To perform at a high level consistently, attention to diet and nutrition is crucial. The foods and beverages you consume play a primary role in determining your mental acuity, physical energy, and ability to recover from vigorous training or climbing. Therefore, a thoughtfully designed diet will provide a noticeable edge in performance.
We queried four PhysiVāntage pro athletes (Paige Claassen, Jimmy Webb, Jonathan Siegrist, and Lisa Chulich) to learn their dietary preferences and habits for “game day” and beyond.
When we asked our athletes what their overall diet normally consists of, we received a variety of responses, with protein being a common denominator. Yes -- athletes have a greater daily protein requirement than sedentary people, but there is no single perfect diet for climbers, just as there is no single perfect training program. While Lisa Chulich ordinarily eats unpackaged, pure food based around greens, veggies, and pasture-raised proteins, Jimmy Webb’s frequently consumes “pizza and wine.”
Paige Claassen said, I eat everything! I pay most attention to consuming enough protein, and then fill in with healthy fats and carbs. I don't limit any particular foods, and I love baking and eating sweets. I find I perform best when I'm happy and giving my body what it craves. If I listen to what my system needs, that's normally the most successful option for me.
Paige Claassen training at home. Photo: Arjan de Kock.
If you consume a mostly plant-based diet, like Jonathan Siegrist, consider some of his favorites to fuel your next training or projecting session. His diet consists primarily of vegetables, bread, or rice. "I get protein mostly from eggs, PowerPlex, and occasionally sardines (I just reintroduced some fish into my diet, but otherwise I am totally vegetarian). Also, fruit! And of course, some junk food.”
Everyone’s body responds differently to certain foods and fortunately, performance nutrition is not that complex of a subject. If you make sensible food choices, eat moderately, and avoid excessive amounts of sugar, alcohol, and unhealthy fats, then you’ll be eating more healthfully than most folks.
Jonathan Siegrist working toward the FA of 100 Proof (5.15a). Photo: Niles Liles.
Much stigma exists around performance dieting. While it’s unhealthy to starve yourself ‘for the send,’ there are measures you can take to alter your diet in a healthy way and prepare your body to perform at your limit.
Some athletes choose to substitute things like excess sweets or alcohol with healthy fats or protein to prepare their body for peak performance. “There was a project a few years ago (Odin's Eye, in Flatanger Norway), which was steeper and more powerful than anything I'd tried before. I knew I needed to build lean muscle, so that's when I started eating wayyyy more protein than ever before. Since then, I've stuck to that high protein, high fat diet and it's worked really well for me,” explained Paige. Siegrist, on the other hand, primarily cuts back on sugar, alcohol, and other inflammatory foods when preparing for a project.
As nutrition science and diet ‘trends’ are constantly changing, it's important to understand that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ regimen to follow. Take note of how your body responds to certain foods -- genetics are a real factor! -- and tailor your diet to what your body needs to thrive.