct 30, 2008

Nutrition Research Survey!!!



As you may have noticed, there is very little scientifically based nutrition information out there targeted specifically at rock climbers. I am trying to change that, and hope you will help!

In order to figure out what future research needs to be done in nutrition in rock climbers, and to determine what nutrition information rock climbers need, I am doing a survey research study!

My research study is formally entitled “Food motives and typical food choices while living at home versus during outdoor rock climbing trips”. Oof! Quite the mouthful! Basically, with this study I am hoping to find out what foods and drink rock climbers choose, why they choose those foods and drink, and how this might change when climbers go on outdoor rock climbing and camping trips. The information gathered from this study will help decide future research. It will also help figure out what nutrition issues climbers may have, what nutrition information they need and how to best give them this information.

This study is an online survey. You may participate if you are between the ages of 18 and 55 and have been on at least one rock climbing and camping trip of at least 5 days duration within the past year. The survey is open to all Canadian and US residents. Your answers will be kept confidential and at no point will you be asked to give identifying information, ie. you will never need to give your name, address, phone number, e-mail, etc. Also, an ethics committee at the University of Manitoba approved the study.

You have until January 23rd 2009 to complete the survey.

TO TAKE THE SURVEY click here.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me or my supervisor:
Krystal Merrells: KJMnutrition@gmail.com
Dr. Miyoung Suh:

You can also visit Dr. Suh's University of Manitoba webpage by clicking here. Or, visit the study's webpage by clicking here.

STAY TUNED to this blog! By May 2009, I hope to have all of the data put together and summarized on this blog so that you can see the results of the study.

Thank you for your participation!

Krystal Merrells

Oct 10, 2008

Are you drinking enough?

Hydrating for high performance

When I was in Squamish this August, the group of people I was with and myself noticed that we simply weren’t drinking enough…and I’m not talking about getting enough pints in at the Brew Pub . I’m talking about hydration! (not inebriation…)

In August, we’d be out in the forest and get on problem after problem…it would be half way through the day and we’d notice that our water bottles hadn’t emptied at all. Not only were we thirsty, but we were also sluggish.

When talking to other climbers out there, it seemed many people noticed that even back home at their local gym, they simply weren’t getting enough fluids.

Poor hydration and poor performance are practically synonymous. So, this blog post is about the importance of hydration, and how to drink enough!

What does fluid do for me?

Your body needs water to…

  • Maintain blood volume, which allows nutrients and oxygen to get to the rest of your body

  • Help digest food as part of saliva and digestive juices that break down and absorb food

  • Provide an environment for all biochemical reactions of the cell to occur

  • Lubricate joints and cushion organs and tissues

  • Eliminate waste from the body (#1 and #2)

  • Regulate core body temperature at 37ºC via sweat

That last point can be very important for athletes who are training in hot and humid conditions. When we exercise, our muscles produce heat as a sort of “by-product” of the work they are doing. The heat can build up and be stored in the body, which may cause the body’s overall temperature to rise. We sweat to keep our body temperature at a steady 37ºC.

What are the consequences of dehydration?

Unfortunately, we cannot adapt to chronic dehydration. A loss of only 1-2% of our body water is enough to significantly decrease athletic performance. This amount of fluid loss is common in a one-hour training session, where sweat losses can be ½ to 1½ litres!

Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, light-headedness, headaches, muscle cramps and low endurance. When dehydrated, exercise may seem harder then usual.

Because body fluids are essential for proper functioning of joints and related tissues, dehydration also increases risk of injury. This is especially important for us climbers who put so much stress on joints and tendons!

When dehydrated, on the inside of the body…

  • Blood volume and blood pressure drops, resulting in less oxygen being transported to the muscles

  • Less blood gets to the skin, so less sweat is produced - the body becomes less able to get rid of the build up heat

  • Heart rate speeds up

  • Consumed fluids and foods are released from the stomach more slowly - the body doesn’t absorb nutrients or water as effectively.

Dehydration in extreme cases: heat illnesses

When proper fluid intake is avoided for too long in hot or humid conditions, athlete’s can develop heat illnesses. In the first stage, the illness is simply annoying and can greatly affect performance. In the last stage, body temperature rises so high that it can cause coma or death! Here are the heat illnesses and their signs and symptoms:

  1. Heat cramps: These are painful, involuntary and intermittent muscle spasms that can occur in any muscle group.

  2. Heat exhaustion: This is more hazardous as the sufferer’s mental status is changed; they become irritable, dizzy and have poor judgment. Other symptoms are nausea, headache, sudden fatigue and profuse sweating. Skin colour may be pale. When not treated, this can develop into heat stroke.

  3. Heat stroke: This occurs when body temperature rises to 41ºC and above. This illness is very dangerous and could lead to coma or death. Central nervous system dysfunction causes loss of motor coordination, confusion, delirium and loss of consciousness. At a body temperature of 42ºC and higher, protein within the body coagulates and causes cell death – the body cooks itself! This leads to multi-system organ failure. Symptoms may include reddened skin, rapid heartbeat, quick shallow breathing, normal-profuse sweating, personality changes and fainting.

How do I know if I’m well hydrated?

Check your urine. That’s right…you don’t have to share it with the world, but the next time you go #1, check the volume and colour. If you pee only a small volume and your urine is dark, then you’re dehydrated!

Don’t count on your thirst. If you’re thirsty, then you’ve already lost 2% of your total body fluids, which mentioned earlier, is enough to hurt your climbing! If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

How much should I drink and when?

Before exercise: Start off well hydrated by drinking 2-2½ cups of fluid 2 hours before, and try ½ to 1 cup 10-20 minutes before climbing or a competition.

During exercise: Try to match fluid input with fluid output. To find out your sweat rates, weigh yourself before and after exercise in the nude or, (for the more discrete) in the same clothes before and after. The amount of weight lost during exercise is the amount of body fluid lost: 2.2lbs (1kg) equals 4 cups (1 litre) of fluid that needs to be replaced. You can also try drinking ½ to 1 cup of fluid every 20 minutes during your session.

After exercise: Aim for complete re-hydration. Try drinking 3 cups of fluid for every pound of body weight lost within 2 hours after exercise.

What do I drink?

Before climbing and in the first hour, water is a good choice. But after one hour goes by, you want to switch to a sports drink, such as Gatorade or Powerade.

What about sports drinks?

Sports drinks have carbohydrates and electrolytes to help replenish what you lost in that first hour of climbing. Plus, they are concentrated 4-6%; at this concentration they cause little tummy upset and allow maximum water absorption into your body. However, some people still find these drinks too concentrated. If these give you tummy discomfort, just dilute with water until you find the right concentration – you’ll still get the benefit of some carbohydrate and electrolytes.

You can also make your own sport drink!

  • 1 cup of your favourite fruit juice

  • 1 cup of water

  • 1 pinch of salt

  • Mix and enjoy!

Sport drinks and juices also make good recovery drinks after your training session. The simple fast absorbing carbohydrates in these drinks stimulate muscle recovery. Milk post-exercise is also great for recovery because it has carbohydrate and high quality protein.

What about energy drinks?

Energy drinks, like Redbull or Rockstar, are less ideal for good hydration. Carbohydrate concentration in these drinks ranges from 20-25%. Research studies have shown that drinks with a carbohydrate concentration of 8% and higher actually slow down fluid absorption into the body.

What about alcohol?

Alcohol and sports seem to go together. Remember that alcohol has a diuretic effect – that is, “once you break the seal”, it causes you to pee more, causing you to lose more fluids. During or after a hard day of climbing, alcohol won’t help you re-hydrate or recover.

To sum it all up

  • Dehydration is one of the most common causes of poor performance, and is one of the easiest things to fix in the diet!

  • Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration: fatigue, light-headedness, muscle cramps, struggling with exercise

  • Take action when you start to notice signs of heat illness in yourself or your belay partner or spotter: nausea, dizziness, sudden fatigue, profuse sweating, confusion, irritability, rapid shallow breathing. Drink some cold fluid and get into the shade!

  • Drink fluids before during and after training sessions to prevent dehydration and to optimize recovery

  • Choose water, juices and sports drinks over energy drinks and alcohol

Hydration table:

Before exercise


2 hrs before

10-20 minutes before

How much?

2 cups

½ - 1 cup


Water or

Gatorade G2

First hour of exercise

Every 20 minutes

½ - 1 cup


For exercise lasting longer then 1 hr

Every 20 minutes

½ - 1 cup

Sport drink (bought or homemade)

After exercise

Within 2 hours after

3 – 6 cups

Water, sport drink, milk

Practical Tip:

You know you need to drink 1/2 - 1 cup of fluid every 20 minutes during training...but are you really going to bring a measuring cup with you to the gym or to the crag??
  • If your water bottle doesn't have volume measurements on it, measure out 1/2 or 1 cup of fluid at home and pour into your water bottle to see how much it fills
  • Mark lines on your water bottle for every 1/2 or 1 cup of fluid - use a Sharpe, nail polish, or stickers!
  • You can either set a timer or force yourself after each 2-3 burns to take a swig of fluid - make sure your swig empties your bottle to the next marked line!

Onsite Nutrition now has its own facebook group. Join to be updated on new blog posts, ask questions, or start discussions.

Any questions?

References and Readings

Clark, N. (2003). Nancy Clark's Sports nutrition guidebook, 3 Ed., Human Kinetics.

Covertino, V.A., Armstrong, L.E., Coyle, E.F., Mack, G.W., Sawka, M.N., & Sherman, W.M. (1996). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 28(1), i-vii.

Gibson, J. (2006). Energy drinks. SportMedBC factsheet at www.sportmedbc.com.

Murray, R. (1996). Dehydration, hyperthermia, and athletes: Science and practice. Journal of Athletic Training, 31(3), 248-252.

Parsons, D. (2005). Fluid first - hydration in sports. SportMedBC factsheet at www.sportmedbc.com.

Weinmann, M. (2003). Hot on the inside. Emerg Med Serv, 32(7), 34.

Sep 22, 2008

Two Climbers and their Bag of Rice: My nutrition research on rock climbing and oxidative stress

It’s amazing where life can take you…

Several years ago I started working in a nutrition research lab at the University of Manitoba as a summer student. The research I was hired on to do had absolutely NOTHING to do with sports nutrition, athletes or rock climbing. I was new to nutrition and just wanted some experience in the field. At that same time, two crazy guys from my rock climbing gym were planning a month-long rock climbing/camping trip out to a local crag. Being the typical poor university students they were, they wanted to spend as little money as possible. Knowing they could not cut down on the costs of gas, camping equipment or climbing gear, they aimed to spend as little money as possible on food. So, they went to the grocery store and purchased the largest, cheapest bag of short-grain white rice they could find. They also bought some tuna, flour for making bannock and those dry soup noodles you just need to add water to, expecting that this was all they needed for the month (does this sound familiar to any of you?).

I was no nutrition expert at that time, but I knew something was missing in their food plan. When I next met with my nutrition research supervisor, I told her about these two guys and what they planned to eat for an entire month. I asked “What will happen? What are they doing to themselves?” My supervisor pondered a quick moment and responded very excitedly “I don’t know…Let’s study them!!”

After much literary research and ethics approval pages later, we came up with this rock climbing research study. To my knowledge it is the first nutrition research study on rock climbers, and I am proud to say that it is being published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism!

The Study

Our subjects were two males in their early 20s who were going climbing and camping for 5 weeks. They chose entirely what and how much they ate and climbed; we just observed

Considering their food plan, we expected that they 1) wouldn’t eat enough calories to match their level of exercise; 2) would lose body weight and body fat, and; 3) would have oxidative stress.

What is oxidative stress and why should anyone care about it?

In the athlete, oxidative stress can hurt performance.

Oxidative stress happens when certain hyperactive molecules in the body become too many that our body can’t handle them. These molecules, known as free radicals, can do damage to our cells and tissues by affecting our DNA, our proteins and the lipid molecules that make up our cell walls. One example is superoxide anion, which is an oxygen molecule with one unpaired electron.

Small amounts of free radicals are actually quite helpful. For example, a little bit of free radical production in the muscles help them to contract. However, when too many free radicals are made due to overtraining or not enough rest, oxidative stress occurs and the free radicals can attack our muscle cells, which may cause them to fatigue. This may contribute to overuse injuries in overtrained athletes.

To keep free radicals at a manageable level, the body uses antioxidants to get rid of excess free radicals. These can be protein enzymes that are made by the body, or they can be vitamins and minerals (such as vitamins A, C and E and zinc) that we need to eat. Athletes in general produce more free radicals then your average day Joe and therefore athletes need to eat higher amounts of vitamins and minerals as well. Studies show athletes who don’t get enough antioxidants in their diet have a higher perceived exertion during exercise (exercise feels harder for them).

Knowing that these two climbers were depending mostly on short-grain white rice (which has very little vitamins and minerals), and that climbing is a high-intensity sport, we assumed that they would have oxidative stress at some point during their 5-week trip.

How did we study them?

Before they left for their trip, we had the two climbers fill out diet and activity journals. We measured their body weight, body fat, skinfolds, and took a blood test. Once a week while they were out climbing/camping, a skilled technician (me!) would drive out to the campsite and collect all of the same information, and do all of the same tests. These were repeated again when they got back from their trip.

What did we find?

We had assumed that they wouldn’t eat enough calories to match their exercise level. We were right! In fact, they only ate about 2000 kilocalories per day, when they needed 3200 kilocalories…that’s 40% less then they needed! On top of that, they did not get enough carbohydrate, protein, vitamins A, C, D, E, B2 and calcium and zinc.

They did in fact lose body weight; about 6% of the weight they had before they left. They also lost 16% of their initial body fat mass. But, weight loss is never just fat…they did lose fat free mass as well (which is made of bone, muscle, cartilage, fluid, etc), though we were not able to measure muscle mass directly.

We had assumed they would experience oxidative stress. We were right again! In their blood, we measured a molecule that usually isn’t there unless oxidative stress is occurring. The amount of this molecule (known as F2-isoprostanes) continuously increased in their blood from the time they left to the time they got back.

We also measured the antioxidants in their blood. Vitamin C dropped very low. Antioxidant protein enzymes (such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase) also dropped in the last 2 weeks of their trip, meaning they would not have helped protect against the oxidative stress.

To summarize the study findings, these two crazy guys:

  • Lost body weight, including fat and fat free mass (bone, muscle, etc)

  • Did not eat enough calories, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A, C, D, E, B2 and calcium and zinc

  • Had oxidative stress while their antioxidants decreased

What does this mean?

It’s important to keep in mind that this study was only on 2 people! That means that although these results are really cool and show the need to do more studies on rock climbers, we can’t make too many conclusions from this study alone about what rock climbers should eat.

We were also not able to measure performance in our two rock climbers. So we can’t say for sure whether their diet combined with their outdoor training hurt their climbing ability. However, based on their journals and their comments throughout the study:

  • They developed and suffered joint pains and overuse injuries

  • Their skin didn’t heal as quickly

There is no doubt that oxidative stress happened in these two guys, and that not enough food energy and vitamins and minerals were consumed.

Not getting enough food energy (also known as energy restriction) has been shown in lots of studies to hurt performance. Energy restriction:

  • Decreases endurance

  • Decreases strength and stamina

  • Slows wound healing

  • Decreases lean muscle

Consuming enough antioxidants through food or supplement has been shown to combat oxidative stress in athletes, which may help performance.

Had these two guys consumed enough food energy and vitamins and minerals, they may have had less overuse injuries and joint pains, their skin might have healed better and their climbing performance may have been better. Although, we can’t conclude this here and more studies need to be done to see if this is true.

Practical Tips

The study that I did may have more opened the door for more studies in our sport then it did give climbers precise nutrition information. However, the concepts learned here are the same in all sports, and have been shown in all sports to improve performance:

  • A prolonged low calorie diet won’t help you climb better

  • Athletes, including climbers, have higher needs for vitamins and minerals

You can get enough vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, in foods. Studies have proven that oxidative stress can be combated in athletes who eat foods high in antioxidants.

What foods are high in antioxidants?

Dark and brightly coloured vegetables are generally high in vitamins and minerals. Here are some select choices:

  • Apricots

Vitamin A

  • Sweet potato (Yam)

Vitamin A

  • Carrots

Vitamin A

  • Turkey

Vitamin A

  • Cantaloupe

Vitamin A, C

  • Brussel sprouts

Vitamin A, C

  • Spinach

Vitamin A, C

  • Tomato

Vitamin A, C

  • Strawberries

Vitamin C

  • Grapefruit

Vitamin C

  • Broccoli

Vitamin C

  • Kale

Vitamin C

  • Bell peppers

Vitamin C

  • Oranges

Vitamin C

  • Almonds, Peanuts

Vitamin E

  • Sunflower, Canola, Corn, Soybean, Olive oil

Vitamin E

  • Asparagus

Vitamin E

It’s easy to fit these into your everyday foods:

  • Cut fruit into cereal and yogurts for breakfast or as a snack

  • Peel or chop carrots or broccoli into tomato soup, pasta sauce or burrito/taco mix

  • Mix spinach into salads or put into sandwiches

  • Chew on bell pepper sticks as a snack

  • Experiment making your own pizzas with as many vegetable and fruit toppings and combinations as you like

  • Make your own salad dressing by mixing ¾ C of oil with ¼ C vinegar and chopped herbs (dill, basil, rosemary, paprika, mustard, etc)

What about supplements?

Studies have shown antioxidant supplements (usually Vitamins A, C and E) reduce oxidative stress in athletes who already have a low antioxidant diet. In athletes who have a well-planned diet, supplements don’t seem to have any effect.

When outdoor climbing, fresh food and a way to preserve the food is not always possible. In those cases, we probably don’t get enough vitamins and minerals in the diet, so a supplement could be helpful. Taking supplements while on a climbing/camping trip can be part of a well-planned diet, and supplements are generally safe in the adult population.

  • A multi-vitamin can provide the extras you need with the convenience of having to take just one pill a day.

  • Chose a supplement that is a brand name, as supplements are not regulated by law: unlike medications, what it says on the supplement bottle may NOT be exactly what’s in the pill. A brand name company has more to lose when it comes to integrity of their product, and so is more reliable.

To summarize supplementation:

  • When you are at home and have access to fresh foods, ALWAYS count on FOOD FIRST. For most, you can get all you need through food and should first work on optimizing your food plan.

  • Supplements are to help the food plan. Add on supplements to optimize your food plan or when you can’t meet certain goals through food, such as in outdoor climbing/camping situations.

  • Choose brand name supplements. Until further research, a multivitamin may be good enough to meet your antioxidant needs when outdoors.

Stay Tuned!

I am conducting another study and need your help!

Stay tuned to this website to find out how you can participate in an online survey!

Any questions?



Clarkson, P., Thompson, H. (2000). Antioxidants: What role do they play in physical activity and health? Am J Clin Nutr, 72(suppl), 637S-646S.

Finaud, J., Lac, G., Filaire, E. (2006). Oxidative stress: Relationship with exercise and training. Sports Med, 36(4), 327-358.

Sen, C. (2001). Antioxidants in Exercise Nutrition. Sports Med, 31(13), 891-908.

Watson, T., Callister, R., Taylor, R., Sibbritt, D., MacDonald-Wicks, L., Garg, M. (2005) Antioxidant restriction and oxidative stress in short-duration exhaustive exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 37(1), 63-71.

Jul 20, 2008

The purpose, the goal, the intro


You’re pulling through the crux on your first V7 project…your arms start to shake, you’re losing your focus and you get spit off a few moves from the send. You know you rested well, have been training hard and have the beta locked…what’s missing?

More and more athletes are realizing the importance of food for their performance: "What can I eat before training that will give me lots of energy, but won't feel heavy in my stomach?" or, "I've been training all afternoon, and I'm starving. What should I have that will help me recover so I can go hard again tomorrow?" or, "I'm thirsty and I'm bagged... should I have a Red Bull or a Gatorade? What's the difference?" and also, "Lots of other athletes take a lot of different supplements and powders...Do they work and should I be using them too?"

But unfortunately, there is very little nutrition information or research out there for rock climbers.

What food does for you

What and when you eat maximizes your performance!


  • Fuels your body giving you energy.

  • Builds and repairs your muscles to enhance recovery.

  • Prevents sickness during high training times.

  • Maintains your lean mean machine, whether you are trying to lose, keep or gain weight.

  • Keeps you focused at the comp or on the last pitch.

My goal

I have created Onsite Nutrition to help you out with your nutrition plan, no matter where you are: at home, at the gym, at the crag or at the campsite. With the proper rest and training, nutrition can help you flash more future routes. Think of how good you’re climbing right now, and how much better you could climb with a few extra food tips!

My goals are to provide rock climbers with:

  1. Practical information to incorporate nutrition into their training plan

  2. Food ideas when camping at the crag and traveling

Who’s this site for?

Information found here will be useful for:

  • Beginners

  • Competition climbers

  • Outdoor climbers

All in all, this blog is for you! Your feedback and questions will help me post the information you want to know! So please send your questions to onsitenutrition@gmail.com. (Your questions will be kept anonymous.)

Who am I?

I am a climber

I have been climbing for about 8 years. I live in the prairies in Canada and so must travel to enjoy the outdoor sport. Currently my favourite spots are Squamish, BC in August, Hueco Tanks, TX in February, and our closest local crags in northwestern Ontario on weekends when weather and insects permit. I have enjoyed the unique bouldering in Castle Hill, NZ, and look forward to my European tour next spring. I have also had the chance to participate in some Tour de Bloc comps in the winter season.

I am a nutrition educator

I am a student in the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba. I work with a sports dietitian - helping to educate different teams and athletes, from runners to ballet dancers - about the importance of sport nutrition. I help with literary research and have submitted articles to the Dietitians of Canada Sport Nutrition Network regarding topics such as nutrition and the immune system, antioxidants and oxidative stress, protein supplementation, creatine use, etc.

I am a researcher

I have been involved in nutrition research for the past 3 years. I have completed my own sport nutrition research project on two outdoor rock climbers. This project looked at their outdoor camping diet and body composition and oxidative stress changes. The written article is currently under review. In the mean time, I am working on developing a research survey on rock climbers’ typical food habits and how these differ from food habits while on an outdoor trip. Stay tuned to see how you can participate!

Stay tuned next time…

My next posting will be about my previous research study, what I did, what I found and what this might mean for you.

Thank you, and remember to send your questions to onsitenutrition@gmail.com.