Recovery Nutrition for Climbing

By: Aicacia Young

After a hard training session or a good long day at the crag, your body needs to recover. Rock climbing puts a ton of stress on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, drains your energy stores, and can leave you feeling exhausted, so it’s important to consider your body’s recovery as soon as you finish climbing. Exercise scientists argue about the exact duration of your body’s recovery phase, but most consider about 30 minutes after exercise to be the prime time for muscle recovery. There are 3 main focuses to keep in mind during your recovery period:

  • Protein
  • Hydration
  • Immune Support

As you climb, or engage in any intense exercise for that matter, your body starts breaking down your muscle stores for energy. This might seem like the opposite of what you want, but this is actually how your muscles get stronger. So even though we all love a good workout, exercise itself is not what makes us stronger. Rather, it’s the rest and proper recovery that allow us to progress and build stronger muscles. For this reason, training hard without sufficient rest can actually work against you.

1) Protein

Adequate rest and plenty of amino acids from protein-rich foods will allow your muscles to rebuild stronger than before. Liquids tend to absorb much faster than solid foods, so protein shakes are probably the fastest way to meet your post-exercise protein needs.

Food Sources:

  • 1 scoop of whey protein isolate
  • 1 scoop of rice/pea protein powder (Vega Sport is my favorite)
  • 3 ounces of cooked grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, wild salmon
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 container of Greek yogurt
  • 6-8 Tablespoons of a nut butter

**Rule of thumb: Consume 20 grams of protein within 30 minutes after exercise

2) Hydration 

If your training sessions or days out at the crag last longer than 2 hours, then hydrating with electrolytes and fluid is crucial. You will definitely want to rely on an electrolyte mix of your choosing in between burns, but it’s also wise to hydrate after you finish climbing. When you sweat, you primarily lose sodium with a little bit of potassium, so your sports drink should reflect that. Choose a sports drink with some carbohydrates (sugar) and way more sodium than potassium.

Hydration Sources:

**Rule of thumb: If you’re thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated. After a training session or long day, drink enough fluids to quench your thirst, and then drink some more.

3) Immune Support

Intense exercise is stressful for the body and can weaken your immune system, which can leave you vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Exercise can suppress your immune system for a few hours, but you can strengthen it with various foods, supplements, and healthy habits in order to avoid untimely illness. The easiest ways to improve your immune function would be to get plenty of sleep, drink less alcohol, and eat less sugar, but if those don’t sound like tempting options, there are a few other ways to build up your immunity.


Antioxidants act as a biological martyr and absorb chemical damage that could negatively affect many of the cells in your body. Food sources of antioxidants include:

  • Berries, tart cherries, raisins
  • Oranges, mangos, plums, peaches
  • Broccoli, kale, spinach
  • Flax, hemp, chia seeds
  • Fresh ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, maca powder

Immune Boosters

Nutrients like glutamine and zinc are both used by immune cells for nonspecific immunity. So, as you consume more glutamine and zinc in your diet, your immune system can continue to thrive. Consuming plenty of vegetables is typically enough to boost your immune system, but if you need an extra boost or have an autoimmune disease, you can try an oral immune supplement of powdered immunoglobulins.

Food & Supplement Sources:

  • Meat
  • Spinach
  • Cashews
  • Cocoa
  • L-Glutamine powder
  • Zinc supplement
  • Immunoglobulin powder (Extreme Immunity)

Whether you’re vegetarian or paleo, the principles of recovery nutrition remain the same. After a workout, be sure to consume a good source of protein, some fluids with electrolytes, and any immune booster that you like. With the proper recovery nutrition and plenty of rest, you’ll be able to build stronger muscles and immunity and suffer from fewer injuries and illness.

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