Although bouldering is a high-intensity power sport, bouldering competitions often also require a great deal of endurance. For this reason, it’s best to prepare for bouldering comps the same way you would for a marathon or triathlon, via carbohydrate loading. The main things to consider before any sporting event are what to eat before, during and after exercise.
The Night Before the Comp: Carbs, some Fat
Eat plenty of grains: rice, pasta, breads, pizza, etc. This meal doesn’t have to be fat-free, but bear in mind that fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. High fat meals often leave you feeling sluggish and drowsy, so I wouldn’t go overboard with the fat.
The Morning Before the Comp: Carbs, NO Fat, NO Fiber
Depending on the competition, this section might even extend to your lunchtime meal or mid-morning snack, but the goals stay the same: Eat carbs. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but do you actually know why it’s useful to consume carbs before exercise No? Here’s a super quick lesson: when you eat any form of carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into simple sugars (glucose, fructose, and galactose) and sends it into your bloodstream to feed all of your starving cells (including your enormously well-toned muscle cells). Once you have enough in your blood, your body will start storing this energy in the form of glycogen in your muscle and your liver. The end! So if you build up your energy stores the night and the morning before your comp, you will have plenty of fuel with which to annihilate your competition. Remember, a fatty breakfast will leave you feeling heavy and sluggish before a comp – you don’t need all that bacon to send! I promise. Also, remember to drink plenty of water before the comp and about an hour into the mayhem.
During the Comp: Carbs, NO Fat, NO Fiber
Plan your snacks ahead of time. Competitions are chaotic. Adrenaline is pumping. The clock is ticking. People are cheering. You can’t feel your stomach, but alas, you need to eat. However, if you’re like me, and competitions or any form of an adrenaline rush makes you nauseous, just listen to your body. Don’t starve and pass out, but do what you can. During your rests, munch on some crackers, fruits, or other carbohydrate-rich snacks. Protein bars are NOT optimal in the heat of the comp. Every bar is different, but most bars will have fat and gobs of protein. You don’t need all of that during the competition – save it for later! Another ingredient that is not your friend during a comp is fiber. Fiber wears a social halo, but it’s actually not that useful in sports nutrition. Fiber slows down digestion, which is great for the daily grind while sitting in a cubicle, but during exercise, your body NEEDS to digest quickly so that it can use your food to fuel your awesomeness. So, what would this look like? I like to bring Goldfish (specifically of the rainbow variety), Cheez-Its, peanut butter banana honey sandwiches, bananas, berries, and gatorade or coconut water for electrolyte replacement. If you hate processed foods, stick with the real food carb sources.
After the Comp: PROTEIN, PROTEIN, PROTEIN
You did it! You won! You feel awesome, as you should. Now it’s time to consume some protein. Why? All that sending you just did was slowly breaking down your muscles. As you rest, your body repairs and rebuilds that muscle, but you need the building blocks to do so. Protein gives your body the right building blocks to repair muscle breakdown and to create enzymes that can enhance endurance. Try to consume about 20 grams of protein after the competition, the sooner the better! Studies have found that 20 grams is the best amount to maximize muscle growth, any more would just be a waste of money. Take a look at the list below to see how much energy your body is burning when you rock climb!
According to the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine,
- If you weigh roughly 100 pounds: 500 calories burned rock climbing per hour
- If you weigh roughly 130 pounds: 649 calories burned per hour
- If you weigh roughly 155 pounds: 774 calories burned per hour
- If you weigh roughly 180 pounds: 899 calories burned per hour
- If you weigh roughly 205 pounds: 1024 calories burned per hour
Now, go eat pizza, drink an Ale-8, and be merry J After all, you’ve just burned off thousands of calories.