It was one of the first hot days of the year—one of those bright spring days when you’re painfully reminded of the power of the sun, and how it can suck the moisture and the life right out of your body. Five of us climbed together on a variation of The Green Spur on Redgarden Wall in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado. A party of five means a slow slog upward with a mess of ropes, carabiners, and logistics, all while baking in the sun. It had been cool in the morning shade on the west-facing wall on the early pitches, but now that the sun had come around I regretted leaving my water bottle at the base. Stepping out onto the knifeblade of Rebuffat’s Arete to lead the final pitch, with an ocean of exposure beneath my feet, I felt groggy and lightheaded, like my body and brain couldn’t keep up with my will to climb.
Every athlete has felt the symptoms of dehydration—headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, energy depletion—none of which are optimal for climbing hard. Try managing a pump when your forearms are a cramped mess, and you’ll get the picture. When you’re on the final pitch of the day, and still have to belay up your four compadres and get down safely, you want to be feeling strong and mentally sharp. But at times it’s easy to forgo the fluids in the interest of “fast and light.” And it’s a big mistake.
There is more to staying hydrated at the cliff than simply drinking lots of water. To function properly and efficiently, our cells also require certain electrically charged minerals—electrolytes—that can be dissolved in water for easy absorption. “The contractions of our muscles are highly dependent on the presence of electrolytes,” says professional climber and licensed nutritionist, Katie Lambert. “Without them we can experience changes in blood pressure, fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness and muscle spasms.” We typically consume electrolytes from the fruits and vegetables in our diet. You can eat a hearty breakfast of electrolyte rich foods like bananas, bell peppers, and beans before a day of climbing, but electrolytes are quickly expended during exercise, so it is important to re-up on electrolyte levels throughout the day.
This is the prevailing concept behind BodyBio E-Lyte, a balanced, concentrated electrolyte solution designed to optimize performance levels in athletes by helping them stay properly hydrated. E-Lyte is rich in sodium, potassium, and magnesium, three electrolytes that work in conjunction with each other to optimize muscular and cognitive function. Sodium helps carry nutrients and neurological impulses to cells and facilitates muscle contraction—i.e., that key pulling force you need when cranking on a hold. Conversely, potassium helps muscles to relax, so when you find that beloved no-hands rest, you can more quickly resuscitate your pumped-out forearms; moreoever, a lack of potassium in the body leads to cramps and fatigue. Finally, magnesium helps muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and energy production.
“We lose electrolytes through sweat. So during prolonged periods of climbing, approaching, and training, it is prudent that you replenish your mineral and electrolyte stores in order to keep in peak nutritional and performance shape,” says Lambert. Maintaining properly balanced electrolyte levels through targeted hydration will ward off cramps, reduce fatigue, boost energy, and aid neurological function—all attributes that will help you push your limits at the cliff.
There is an abundance of sports drinks on the market that boast electrolyte replenishment, but they are often laden with added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and artificial coloring that work against hydration and may even inhibit proper electrolyte function. E-Lyte is a no-nonsense and affordable electrolyte concentration with no additives or sugars. It is meant to be diluted in a 1-to-16 ratio in water. That means you can mix a half-ounce of E-Lyte with eight ounces of water to bring along with you on those “fast and light” climbing missions.
Now on long multi-pitch days or hard sport days or even if I’m going for a burn at the bouldering gym, I’ve started faithfully bringing along a bottle of E-Lyte. Ripping a shot of E-Lyte chased down with some water before the climb, and sipping on the mixed solution throughout the day, I feel more fluid and less prone to cramping or the dreaded flash pump. How could I not justify clipping an eight-ounce bottle to my harness on a multi-pitch route to feel good, make smart decisions, and climb harder? If I flounder on the rock, I want it to be because I am not strong enough or skilled enough, not because I’m dehydrated.