Climbers Need Protein!

Protein, rock climbing, climber, diet, carbohydrate, workout, eat

Protein Love

I’ve hesitated to write this article for some time.  Basically, I wasn’t sure how to craft my thoughts into a solid article.  That is, until I struck literary gold!  This article, from Urban Climber, got me off my butt to get this out to you.  I have been thinking (and practicing) what the author, Neely Quinn, wrote for a long time.

Basically, my thought is this:  Climbers, you need to start consuming more protein.  Way more than the popular climbing media tells us to consume.  It seems like every time I read a diet article or chapter in a book marketed to climbers, it says to consume most of your daily calories as carbohydrates, scoffing at high protein diets.  Climbers need more carbs for sustained energy.  Protein is for weight lifters who want to get big…bla bla bla.  Sound familiar?

Well, first of all, climbers are weight lifters.  We lift our body weight repeatedly when climbing.  This will tax our muscles severely, and the best way to recover is by supplying your muscles with the proper amount of protein that they crave.  Feeling wasted after your second or third day out climbing?  You probably need more protein.  When on a trip, it’s easy to neglect proper nutrition.  It’s quite convenient to just throw some pasta in the pot and eat it.  Chase that with a beer and hit the hay, getting ready for another day on the rock.  I’m guilty of this too!  But this type of eating will surely catch up, and your muscles will fight back.  Protein is the key to muscle recovery, and building strong, lean muscles.  This is exactly what every climber wants.

In the article, Neely recommends about 30% of your daily caloric intake should come from protein.  This sounds pretty good to me.  If you look at my Daily Diet article, you can see I eat about 25-30 grams of protein in each meal.  I think the best way to consume protein, is to evenly spread out the consumption across many meals.  Eating large amounts of protein (or carbs) in one meal is not a good idea.  I’ve mentioned this before.  You want to keep your metabolism burning like a steady flame.  Consume protein and carbs at each meal, especially when training hard.  Also, make sure the protein is lean!  Pounds of hamburgers are not what the trainer ordered.  Lean meats such as fish, chicken, turkey, and lean red meats are the way to go.

Now, just because I’m big on protein, doesn’t mean I’m slacking on my carbohydrate intake.  I get plenty of carbs throughout my day as well.  Carbs in the form of grains earlier in the day, then I transition to obtaining my carbs through vegetables later in the day.  Reducing the grains later in the day will promote building lean muscle and losing fat.

So, check out the awesome article by Neely Quinn and let me know what you think!  Are you getting enough protein? If you have any questions on this, don’t hesitate to ask.

  • Am I getting enough protein? … Nah. Man, I’m terrible with eating. After reading this post and the Urban Climber one, I’m a step closer in the right direction, but I’m still too lazy of an eater to make any change to my diet…

    • Gif

      Dude, make the change! Become as dedicated to eating properly as you are to your blog, or climbing. If you expect performance from your body mentally and physically, you must feed the machine! Thanks for commenting, Tristan!

  • iheartnutrition

    If you think protein is a critical nutrient & you as an athlete need more of it than sedentary people you are right. But if you think you need as much as this article suggests, you are mistaken.
    Protein is indeed important and plays a key role in multiple functions in the body. Consuming adequate protein and energy is critical for building muscle, but protein intake by itself does NOT build muscle, resistance training does.
    In fact, if you are looking to build muscles, timing of protein seems to be more important to muscle hypertrophy in the research than total amount of protein consumed. Research by Borsheim 2002 & Wolfe 2002 showed that consumption of as little as 10-20 grams of high quality protein prior to or following resistance exercise is enough to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. If you look at the research you will note that carbohydrate was provided along with protein in these studies.
    If you sat down with any registered dietitian, they would tell you that the research indicates an athlete such as a climber would require 1.2-1.7 g/kg of protein/day. (General population only needs .8g/kg/day).
    Here’s the math: You are a 5’10” 170#(77.3kg) male. You are moderatley active, so you’ll need somewhere around 2800 Calories or so per day. If 30% of the Calories you ate came from protein as recommended in the above article, you would need over 200grams of protein/day.
    What IS supported by the research, on the high end of 1.7g/kg protein per day, would be 131 grams of protein. And in fact the American Dietetic Association(which provides guidelines based on research) does have a guideline for maximum protein intake, no more than 2.0g/kg/day, which for said guy this would be 155 g protein/day. More than that won’t do you any good, so the number 30% of your Calories from protein is simply not necessary and shows ZERO benefit according to the research.
    Where you get this protein matters too- it’s gotta be lean! Watch it with cows & pigs. We have pretty clear guidlines on how much red meat is too much, especially when it comes to cancer as this article mentions. In fact the number 5 recommendation for cancer prevention from the American Institute for Cancer Research is “To reduce your cancer risk, eat no more than 18 oz. (cooked weight) per week of red meats, like beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meat such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages.” Check out for more info.
    When it comes down to it, the reason why most articles say you need most of your calories coming from carbohydrate (which mind you is not only candy & white bread) they are correct. Again look at the research & then do the math, the above guy getting in the high range of 1.7g/kg/day would be consuming about 19% of calories from protein. This is in the HIGH end too, if we used the 1.2g/kg number it would be 93 grams of protein/day or about 13% of your diet. There are only 2 other macronutrients- carbohydrate & fat, that’s what the rest of your diet will be made up of.
    Protein is important, but too much of it doesn’t help, and it just ends up being extra Calories.

    • Gif

      Awesome! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. There is definitely a lot of information here so I will address some of it to the best of my knowledge. I’m no dietitian or personal trainer, but I’ve worked with several trainers and I simply try to pass on the information they have given me.
      I completely agree that resistance training builds muscle. But protein is key to recovery and “allowing” the muscle to build more effectively. As you said, timing is very important. After every workout, I try to get sufficient protein within 45 minutes, which I have been told, is the time limit post workout.
      I, again, completely agree that protein must be lean! I suggested chicken, fish, and lean beef. The lean beef I eat is fillet and bison. Both are very lean, unlike typical cuts of cow. Protein is important but you don’t want it to hurt you by consuming too much fat or sugar (low DE equivalent).
      Carbs should be the bulk of your diet. My point was that I think people are consuming too many carbs and not enough protein. My recommendation for most athletes would be to up the protein and reduce the carbs. I also try to avoid the carbs from grains during dinner time. Instead, I have a lot of vegetables. I have experimented with my own body, and when I eat grains with dinner, I gain weight (fat). When I eat “double veg”, I lose fat. Of course, at dinner time I’m getting lean protein too!!
      In my opinion and experience, there seems to be a disconnect between dietitians and personal trainers. I know there are many trainers out there that know nothing, but I have done my research, and worked with trainers who specialize in athletic diets. To me, it seems dietitians give different recommendations than trainers with strong diet knowledge. Perhaps it’s because the trainers work with athletes all day long… I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that the trainers I have worked with recommend more protein than the dietitians.
      Again, thanks so much for an awesome and thought out comment!!

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