Do you ever feel like you’re just drained before you climb? You know you have strength, you’ve been training for a while, but you just feel like you’re running out of gas? Sometimes this can be the result of hunger if you haven’t had a substantial meal prior to your climbing session; other times, this can be the result of dehydration. Dehydration can be a big obstacle for rock climbers.
We don’t necessarily think about water or fluids; we just want to climb the crap out of some rocks and feel awesome doing it. But when it comes to exercise, if you’re thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated. This happens because it takes the brain a little while to realize that you’ve depleted your fluid stores. Hydration is a preventive measure that is best maintained by many jugs of water.
However, if you plan on climbing for more than 2 or 3 hours, most sports dietitians would suggest that you bring more than just plain water to keep you hydrated. After about 2 hours of intense exercise, you begin to lose electrolytes, namely sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge in your body and maintain proper cellular function.
So, long story short, if you want your muscles to contract properly when you dyno to that awful sloper, then you need to maintain your electrolytes. Of course, your body is able to maintain a good amount of electrolytes during exercise, but climbing is very intense exercise, so think about how much you’ll be sweating and plan accordingly. On a typical day with optimum weather, I drink plain water for the first two hours, and then I switch to Gatorade or another electrolyte replacement drink for the rest of the day.
On very hot days where I’ll be sweating profusely, I would only drink water for the first hour, and then I switch to an electrolyte replacement. I typically bring Gatorade with me because it’s convenient; you can bring some powder in a Ziploc bag and mix it into your water jug when you’re ready. For those of you who want something a little more “real”, you might consider coconut water like O.N.E. or Zico. Coconut water contains all 5 electrolytes: sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. It also contains about 15 times more potassium than other sports drinks, which can help prevent muscle cramping.
So the moral of the story: stay hydrated while you climb. Even if you’re just going to the gym to train for an hour, bring a water bottle. Remind yourself to drink water while you’re at the crag, and remember that while alcohol is delicious and enjoyable, it also dehydrates your body very quickly. Keep drinking your water, and stay thirsty, my friends ;)