Climbing Holiday Gift Guide: Trailside Kitchen Nutrition Program

Give your favorite climber improved performance with this eating plan

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Need a gift for that special climber in your life? This month we’re running new product recommendations every weekday until the holidays. Check out the rest of the list.


“What’s the one thing that will help my climbing the most?” Like many of you, I’ve been looking for the answer to that question since I started climbing. Over the years, I tried cobbled-together training regimens with moderate success. Something wasn’t clicking. My body felt stronger overall, but an hour into a day at the crag and all I wanted was to lie down. I could eke out a hard send every once in a while, but most of the time I just felt sleepy as soon as I reached the top of the second pitch. No energy plus no motivation equals no psych.

Turns out the solution was right under my nose: eating. For the last 7 years, I had been tweaking my diet, counting carbs, drinking liquid meals, eliminating foods, and even cutting out beer for 90 days to figure out what worked for me. It took me a long time to realize that you are what you eat—if I didn’t fuel properly, I would feel and climb like crap. While many of these nutrition plans helped me find the correct individual foods, I still didn’t really know how to put it all together to get solid all-day performance while climbing. Enter Chef Julia Delves.

Julia reached out to me in the end of the summer to see if I wanted to try her Trailside Kitchen method. Since I had an ambitious fall planned with long trad routes in Zion, hard single-pitch in Indian Creek, and sport lines in Lander, it was the perfect time to refocus on my nutrition. We did a 2-hour intake call. Julia asked me about my history with food, eating, and diets (she listened patiently to my 7-year saga), as well as what my current athletic goals were. I wanted to have sustained energy so I could climb all day, and if I lost a little bit of stomach fluff along the way, well, I wouldn’t complain.

She walked me through her 6-week program, explaining how it worked and where she thought I’d find the most improvement. You pick an activity level: lifestyle (not super active), performance (climbing a few times a week, that’s what I chose), or training (climbing hard several times a week). Based on macronutrient ratios (carbs to fat to protein), the Trailside Kitchen method means you don’t have to count calories or weigh out portions, which most recreational climbers don’t have time for. Instead, you use the provided percentage breakdowns of foods (e.g., whole-fat dairy products are 50% protein, 50% fat, shrimp is 100% protein, etc.) and look at your plate to estimate the ratios, aiming to get certain percentages of each macronutrient on your plate based on your activity level. (It’s a lot easier than it sounds!)

It revolutionized the way I eat, and it prevented one of my biggest issues with food—snacking. If a meal kept me satiated for 4-5 hours, then it was a good portion size. If I was hungry in less than 4 hours, I needed to eat a little more for each meal. In the past I would eat a lean, healthy meal, be starving in 2 hours or less, and go in search of the first thing I could find, which was usually junk. With Trailside, I would eat a delicious, filling meal, and before I knew it, 5 hours had gone by and I hadn’t even thought about food. Every time I went out climbing, I felt fueled and energetic throughout the day, which kept me motivated and psyched.

After a month on the program, I sent my hardest trad pitch to date in Zion, and five pitches later, I was still climbing hard. Add in the fact that I slimmed down my troublesome tummy area, and I was absolutely sold. Over two months later, and I’m still very happily following the program. There are dozens of amazing recipes on the website, crafted by Chef Julia herself, or you can make your own concoctions, which is what I did. I got to eat foods that I love: cheese, cured meat (bacon!), chicken wings, sweet potato chips, eggs.

But the best part—and what makes Trailside so effective—was working directly with Julia. We did weekly phone calls to fine-tune details of my personalized program, and she told me to text her anytime with questions about the ratios. “I love getting pictures of food!” she told me in the beginning. And I texted her all the time: “Is vegetarian beef the same as grass-fed?” or “How do I get a little more protein in my morning meal without getting added fat?”

No matter how much willpower you have, the holidays can be tough on anyone’s eating plan, so check out the Trailside Kitchen method for yourself or any climber in your life. There are several different program structures, including 4-week programs you follow on your own (no access to Julia), individual weekly coaching (full access to Julia), and a group option (starts on January 16) where you can go through the 4-week program with others. The group program is a great middle ground and allows for a support structure without the cost of one-on-one work, and Julia will be there to answer questions through a Facebook group.

Julia is also offering a 20% discount to Climbing readers, just use the code CLIMBINGMAG when you sign up here. (Keep in mind it will only discount what you’re purchasing at that time, whether it’s a whole program or a single week of coaching.) With the discount, the group program is less than $120 for 4 weeks, so it’s also affordable.

If you’re training hard and not seeing results, trying to break through a plateau, or just need a plan to rebound after the holidays, the Trailside Kitchen method is your answer. It’s changed my eating, my life, and my climbing, and it can do the same for you.

Price varies per program;