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Special Diet for Climbers; A Mountaineering Essential

Climbers need to have a special diet to prepare their bodies. Here you can find a guide about essential nutritions climbers need.

Time to read:  

11 mins

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Any climber knows how much pressure uninterrupted one-day mountaineering can put on the body.  Climbers should keep their bodies strong, flexible, and resistant to be able to take such pressure. One of the main keys to achieving this is having a rich and healthy diet that provides nutrition for mountaineers properly. Mountaineers can have a more pleasant ascend by having an appropriate food plan and absorbing enough water before, during, and after their climb. Put differently, the type of food mountaineers eat, and the time they eat it in has a vital role in having a pleasant ascend. Continue reading to find more information about the diet for mountaineers that can provide essential nutrition for climbers. This diet can be useful for Iran trekking tours.

General Facts About Diet for Climbers

Some of the climbers think a bag full of snacks is enough for mountaineering. Or even some might use an excessive amount of sweets and fats to keep their body ready for climbing. The fact is none of the above approaches can help keep your body prepared for an ascend. If a climber doesn’t consume an adequate amount of food, the body starts using its muscle protein.



A specific amount of different types of food should be present in a diet for mountaineers. The nutrition ratio in the diet for climbers should contain 60-70% carbs, 10-20% protein, and 20-30% fat. This means a climber needs more amount of carbs than usual, especially when they are at heights. This includes complex (bread, rice, potatoes, etc.) and simple carbs (sugar, chocolate, etc.). Because digesting fat is hard and might cause stomachache, it’s better to mainly use low-fat food.

Moreover, it’s better to increase the amount of protein (meat, eggs, milk, etc.) more than usual as well. There are two groups of nutrition macro and micro-nutrition. Macro-nutrition includes carbs, fats, and proteins; micro-nutrition contains minerals and vitamins. You can find them in meats, vegetables and fruits, dairy, and grains.


The Amount of Energy A Climber Needs

The daily amount of energy a woman with an office job needs is 1800-2000 calories. And a man who works in an office needs 2000-2400 calories per day. But, the amount of energy the body needs increases in the mountains. It’s because we are more active in higher altitudes, and our metabolism increases at the heights. Going  3000 meters above sea level increases the metabolism to 25%. To assess the amount of energy you have used, you can use sports watches that track your activity.

For each kilogram of body weight, a climber uses 1.5 calories every 10 minutes. This means a 70 kg climber uses 630 calories per hour. So, for 6 hours of climbing, considering 1500-3500 calories for other activities, the body will need 5000-7000 calories. Don’t forget the amount of energy we burn depends on the height, backpack’s weight, and climber’s weight. We can’t provide this amount of energy for our bodies in one day. So, we can take some extra food during lunch or dinner on the day before climbing. This lunch or dinner should also include carbs.

Climbers should modify their diet depending on their climbing program. At higher altitudes, climbers should eat foods that need less water and oxygen to avoid digestion issues. Eating heavy foods at high altitudes causes nausea.


Carbs in The Diet for Climbers

Carbs are the first and most important source of energy in our body. The reason behind it is that it gets digested and absorbed in the body fast. The smaller a molecule of carbohydrates is, the less water and oxygen it needs for digestion and converting into energy. For instance, honey is a monosaccharide (carbs with the smallest molecule) carb, and its absorption starts from the mouth. In our daily lives, we get 50% of our energy from carbs. This number increases to 70% at higher altitudes during all the stages of climbing (before, during, and after ascending).

Moreover, low blood sugar harms the climber’s speed and stamina.  It even may cause difficulties in your control over the muscles. So, climbers should continuously use diverse types of sugars. The extra sugar in the body is stored in the liver as glycogen. Your body uses this glycogen in daily activities. The fast digestion of carbs makes it an excellent choice for the times when the climber is hungry or weak. So, foods with sugar and starch are the most important part of the diet of a climber.

The main sources of carbs are sugar, chocolate, jam, and foods like rice, mashed potatoes, pasta, cereal, and, most importantly, bread. Raisins, dates, bananas, and potatoes are high carbohydrate vegetables.

Carbs are the first and most important source of energy in our body.

Is Fat Important in the Diet of Mountaineers?

The body uses fat after using carbs. Fat frees energy in the body. But, accessing the energy in fat takes a lot of water and oxygen. So, we do not recommend using it at altitudes higher than 4000 meters. But, it should make up 25% of the diet of climbers. Fat cannot be used as a fast source of energy because it takes 6-8 hours to release its energy. So, the best time for eating high-fat foods is before resting for a few hours. Fats are somehow hidden in the food we eat. For instance, milk has 4% fat, and yolk holds fat equal to its protein. Fats are the second source of energy. After 30-45 minutes of climbing, the body uses 75% of its energy and starts using fats.

Fats can release energy twice as much as sugars and proteins. Moreover, fats preserve body temperature and protect our body organs. Because of the significant number of calories that they release, fats are vital nutrition for mountaineers. But, because they are difficult to digest, they are used less than carbs in the diet of mountaineers.  In endurance exercises, at first the body starts using stored carbs, and after that, it starts burning its fat and protein reserves, which need more oxygen. This is when panting starts. Using high-fat food, especially before climbing, can cause physical impairments. But, having fat a small amount of fat in your diet during cold and long climbing can make you more tolerant against the cold. It can also delay your hunger.

Vegetable fats include coconut, nuts, corn, sesame, olives, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and peanuts. Animal fats include butter, meats, and oxtails. Also, cream, vegetable oil, and olive oil contain fat as well. We recommend using vegetable and olive oils because they have unsaturated fats.

The best time for eating high-fat foods is before resting for a few hours.

Necessary Proteins for Climbers

When the glucose and fat in the body finish, the body starts using muscles to produce energy. The importance of using proteins manifests itself more in multiple-day climbing. To prevent muscle loss, protein should be on the diet for climbers. Each protein releases 4 calories of energy, and it should make up 20% of the diet for mountaineers. Moreover, as releasing energy from proteins takes 4-6 hours, we recommend climbers to have it at night before resting.

The chemical interactions proteins cause in the brain increases consciousness. But, it’s better not to have bulky food or foods full of protein just before your climb. Another fact about protein is that digesting it takes more oxygen than carbs. This is why it’s better to have protein in your dinner when you are not going to have physical activity. This way, it can guarantee the energy the climber needs for the next day.

Not only does protein produce energy, but it can also regulate body activity and help to recover muscle tissue, especially after doing sports. Also, it plays an essential role in producing hemoglobin and acclimatization. As there is less oxygen in higher altitudes, protein is even more critical in the higher mountains, like climbing Damavand tours.

Furthermore, mountaineers experience intense activity, damage to the blood tissue, and minor injuries such as soreness, twisting and stretches. This is why they need more protein in their diet than others.

Proteins include plant proteins such as beans, mushrooms, and animal proteins include meats and eggs. It’s better to eat meats, chicken, fish, and eggs with plant proteins.  White meat, eggs, mushrooms, beans, fish, nuts, lentils, peas, walnut, and corn are rich protein sources.

The importance of using proteins manifests itself more in multiple-day climbing.

Vitamins Are Vital Too

Vitamins are another group that fastens the metabolism in the body. But, they are not made inside the body and are absorbed into the body through food. They are vital in climbers’ diet because they help them stay healthy and improve their performance. Generally, vitamins help with neutralizing Lactic acid. Moreover, it helps heal wounds, reinforce the immune system, recover cells, recover cells, and absorb food. So, it’s a good idea to have salads, vegetables, bananas, carrots, peas, sesame, tomatoes, apples, lemons, and oranges in your meals.

Some tips about vitamins for the climbers:

  • Include fresh or dried fruits or multivitamins in your diet
  • Having high-acid foods such as lemon or plum is a must because they enhance the breathing system
  • Try using fresh or packed juices that are rich in sugar
Generally, vitamins help with neutralizing Lactic acid.

Minerals and Salts

The body of a climber needs a mixture of minerals, salts, and vitamins to function well. Iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, and copper have an essential role in acid-base homeostasis and neuromuscular stimulation. For instance, iron and calcium deficiency can cause tiredness, fatigue, and lethargy. Also, the body needs iron to carry and store oxygen. Using enough salt (a moderate amount) causes electrolyte homeostasis in the body and avoids muscle cramps. ORS powders are the best salt mixes available.

How Much Water Should a Climber Drink?

Water makes up 65-70% of the human body, and healthy adults drink 1-1/5 liters of water daily. Because the body of a climber is continuously active and sweating, a climber needs more water than normal. Climbers should have at least 3 liters of water in their diet. As the body loses minerals and salts during climbing, adding salt, sugar, or fruit extract to your water is a good idea. During climbing, it’s better to drink water constantly during resting times than to drink a lot of water every few hours. Drinks such as tea and coffee cannot replace water because they cause urination. We at IranAmaze, recommend gradual drinking 500ml of water from 3 hours before starting climbing.

In high altitudes, water can lower blood concentration and delay getting tired.

There should be at least 3 liters of water on the diet for climbers.

Should Climbers Wait to Get Thirsty?

The thing about getting thirsty is that it shows us that the body has already lost a lot of water. In other words, your body might need water even if you don’t feel thirsty yet. So, the best thing you can do is not to wait to get thirsty. Instead, you should drink water in short intervals. A mistake that some climbers make when mountaineering in winter is that they don’t drink enough water. The idea behind it is that they don’t sweat because it’s cold and therefore don’t need water, which is wrong. Remember that if the water loss is equal to 3% of our weight, it can cause impairments in attention and recognition. When the loss gets equal to 10% of our weight, it can be a severe threat to our health. If the water deprivation continues, it can even cause death.



Drinking from The Springs and The Snow

Eating mountain snow is not recommended because it lacks minerals and can cause diarrhea and excessive kidney activity. In case of an emergency, boil the snow first and then add salt, sugar, or fruit extracts to it. Additionally, by consuming soup at night, it is possible to compensate for the salt your body has lost. Also, not all the springs on the mountaineering routes are trustworthy. Some of them might be polluted without any sign. Therefore, you can drink from it by boiling it or using water purifying tablets. On an Iran tour, your guide can tell you about the safety of drinking from the springs on your way.


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