There are many small things you do away from the wall, which can make a difference to how you feel when you’re climbing, and the performance you give. One very individual aspect of this is nutrition. I’m certainly no nutritional expert but I’ve been told a fair amount about what’s best to eat and when.
Let’s start with before you get to the wall; fueling up for your session is key, and choosing what to eat based on the type of session you’re going to have is also important. For some longer sessions you may need to eat throughout, but for a shorter more power-based session eating a couple hours before is a good idea. You should aim to have a meal with around 50% carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable – oats are good for this. You will also need to have some protein in this – my favourite quick protein source being from eggs, but you could also have some nuts. Some other popular pre-climb snacks I’ve heard of are bananas with almond butter or rice with black beans.
For an endurance session it is important to eat during to sustain energy levels, and make sure you don’t tire too early. You should be constantly drinking throughout your session as well too avoid the risk of dehydration which can have huge detrimental effects on performance. If you are feeling a slight dip in your session at about an hour in, try to snack on a mix of carbohydrates (simple in particular) and proteins, as it’s easy for your body to digest quickly and use as energy. Protein bars, nuts, crackers and dried fruit are all good examples of mid session snack foods!
About 30 minutes to an hour after your session, eat or drink something that combines protein and carbohydrates, as it will refill your energy stores and build and repair your muscles that were broken down. Protein shakes are popular among many, but you can get much more exciting – burritos full of beans and brown rice are great but super yummy too! A popular choice for a recovery drink on the GB team is chocolate milk – so it doesn’t have to be just vegetables or grains!
Moving away from nutrition, rest is crucial for making sure your body can recover. You should aim for around 7.5-9 hours of sleep a night, allowing you to do complete between 5 and 6 sleep cycles. Growth hormones are released during your deep sleep stage (stage 3), which is where repair and restoration occurs. To put it simply, you need your sleep to recover from working hard at the wall and to allow you to get better and not break!
Getting some stretching in after a competition
A sensible way to finish your session is to stretch your body; not only does it improve flexibility and range of movement, it also helps relax your muscles and aids recovery. I usually finish a session with a set of static stretches, especially targeting the upper body and groin area.
Lastly, it’s important to enjoy spending time away from the wall, giving your mind and body time to rest! I like to take up other activities when having breaks from climbing, such as baking, reading or netball.