Lose Weight Safely
Shed pounds the right way to maximize redpoint success.
As high-end sport climbing emerged in the 1980s, another climbing trend also surfaced—and no, we don’t mean the bright pink, tiger-print Lycra that littered the pages of Climbing mags of yesteryear. Body weight became a huge factor in the sport; some climbers were unhealthy about it and developed serious eating disorders. Detrimental practices persist, and losing weight when you’re already fit is controversial in the climbing community. But naysayers can’t deny the benefits of dropping excess fat to climb harder. One 5.14 climber once told us that his secret was losing five pounds before sending. However, climbers should approach diet changes with caution. Here’s how to lose weight the right way.
- Go slow. David Weber, ranger and lead medic in Denali National Park, recommends losing no more than one pound per week. If your goal is five pounds, take five weeks to do it. “Losing weight too quickly is unhealthy,” he says. “Dropping pounds while keeping strength is hard.” Many nutritionists and trainers focus on exchanging fat for lean muscle while maintaining a similar overall weight.
- Up your cross- and strength-training. Cardio is obviously beneficial, and strength-training will build muscle that not only makes you stronger, but also helps burn more calories—even at rest.
- Tweak your eating habits. Eric Hörst, author of Training for Climbing, advises against restricting calories, but instead suggests “nutritional surveillance.” Make simple improvements on what you normally consume to drop a couple of pounds. Increase intake of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables; avoid fried foods, refined or added sugar, saturated and trans fats, and empty carbs like soda. See more ideas at right. ‘
- Stay hydrated. Drink one liter of water per hour (any more and your body will not absorb it) for maximum hydration. Drinking adequate amounts of water assists your body with digestion, and it helps you feel full so you won’t overeat or snack when you’re idle.
- Improve your climbing technique. Ultimately, no matter what the number on the scale reads, better technique will increase your climbing performance. Focus on moving swiftly and efficiently on-route: You’ll burn less energy and avoid that massive pump.
- Don’t crash diet or deprive your body of essential nutrients. Suddenly and dramatically scaling back your caloric intake (e.g., going from 2,000 calories a day to 1,200 or fewer) will create a natural response in your body to burn much-needed muscle instead of fat. Gradually reduce your calories per day, without decreasing your intake so much that you eliminate the fuel your body needs to stay healthy and to maintain energy levels and cognitive focus. Start by cutting out a few hundred gratuitous calories—those nightly overstuffed burritos and tallboy PBRs, for example.
- Don’t try to lose weight last-minute. This will most likely have a negative impact. “You shouldn’t cram last-minute for an exam, and you shouldn’t cram when tightening up your diet,” Hörst says. “Start a month or more ahead of time.”
- Don’t restrict your water intake. This causes dehydration, which can lead to electrolyte imbalances, muscle cramping and spasms, and more physical and mental issues. Down the road, it could even cause micro-tears in muscles and ligaments, which will negatively affect your climbing performance and lead to more injury.
- Don’t binge. This seems obvious, but many people starve themselves and then end up overeating when they sit down to have a meal. Eating smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day will increase your metabolism and help shed pounds.
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