Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Brief Look Into Bouldering Nutrition

Here is another paper I wrote for my Sports Nutrition Class. My professor had never heard of bouldering so it starts with a brief description of the sport.

Under the umbrella of rock climbing, there are several types of climbing. Each sub group of climbing has its specific nutritional needs due to the duration of the climb and intensity of the involved movements. Bouldering is identified in the climbing world by its shorter routes (usually a boulder’s height), powerful movements, and ropeless climbers. By forgoing the rope, climbers can perform trickier, gymnastic-like moves. Due to their complicated nature, boulder routes are called problems and require greater amounts of thinking to complete than other climbing routes. Most boulderers (specific term given to those that boulder) don’t spend more than a couple of minutes on a boulder problem and rest anywhere from two to ten minutes between attempts. While climbing, the boulderer’s body relies heavily on the glycolysis system.

Like other athletes that participate in high-intensity short-duration sports, boulderers train for longer durations than the time it takes to complete their “event” or boulder problem. Training specificity is very important for boulderers, but they also engage in resistance training. The typical training session lasts about 2 to 4 hours and includes: a warm-up, several attempts at a specific route, interval training, and a cool down. Because of the great stress that is put on the body, specifically the finger joints, training is limited to two to three times a week. These breaks allow the boulderer to replenish the muscle glycogen that is often depleted after their long training sessions.

Out of all the types of climbing, bouldering is the most popular when it comes to competition and statewide competitions are planned every 3 months. Some boulderers climb specifically to compete with other climbers, while others compete against themselves trying to climb a harder problem every week or two.

Zach Bradford is a local boulderer and agreed to be a part of this paper. He is 25 years old, 5’ 6”, and 135 pounds and considered one of the strongest climbers in the Cedar City area. In an interview, Zach stated that he trains about two times a week in addition to one trip a week outside where he really tries to push himself. When he trains, he usually does so for about 4 hours at a time and mainly performs interval drills. Zach mentioned that he doesn’t have a typical eating schedule when trains but says the most commonly eats a bowl of cereal with 1% milk and drinks a glass of water. After his training sessions, he usually eats a bowl of pasta and has another glass of water. When he climbs outside he doesn’t eat much and drinks just over half of a liter. In addition to what Zach normally eats he takes a multi-vitamin, a b-complex vitamin, and a joint health supplement containing glucosamine, chondrotin, and MSM. He explained that he takes these supplements because he doesn’t eat enough calories, have enough energy, and wants to prevent injuries. After the interview, Zach’s age, weight, height, and activity level were inputted into’s My Daily Food Plan tool.

Zach was asked to keep a diet log with amounts for three days but went the extra mile and tracked his eating habits for four days instead. The MyFoodpedia tool, also found on’s website, was used to look up, calculate the number of calories, and establish the exchanges for the food he ate during those four days. Once those numbers were collected, a daily average was calculated for calories, consumption of grains, whole grains, protein, dairy, vegetables, and fruit.  Those averages are as follows: Calories – 1910.5, Grains – 9.5 ounces, Whole Grains - .375 oz, Protein - 4.375 oz, Dairy – 2.06 cups, Vegetables – 1.18 cups, and Fruit - .375 cups. As well as keeping track of his eating, Zach also tracked his water/fluid intake over this time and drinks about 1.45 liters a day.
Based on the information provided by the My Daily Food Plan tool it is suggested that Zach should be consuming an average of: Calories – 2800, Grains – 10 ounces, Whole Grains – 5 oz, Protein – 7 oz, Dairy – 3 cups, Vegetables – 3.5 cups, and Fruit – 2.5 cups. This information shouldn’t be too surprising to Zach because he feels like he isn’t getting enough calories and is taking a multi-vitamin to try to make up for his lower intake levels.

Several suggestions can be made to improve Zach’s diet and his climbing performance and changing a few things can have a large effect on filling the holes in his diet. When it comes to his diet, Zach is eating enough grains (though he should be working on eating more whole grains) so he should put more focus on consuming vegetables and fruit. Along with increasing his vegetable and fruit consumption this should help with his caloric deficit and provide the nutrients he is looking for in his vitamin supplements. Drinking fruit juice within 30 minutes after his training sessions and climbing outings would be beneficial on multiple levels. With workouts as long as his, it is important to replenish fluids and carbohydrates and fruit juice is a good source of both of these. Not only will fruit juice after his training sessions help with recovery, he will be increasing his fruit intake. It is still a good idea for him to continue to eat pasta after his training.

Zach could also do well by increasing his protein intake, but a few things should be kept in mind. Because climbers and boulderers want to maintain a high strength to weight ratio, the protein sources he should seek out should be lean. By choosing to increase his intake of beans and peas, Zach will not only increase his protein consumption but his vegetable consumption as well. During the four days that Zach kept track of his diet he didn’t consume any seafood. Seafood is a good source of protein but also of Omega – 3s. If Zach increased his consumption of Omega – 3s, he could reduce the amount of joint health supplementation almost to nothing. Research performed on the ingredients contained in this supplement have been inconclusive and the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega – 3 would be more beneficial in preventing and recovery of orthopedic injuries.

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