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3 Turbo-Charged Crag Snack Recipes

Eat smart to fill your belly and send your hardest

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We’ve all heard the term “climber bod” tossed around as we ogle each other’s strapping lats, sinewy forearms, and string-bean thighs. But it’s better to fuel for performance rather than appearance, which means including a source of fuel with some building blocks. Fuel sources are carbs (quick-burning fuel; think gas on a fire) and fat (slow-burning fuel; think of a dense log). If you’re climbing sustained routes or for long periods, or are giving intense send-gos, prioritize carbs, which give you an almost-immediate edge by delivering a new burst of chemical energy to hard-working cells. Fat is helpful for long days in the alpine or at the crags, when you need a steady, slow-burning energy source. Protein, meanwhile, is the building-block macronutrient. When consumed before, during, and after exercise, it improves your muscles’ adaptive response to prolonged sessions and improves muscle synthesis. Plus, it controls cravings and improves satiety. Below are crag snacks with a climber-friendly focus, all conducive to keeping you fit, fine, and—if you must—cover-ready for the next issue of GQ.

1. Hulk Balls

Hulk Balls recipe food crack snacks rock climbing
Louisa Albanese

Best For: Between goes on projects, long approaches, fall-weather or alpine climbing (no one likes melted balls), or for providing amazing snacks in exchange for belays.


Makes 15 Hulk Balls

  • 1/2 cup protein powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
  • 8 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup So Delicious unsweetened coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • 1 tbsp spirulina powder
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 1 85% dark cacao bar, melted over a double boiler
  • 1/4 cup chopped, crystallized ginger or shredded coconut

Make the magic happen:

  1. In a large bowl, mix all but last three ingredients using a fork.
  2. Transfer mixture to high-powered blender. Blend to form homogenous green dough.
  3. Mix goji berries into dough and freeze for 15 minutes.
  4. Make a double boiler: In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a rapid boil. Sit a metal bowl atop saucepan so that the boiling water heats the bowl. Add chocolate to bowl, turn off burner, mix lightly, and let chocolate melt.
  5. Remove dough from freezer. Using a tablespoon for size, scoop and roll dough balls, setting aside on a parchment-paper-lined plate. (Note: Balls not to scale with the Hulk’s actual balls.)
  6. Submerge dough balls in melted chocolate and set back on plate.
  7. Sprinkle crystallized ginger or shredded coconut atop the balls.
  8. Return Hulk Balls to freezer until chocolate hardens.
  9. Take your Hulk Balls to the crag and watch the magic unfold. Pro tip: Don’t tell people they are bright green inside. 

1 ball: 185 calories; 45% carbs, 40% fat, 15% protein.

Superfood those balls!

Not merely tasty, Hulk Balls also contain a handful of potent superfoods:

Goji berries: While goji berries contain beneficial secondary plant compounds that act as antioxidants, pound for pound they also contain 500 times more vitamin C than oranges. Consumption of vitamin C reduces oxidation associated with exercise. Plus, vitamin C is required to make collagen, key to keeping our joints, tendons, and ligaments functioning optimally.

Spirulina: Spirulina, aka “blue-green algae,” has been used for centuries, all the way back to the Aztecs. Made of about 60 percent protein, this algae is packed with B vitamins, iron, and manganese. Spirulina has been touted to reduce mental and physical fatigue, and may reduce blood-pressure as well.

Cacao: The densest plant source of magnesium, which is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, cacao is also a prebiotic—i.e., it feeds those beneficial bacteria in your gut—and a rich source of flavonols. Flavonols are antioxidants that increase the availability of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, improves circulation, and may support oxygen use during exertion.

2. Protein Pancakes

protein pancakes recipe food crack snacks rock climbing
Louisa Albanese

Best for: Purists who faint at the thought of sugar, long days bouldering, pancake fans.


Makes 2 pancakes

  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 1 scoop whey- or whey- and casein-based protein powder*
  • Cooking spray or a light coating of butter
  • 1 banana, mashed (optional)

*Whey- and casein-based protein powders, like Quest (I like Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Crunch), cook best. Casein gives the pancakes a fluffy quality and is slower to absorb than whey, making you feel fuller longer. If you don’t react well to casein, try a whey protein isolate or egg-white protein powder.

2 pancakes w/o banana: 260 calories; 77% protein, 18% carbs, 5% fat.
2 pancakes w/ banana: 370 calories; 59% protein, 37% carbs, 4% fat.

Make the magic happen:

  1. In a bowl or protein shaker cup, mix egg whites and powder (and, if desired, mashed banana) with fork until homogenous.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Lightly butter pan and pour in half the batter.
  4. Cover and cook 3–4 minutes until pancake begins to bubble. Once bubbling, flip and cook for about 2 more minutes, covered. Remove pancake from pan and set aside.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to make second pancake.
  6. Be an overachiever and top with peanut butter, jelly, Nutella, honey, or Truvia (if avoiding sugar). Or use these as “tortillas” to wrap deli meats, fruit, nut butters, etc. 

Fueling with macros

In general, the more fat you have with your carbs, the slower your muscles will get the sugar from the carbs—fat slows the digestion/absorption of sugar, which can be beneficial when you’re trying to stay full, but not when you need instant energy.

Additionally, both are fuel sources, which means that pairing high-fat and high-carb foods makes your body more likely to store energy (aka adipose tissue) if it doesn’t use both fuel sources. For fast, instant-energy fueling, focus on mixing carbs and protein or just fueling with whole-food-centric carbs. Don’t veto the fat all the time. Fat is optimal for those long, slow-burn days on the rock.

3. Power Wraps 3 Ways

power wraps recipe food crack snacks rock climbing
Louisa Albanese

Best for: Power Wraps provide a mix of carbs and protein to keep your muscles fueled, your brain fortified, and your body’s arsenal of building blocks in ready supply. Feel free to add your favorites, but realize that adding large amounts of fat-containing foods (avocados, nut butters, cheeses, etc.) will slow the speed at which the sugar reaches your muscles (see “Fueling with macros,” above).

Salty & Smooth

Makes 1 Wrap

Best for: Long approaches; big days on the wall.

  • 2 tbsp hummus, any flavor
  • 1 large tortilla—Siete Foods Cassava and Coconut or Regular Flour Tortillas
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3–5 slices pastrami

Spread hummus on tortilla. Slice or mash avocado, then add to wrap. Top with pastrami. Roll up; pack in parchment paper or foil.

Sweet & Salty

Makes 1 Wrap

Best for: Quick fuel; between goes on project.

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 large tortilla—Siete Foods Cassava and Coconut or Regular Flour Tortillas
  • 2 tbsp reconstituted PB2* or 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3–5 slices turkey breast
  • 1/3 banana, sliced

Spread honey on tortilla as you chant your send mantra. Next, spread the reconstituted PB2 or peanut butter. Top with turkey and banana. Roll up; pack in parchment paper or foil.

*PB2 is defatted peanut butter, which is great when you’re trying to quickly deliver sugar (honey). PB2 has 1.5 grams of fat per 2 reconstituted tablespoons vs. 18 grams of fat in 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter.

Spicy & Sweet

Makes 1 Wrap

Best for: A pick-me-up between send goes. 

  • 2 tbsp pepper jelly**
  • 1 large tortilla—Siete Foods Cassava and Coconut or Regular Flour Tortillas
  • 1/2 coined or mashed sweet potato (cooked)
  • 3–5 slices of peppered turkey breast

Spread jelly on tortilla. Next, slice or mash sweet potato, then add to wrap. Top with turkey. Roll up; pack in parchment paper or foil.

**Try Tabasco, Stonewall Kitchens Backyard Food Company (they use candied jalapeños), or Proud Pepper Jelly. 

Alyssa Neill, registered dietitian and owner of Nourishment Nutrition, lives in Boulder, Colorado. Find her @nourishment_nutrition_ or @alyssa_neill.

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