Best Nutritious Snacks for Climbers
Updated: Mar 27
You can't outwork a bad diet.
Abs are made in the kitchen.
80% of performance is about nutrition.
These are only a few sayings circulating around and within fitness institutions and endeavors. When you are young, extremely active, and have drawn a lucky stack of genetics, what you eat may have negligible aesthetic effects. However, these sayings aren't some fitness industry nonsense. They have truth to them. Eventually, eating McDonald's daily will catch up to you, and your sending goals will go down the drain. (Yes, there are some exceptions. There always are. But don't bet you're an exception because you won't find out until your poor nutrition has bitten you in the butt).
Why is Nutrition Important for Climbers?
Food equals energy as climbers; having enough energy is essential to performing on the wall. Inadequate fueling can lead to lethargy and increased soreness, among other complications, which are less than ideal if you try to pack in multiple climbing sessions a week.
While climbing is considered a strength-to-weight ratio sport, it does not serve your best interests to under-fuel. Whether intentionally or not, ensuring you eat quality food is essential to sustain the desired output. After all, over 90% of a rocket's weight at launch is fuel! The further and faster you want to go, the more energy you'll need.
Additionally, climbers tend to find themselves outside at the crag for a long day or squeeze in a gym session between a hectic schedule. Often snacks keep them going. But, if those snacks are Sour-Patch Kids, chips, highly-processed granola bars, or even beers, the snacking is not as much fueling your climbing as it is fueling a sugar or junk-food addiction.
Basic Nutrition Principles
So, what are some basic nutrition principles climbers' can follow? Below are four principles that serve as a great starting point for improving the quality of your snacks and meals.
Aim to eat whole foods.
Whole foods, or unprocessed food, are the best fuel for your body. All the essential macro and micronutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, protein, and various vitamins and minerals, can be found in foods such as apples, carrots, nuts, legumes, bananas, etc. The easiest way to avoid being tempted to add the M&Ms and Pringles to your grocery basket is to shop the 's perimeter grocery store's perimeter. That's where the stores place the unprocessed, whole foods! You can venture down the inner isles for spices, nut butter, beans, and maybe some seed crackers or whole-food protein bars, but you only want to reach for a little else!
Aim to eat a well-balanced snack or meal.
We'll define "well-balanced" as containing all the macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Some examples of a well-balanced snack or meal include a banana or apple with nut butter, seed crackers, and hummus, a sweet potato with a fat source, a whole-food protein bar, or a small bowl of oats with berries and protein powder.
Aim to choose foods with little to no added sugars.
Added sugars are just that: added. They are not natural and are scientifically proven to be addicting. Most nutrition labels list the total and added sugars, so check the label. While zero added sugars are the best, anything with 3-4g of added sugar is okay in moderation as long as the protein content exceeds grams of added sugar. Additionally, avoiding added sugar does not mean avoiding all sugar! Natural sugars like those in fruit, dates, or any other whole food are healthy and an excellent carbohydrate source! Don't fear sugar; be wary of the bad sugar.
Aim to choose foods with the fewest ingredients possible.
If the product only contains whole foods, it shouldn't need more than ten ingredients. Longer lists mean potentially not-so-healthy additives. List order is essential. The higher a component is on a list, the higher its concentration in the food.
The ideal situation would be to incorporate all four principles. But that may drastically change your eating habits. Feel free to make changes to your nutrition one change at a time. If slowly transitioning means you'll sustain the routines, that's better than diving in headfirst but deviating from the good habits.
Now that we've established a foundation for a quality, nutritious diet. Check out the list below of healthy snacks to eat before, during, and after a climbing session!
Before a Session
Keeping your pre-climb snack on the lighter side is better so you don't feel weighed down or sluggish on the wall! Save the more-nutrient dense options for after!
Apples (with nut butter if desired)
Seed Crackers with Hummus
Carrots or Veggies with Hummus
Berries and Yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
During a Session (or during a day at the crag)
Whole-food protein bars with minimal added sugar
Homemade options are great! Opt to use natural sugars such as maple syrup, monk fruit syrup, or dates as sweeteners.
Store-bought options can also be great! Some top-quality options include Send Bars, Aloha Bars, Tru Bars, and Rxbars.
If you're feeling burnt out and need a rush of glucose, don't be afraid to reach for a bar with slightly higher sugar content, such as Vega protein bars, a banana, or some dried fruit!
After a Session
Refueling immediately after a session is critical for optimal muscle recovery. Aim to eat a well-balanced meal, including protein, fats, and carbohydrates. However, if you don't have time to eat a meal immediately, aim to consume a nutrient-dense snack with a significant amount of protein. Some options might include the following:
Pre-cooked tofu or meat of your choice
Nut butter and fruit
Instant oats with protein powder
A sandwich or bagel with high protein content, hummus, nut butter, or another protein source
Hopefully, this clarified the importance of nutrition for climbing and provided simple principles and snacks to set you up for success. Don't let yourself get intimidated - take it step-by-step, and eating to fuel high-quality climbing sessions will soon be a breeze! Let us know in the comments below if you found these tips helpful or if you have other healthy and nutritious snack ideas!