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

Aug 21, 2009

Mini Nutrition Guides

Mini Nutrition Guides for the Traveling Climber

Just this spring, I spent 68 days traveling, climbing, and taking in the food culture throughout Europe.  I figured, while I was there, that I take notes on the food and culture that may help a traveling climber’s nutrition when abroad.

A recent research survey I did showed that on climbing trips, we climbers tend to choose less foods from all the food groups.  Instead of consuming available whole foods, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, and energy, we rely mostly on trail mix and protein bars for energy and nutrition.  This shows that our nutrition on climbing trips is lacking.

When we’re outdoors and active all day, our nutrition can help make our climbing day more successful, no matter what our level.  Knowing what foods are available at our favourite outdoor crags might help us make better food choices, and improve our nutrition on trips.

A future goal of mine is to one day offer detailed nutrition guides to popular climbing destinations world wide.  But, for now, this is my novice attempt.  On my recent 68-day long trip, I visited and compiled information for AlbarracĂ­n Spain, Magic Woods Switzerland, and Fontainebleau France.  In the blog posts to come, you will find mini nutrition guides for these places that will include information on local foods and eating (gastronomy), eating out tips, supermarket and farmer’s markets, currency, language, stove fuels, potable water sources and camping recipes.

Although I take a sport nutrition approach to these mini nutrition guides, I also want to emphasize the love of food!!  Trying new foods is also a part of experiencing the culture of the areas we visit.  I hope for you to get the most out of your travels.

Because this is my first attempt, I would like to hear back from you.  Tell me what about these guides are useful, and what sucks.  I welcome any constructive criticism on these guides so that in the future, I can make them better.  Plus, the more criticism I get, the more reason for me to return to these European climbing spots (and what a shame that would be, lol).

The country specific posts are to come.  First, some general traveling tips.


General Nutrition Traveling Tips

Checklist for the traveling climber

Here’s a list of food prep-related items to pack (Table 1):

Table 1. Traveling checklist.

r    Camping pots


r    Camping stove

A multi-fuel stove is ideal.  Some countries use different fuels, or certain fuels may be more economical.

r    Extra fuel bottles

Make sure they are empty when in transit.

r    Can opener


r    Lighters or strike-anywhere matches


r    Bowl

Can be used to mix ingredients and eat from.

r    Spork or Foon

Any form of spoon-fork hybrid.

r    A good knife and sharpener


r    Your favourite spices

Pack these in small containers or plastic bags.

r    Flaxseed

Only a few teaspoons per day are needed to help maintain bowel movements.

r    Enough dry food for 2 meals

This is so that when you arrive at your destination, you have a meal ready.  You may arrive when the stores are closed.

r    About $200 cash

In case you arrive and banks are closed.

r    Dromedary bag and water bottles

Empty if traveling by plane.

r    Gatorade or juice powder

These may be hard to find at some destinations.

r    Favourite sports/cereal/granola bars

These may not be available at some destinations.

r    Ziploc or other plastic bags

Good for packing leftovers and storing food from ripped store packaging.

r    Towels

To wash, dry, and handle hot pots.

r    Mug


r    Mini cutting board


r    Garbage bag


r    Hand sanitizer or wet naps


r    Bottle opener

For sampling local beer and wines J

Nutrition During Travel

Whether by plane, train or automobile, the pressurized cabins and the air conditioning can dehydrate you.  Dehydration en route can give you headaches, tiredness, and poor bowel movements.  Stay hydrated by drinking at least 1 cup of fluid every hour.  Water, juice, sport drinks, tea, and coffee all count.  This may make you pee more, but this encourages you to get up and stretch.  Moving and stretching is especially more important on long trips, when your muscles can become cramped or stiff.

If traveling by plane, remember to bring an EMPTY water bottle, and fill it once you’ve passed through security checks.  Any bottle containing liquids will be thrown out at the security check.

Check to see if your flights offer a meal service, or if your trains have a cafeteria on board.  You may want to pack your own snacks and meals on long traveling days.  You will be getting better nutrition packing food yourself when choosing foods from all the food groups.  Packing your own food also ensures that the food available to you won’t make you sick.

Tips for Safe Food so you don’t get sick

Some people may not tolerate foreign food well.  Follow these tips if you are concerned about getting sick from food.

If concerned about water:

·      Use bottled water for drinking, mixing sport drinks, rinsing cooking equipment, and brushing teeth.  Be aware that this may become costly.

·      You can boil water for 10 minutes, or purchase a water filter.

·      Be aware of ice cubes and ice drinks.  These may not be made from boiled or filtered water.

Inspect food products before purchase:

·      Make sure food and drink seals are unbroken before consuming contents.

·      Dents in cans may weaken the seal.

·      Avoid fruit with damaged skin.

When eating out:

·      Meals should be sold to you either steaming hot or refrigerated.  Avoid lukewarm foods.

·      Avoid food sold by street vendors.  Public food is less safe when not kept at the right temperature, when raw and prepared foods are mixed, and when served without utensils.

Foods that are less likely to make you sick:

·      Foods that have been thoroughly cooked (steaming hot).

·      Raw foods that have been washed in safe water.

·      Foods that can be peeled.

Foods most likely to make you sick:

·      Pre-prepared salads, rare meats, hamburger meat, cream fillings, fish.

The easiest way to prevent food borne illness:

·      Wash your hands before preparing food!

Organize your food

Eating foods from all the food groups gives us the energy, nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed to stay healthy and climb hard all trip long.  When you return to your campsite from the grocery store, separate your food into bags based on the following food groups (Table 2).

Table 2.  Food groups, what they do for us, and examples.

Vegetables and Fruit



Milk and Alternatives

Meat and Alternatives

·       Vitamins and minerals from these help prevent sickness and may help against oxidative stress.

·       Their fibre keeps the intestines healthy and our BMs regular.


·       Huge source of energy for our muscles and our mind.

·       Helps muscle recovery.

·       Enriched varieties give us needed vitamins and minerals.

·       Source of calcium for our skeleton.

·       Source of good quality protein for muscle recovery.

·       Liquid varieties help us hydrate.

·       Long lasting energy.

·       Increases satiety.

·       Good source of protein for muscle recovery.

·       Give us minerals that are important for all athletes.

Zucchini, squash, carrots, cauliflower, bananas, grapes, strawberries

Potatoes, corn, pasta, rice, couscous, cereals, flour, bread

Cow’s milk, soymilk, yogurt, cheeses, puddings

Ham, eggs, chicken, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, navy beans, kidney beans


If you organize your food into four different bags (one for each food group), then you just need to make sure you choose foods from each bag every day.  This is an easy start to making sure you are getting balanced nutrition while you are away.

Good resource for worldly climbers:

Survival Around the World, Australian Institute of Sport, 2004