Sustain higher energy levels and speed up recovery with protein
It’s probably happened at one time or another: menacing thoughts about energy deficits hurting your climbing performance, keeping you up at night. Unfortunately, climbers don’t always have the best methods for maintaining. We often go on harmful, unhealthy diets. And the dirtbagging approach to eating often proves detrimental, too. Why? Lack of protein — a raw material required by the body for proper function and recovery. Besides repairing tissue, protein maintains your immune system (producing antibodies), helps produce cells, aids in neurotransmitter activity, and facilitates muscle output by transporting, via blood, a number of substances, such as minerals and oxygen. What exactly does all this mean for your climbing? Obviously, without protein, a climber has much lower energy levels at the crag and slower recovery. Ergo, protein must be a part of your diet.NeedsIf you read the contents listing on the side of a food item and think you’re getting enough protein, you’re probably wrong. Of the more than 20 amino acids proteins provide, nine are essential (i.e., the body cannot synthesize these on its own) to healthy adults. Combining proteins — if a plant source lacks certain amino acids, such as lysine — with a complementary amino acid source (e.g., peanut butter) can ensure consumption of all nine amino acids. This is called “mutual supplementation,” and it’s not necessary to eat these at the same meal. Interestingly enough, although coined as “incomplete,” proteins in many plants (e.g., legumes) contain the nine essential amino acids in low amounts. Thus, in comparison to meat — like halibut, salmon, tuna, and more, which boast high levels of amino acids — you must consume more plant protein to obtain the same amount of aminos.SupplementsAlong with plant- and animal-source proteins, you can add different protein supplements — most available at your local health food store. Casein and whey top the list of best protein supplements. Both of these milk-source proteins are easily used by your body and packed with branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are catabolized (broken down) mainly in muscle, and, thus, crucial in exercise and recovery. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that will supply your body with a constant source of amino acids, best consumed right before bed or on rest days. On the contrary, whey causes a rapid increase in amino acid levels within the blood, and is best taken before, during, or just after climbing.How Much?The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein intake is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. Serious climbers will need between 0.6 and 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. In other words, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to consume somewhere between 90 and 120 grams. Try consuming 15 to 20 grams of protein — about 200 calories’ worth — in a small snack (e.g., turkey sandwich with swiss or mozzarella cheese, yogurt, or protein energy bars) a half-hour before climbing. This will give the food time to catabolize and increase the amount of amino acids in your bloodstream. Once at the crag, customize a sports drink with a 60-40 carb-to-protein ratio. Use a favorite sports beverage and add in some whey protein (again, 15 to 20 grams). This will keep you hydrated and supply your muscles with both simple carbs and BCAAs. It should be noted that protein consumption prevents excess production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and energy levels), whereas carbohydrates — when eaten alone — increase serotonin levels. After an epic day, eat something with simple carbs (e.g., fruit) right away. In the first hour after climbing, your muscles are the most receptive to this form of nutrient uptake. A well-balanced meal within two hours will round out the deal, maximizing your recovery efforts. For rest days, make sure that you meet protein requirements (at least 1.5 times the RDA) and try to eat a variety of protein-rich foods.
Protein for Dummies
Beans and legumesCheese: Look for low-fat cheeses such as Swiss, mozzarella, and cottage cheese.Chicken breastEggs: To reduce fat intake, eat mostly egg whites, which are all protein.Fish: Salmon, tuna, halibut, and othersNuts: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and natural peanut butter Lean Beef: 95 percent or more lean, sirloin, or top round steakProtein powder: Whey and caseinQuinoa: A complete protein. It is high in fiber and gluten free, and has 11 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.Turkey: Ground, or sliced for sandwichesKyle Vassilopoulos lives in Bozeman, Montana. A former martial artist and professional downhill ski racer — and current 5.14 climber — Vassilopoulos is always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to train.