9. The Mountaineering Training Diet That Will Energize Your Ass
Catching up on the Mount Rainier 11-Day Planning Challenge? Find all the posts here.
Welcome to one of my favorite days in this entire blog post series — the one about food!
Seriously, I am so in love with food. I love cooking. I love eating out. And one of the things I love about mountaineering training is eating more food.
Unfortunately, when it comes to your mountaineering training diet, you are probably going to get some judgement and bad advice.
Because while there is plenty of misinformation out there about training, there’s seriously a metric f*ck ton of misinformation about nutrition.
Believe me, I live in Colorado, which is sort of ground zero for restrictive fad diets. Seriously, it’s an exercise in crazy sauce just to go out to lunch with a few friends.
You have to find a restaurant that works for Sally and Bob who are on gluten and dairy double-elimination diets, Lindsay who’s doing a paleo challenge, Suzy who’s detoxing and only drinks lemon juice mixed with cayenne pepper, and Logan who’s a super judgy clean eater who can’t be in the same room with a bacon bit.
Now not to say those diets are all bad. And if you’re on any of those diets, and it’s helping you live healthier, that’s awesome.
(I personally play with fasted cardio and do one super-clean meal a day, so I’m sure not going to judge you.)
But at the same time, don’t feel like you need to follow a super rigid diet with lots of rules to get fit and climb Mt. Rainier.
Because first of all, a lot of rigid diets aren’t really backed up by science.
Going on a paleo diet can definitely improve your nutrition, especially if it wasn’t great before. But there’s no evidence that eliminating grains will actually make you healthier than Jenny, who eats a nutritious-but-balanced diet.
(What research does say about paleo: it’s probably the diet that people cheat on the most. So you may end up eating grains anyway.)
Second, as a mountaineer, you spend a lot of frickin’ time training. So what you really need is something that gives you CRAZY energy and rich nutrition — but doesn’t take a lot of prep or planning.
When your eating plan is healthy but flexible, you’ll be able to focus on training — and also on having a life.
So the bottom line: if there’s a diet rule that’s working for you, by all means keep it. But in general, try to keep your eating as simple and intuitive as possible.
Here are some common sense tips.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet 80 percent of the time
The healthiest meals will usually be the ones you cook for yourself. Find a few delicious staple recipes that are rich in fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains and cook them over and over. Get to the point where you can shop for the ingredients from memory and then practically cook them in your sleep.
Personally, I don’t have a lot of cooking time during the training season. So I usually take one evening and cook my meals for the week in big batches. If your freezer is big enough, you can even batch up for two or more weeks.
Crockpots are a mountaineer’s best friend. They’re a great way to whip up a big batch of food with minimum effort. Plus you can come home to a house that smells amazing.
If eating out tends to trip up your nutrition, try entertaining at home more. Serve your friends one of those awesome staple meals you’ve perfected. Or cook with a friend so you can learn to make one of their favorite healthy meals.
The other 20 percent of the time, eat whatever the hell you want.
As someone who has struggled in the past with rigid, disordered eating, here is one of the most healing things I’ve learned.
Humans tend to moralize food. (Dunkin’ Donuts: bad. Kale: good!)
But really, there are no good or bad foods. All foods (even kale) are just chemical compounds that our body uses in predictable ways.
Also, it’s the dose that makes the “poison.” So while it’s not optimal for your health to eat a box of Dunkin’ Donuts, eating one once in awhile will do you absolutely no harm.
So build in a bit of food freedom into your diet. Have a waffle. Drink a beer. Eat delicious comfort food with people you love.
If you track a macro, make it protein
Here’s a cool diet hack for you.
Some health coaches recommend tracking your macronutrients (grams per day of carbs, protein, and fats). And if that’s something that interests you, you can definitely do it with a phone app like MyFitnessPal.
As a mountaineer, you generally want your macros to balance one another. A lot of climbers in training go for the following split:
- Carbs – 40%
- Protein – 30%
- Fat – 30%
Now if tracking all three seems like a pain in the ass (and it kind of is), just focus on raising your protein intake.
The rationale: the average American has no trouble getting enough carbs. And fat is pretty easy too — especially when you love avocados as much as this girl.
Protein tends to be the elusive macro that no one ever gets enough of. And the more you can raise your protein intake, the more the other two will go down.
It doesn’t work for everyone, but try it and see!
Another tip: give yourself a big protein infusion within 30 minutes of every workout to promote recovery. You can do a fancy protein drink or bar. But good old chocolate milk works too.
Eat like freakin’ royalty on the trail
Let’s face it. Eating Lara Bars for 12 hours straight on a big climb gets old. (Even if you really love them.)
Food is morale. So in addition to quick energy snacks, bring along some “real” food like a sandwich, pizza slices, veggies with dip, fresh fruit, or breakfast burrito.
If it’s cold, carry some hearty soup or hot beverage in a thermos. I promise it will be worth the extra weight.
I like to think of every hiking and climbing day (including training ones) as celebrations. So go ahead and splurge on delicious artisan bread or handmade cheese for your hiking day sandwich.
It’s also the perfect day to snack on a decadent treat like plantain chips or peanut M&Ms. Give yourself a reward for all that hard work.
Another tip: if you tend to bonk on trail, consider adding some sugar-containing electrolyte beverage to your water. Not only will that make it taste good, it’ll give you more continuous carbs than solid food.
Finally, use your training climbs to test different foods for your Mt. Rainier climb. Try to find the perfect combination of meals and snacks that’s light to carry, delicious, and provides you with sustained energy.
Well, there you have ’em. All my favorite mountaineering training diet tips.
I get that they’re not terribly sexy. And I actually think there’s something appealing about rigid diets (even to me). Cutting grains or sugar dramatically makes you feel like you’re “doing” something.
But honestly, you can get the same results with a more balanced approach. And instead of roaming Whole Foods for hours trying to cobble together a week’s worth of squeaky-clean meals, you can use that time to train and play with your friends and enjoy your life.
Oh, and if you’re feeling totally squeezed by training, consider a service like grocery pickup or delivery. I use it when I’m really busy with product launches and mountaineering trips, and it’s a total lifesaver and worth every penny.
Speaking of feeling squeezed, does this Mt. Rainier thing sound like a lot of work? If so, I have a way to simply everything and take away the guesswork.
Introducing the Everyday Hero’s Mt. Rainier Training Plan!
It’s a 21-week training plan with all your aerobic, strength, and hiking workouts mapped out for you. I’ve even included special gym workout plans for athletes training away from the mountains. Plus you get an training manual ebook, trip planner, workout log, wall calendar, and gear checklist.
So if that sounds like a lifesaver, click the button below for more deets.
Wow, I can’t believe we’re on blog post #10 tomorrow. That’s the second to last one. And it deals with another of my favorite topics: the necessity of taking a big giant rest right before your Mt. Rainier climb!
That training phase is called tapering. And tomorrow we’ll talk about why and when to do it, plus some of the common mistakes people make.
Speaking of rest, I’m going to go take one before I write the next blog post. See you manana!