Five top tips for mountain nutrition

Pile of food

“Careful planning of your alpine mountaineering and bivi foods can contribute to a better experience in the mountains. Planning and practising your nutrition strategy in advance can benefit performance when out on the hill, and can play a role in the safety and enjoyment of a trip. Your choice of foods and fluids is dependent on the length of your trip, taste preferences, altitude and weight allowance. On alpine mountaineering trips, it is unlikely you will be able to carry all your energy and nutrition requirements and dehydration and weight loss is often inevitable, however the extent that this is experienced can be offset with a well planned and practiced nutrition strategy, increasing your chances of success on your objective.” Rebecca Dent

Rebecca Dent practising what she preaches in the Alps. Copyright Kevin Avery

Rebecca Dent practising what she preaches in the Alps. Copyright Kevin Avery

1. Freeze dried meals are an obvious choice to take mountaineering as they are designed to be low weight and high in calories. There is a vast range of products on the market ranging in quality, price and nutritional balance. LYO and Expedition Foods tend to be the most popular with my clients, they have a variety of flavour options, are made with good quality ingredients, better nutritionally balanced, most have a good kcal/weight ratio and also suitable for most dietary requirements. Freeze dried foods can be expensive but this often denotes the quality of the product.

2. Choose high energy nutrient dense foods: look for foods and fluids that provide around 300-400kcal per 100g of product. This could include freeze dried foods, nuts (especially macadamias at a whopping 700kcal/100g), dark chocolate, cheese, nut butters, dried meats, and high energy cereal bars.

3. Gels should not be used as a sole source of energy for your trip. The energy content can reek havoc on the gut, especially if not consumed with fluid and you are dehydrated. However, gels can be used at those imperative times when a hit of energy is very much needed, such as on the last pitch of the day, the last effort home, before a hard/intense bit of climbing or an unexpected, extended length of time out. Clif Bar’s ‘shot blocs’ tend to go down better with clients as opposed to gels.

4. Emergency food: take an emergency ration such as a chocolate bar, pork pie or a high energy sports bar; it should be something that will be pleasurable for you to eat when psyche is low or when supplies are low due to an unexpected extended amount of time on the mountain.

5. Hydration: find a system that works best for you that encourages drinking, such as a Nalgene bottles, Camelbak Eddy bottle, insulated water bottles or a reservoir system such as Platypus that can be insulated against the cold. Adding an electrolyte to your drink encourages fluid uptake and palatability. Using a liquid meal, high calorie soup or sports drink can pack a double punch of providing a fluid source plus energy. Huel and Peronin do good versions of these.

Rebecca Dent is a High Performance Dietitian and Clinical Dietitian leading the way in providing world class sports nutrition advice to the outdoor industry. She holds a BSc in Applied Human Nutrition Dietetics, MSc in Sports Nutrition and the International Olympic Committee Nutrition Diploma. She is available for private consultation. Visit her website at WWW.REBECCADENT.CO.UK to get in touch.

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