Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nutrition for Alpine Climbing Part 2

This post is a continuation of a previous post outlining my nutrition plan for the Tetons.  The previous post discusses the basics of nutrition while performing endurance exercise, while this posts offers my specific nutrition plan.

Ideal vs. Real
The reality of attempting to refuel while exerting is that you will always be in a deficit; you simply cannot replenish the fuel your body is using while you continue to use it.  While your body can absorb up to perhaps 400 calories per hour and 40 ounces of water while operating below about 70% VO2 max (about 80% max heart rate), when climbing you can burn up to 500 - 600 calories and lose 1 - 2 liters of fluid per hour.  Further, it may not always be practical to carry all the necessary water (and perhaps food) due to weight concerns.  Finally, while you should be consuming fluids and calories about every 10 - 15 minutes, that might not always be possible given the need to attend to such matters as belaying, scrambling, and other technical tasks that don’t combine well with eating.  Consequently, you will frequently operate at some kind of deficit during a long climb.

The other reality of climbing is that exertion and altitude can combine to make some foods very appealing and others not so much.  So, while I should probably be consuming an entirely liquid diet of the perfect blend of water, sugars, protein, and electrolytes, I will instead be consuming a few things that I like to eat because if I like to eat them, I will actually eat them.  Further, I’ve found through experience that when operating in the cold and/or on very long days, a bit of protein and fat on occasion can provide a real energy and morale boost.

I’ve planned to carry 2 to 3 liters of fluids at a time (we’ll melt snow to reload on water as we go) and have assumed we will complete the traverse in a speedy 18 hours.  If this proves to not be the case (which is entirely possible), the suffer quotient will go up considerably.  If that should happen, my hope is that by the time I run out of food we will be in the non-technical downhill hiking terrain with visions of pizza and beer relatively near at hand.

The stuff alpine climbs are made of.
My Nutrition Plan for a Long Alpine Climb
I plan to bring the following:

6 Clif bars (I prefer the white chocolate macadamia nut flavor)
10 Clif Shot Bloks
2 Clif Builder bars
3 Reese’s Fast Break bars
Gatorade powder for about 6 Nalgenes

I’ll be consuming about 300ml of water and 300ml of Gatorade each hour.  I will also have an entire Clif Shot Blok (6 blocks), a Clif bar, or a Builder bar every hour, which comes out to about 300-350 calories an hour.  When things get rough I’ll throw in a Fast Break.  My plan is to eat the whole foods at slow points of the day (ie. belaying) and have the Shot Bloks (which I prefer to GU) when we are moving quickly.  I will also be getting some caffeine from the Shot Bloks as well, alternating the caffeinated and non-caffeinated varieties.

Now to see how it actually goes…

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