Saturday, 10 May 2014

Sports Nutrition for Mountaineering

I received a selection of sports nutrition products this winter from High5 to test out while climbing.
High5 makes energy packed foods for high intensity activities, and recovery supplements such as protein for after. These sort of items are usually associated with things like Triathlons, not mountaineering. Im not trying to say climbing and mountaineering isn't hard, but I don't really think they are generally in the same league of intense exertions of energy as triathlons, although I suspect some people may disagree with that. Also, not trying to take anything away from triathlons here, but mountaineering is probably more mentally demanding. Hard climbs cannot always be overcome by shear brute force and excessive use of energy, and this is especially the case in mountaineering.
Energy Gels
I decided if I was to properly test out the usefulness of sports nutrition in Scottish mountaineering I would have to have a rather big day. I have a few of these things planned in the Scottish mountains, some involving an arbitrary number of routes and others of more historical significance. In the end I settled upon attempting to climb all the major ridges on Ben Nevis in a day. This involved over 2000m of climbing, at least the same amount of descent and lots of walking. I managed it, well within a day (see my article from earlier), using an arsenal of sports nutrition.
During the day I consumed the High5 products; EnergyGel, EnergyGel Plus, IsoGel, IsoGel Plus and EnergyBar.
Each of these energy snacks work in a slightly different way. EnergyGel's are your standard energy gels designed to give you lots of energy. You are however required to consume a lot of liquid to be able to use these, which isn't always possible while climbing. IsoGel's are a bit like EnergyGel's, however they also contain some liquid, making them suitable for use without consuming much extra. I generally find it quite difficult to drink much water whilst climbing, therefore I think IsoGel's are probably the better of these two for a mountaineer. They are also slightly easier to consumer due to them being a bit runnier.
EnergyGel Plus and IsoGel Plus are like the conventional gels, but with added caffeine. Im not massively convinced by them. They might be useful to give you that added kick at the end of a day, but the caffeine does seem to do something slightly unpleasant to the taste. I would still choose the standard gels over these.
The High5 energy bar, imaginatively named EnergyBar, is a dense chewy sort of snack. I found it quite hard to eat and a little bit unpleasant. I have no doubt it contained lots of useful energy, and that others may find it quite nice, but for me it was a no!
In my opinion the standard IsoGel could be very helpful for climbing trips. Its energy giving and slight thirst quenching properties would be useful for someone like me who prefers not to take a water bottle with them on routes. There has something to be said for having a full stomach as well so I do like to take something on the lines of a sandwich too (ham, cheese and mustard for me).
The future of mountaineering nutrition?
Different things work for different people so go out there and try things out, but definitley give High5 IsoGels a go.
At the end of the day I was tired but I didn't have any cramping muscles, so I guess the energy gels and bar did their job quite effectively.

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