Nutritional recovery for climbing - tissue
If you've been climbing all day you may feel as though you have had a great day, but your muscles and metabolism will have had had a stressful time! Any strenuous exercise will result in damage to your muscle fibres and the repair of these muscle tissues is an important part of recovery.
Protein is the main nutrient involved with growth and repair of the body tissues so it would seem logical to tuck into a large steak or gulp down a high protein drink to promote healing. However, although protein is required to repair damaged muscle fibres, eating extra protein after exercise is unnecessary. This is because most people already eat more than enough protein.
Eggs, red meat, chicken, cheese, salmon, sardines and tuna fish are rich sources of protein
Foods such as eggs, red meat, chicken, cheese, salmon, sardines and tuna fish are rich sources of protein. However, foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, porridge oats, peas, potatoes, lentils and pasta all contain some protein too. These latter ones are also good sources of carbohydrate - and eating enough carbohydrate is your main priority. The protein that these foods contain also helps to promote glycogen resynthesis - another vital aspect of recovery. So if you eat plenty of these foods, your protein needs are also likely to be met.
The danger is when you eat too many sugary and highly refined foods (biscuits, cakes, sports drinks, energy bars, fizzy drinks and sweets) in an attempt to replace your glycogen stores. These will provide carbohydrate, but almost no protein. Teenagers and young adults, who are still growing, will have higher protein needs but a thick-cut tuna fish sandwich, semi-skimmed milk on cereal and a small portion of chicken or soya based food will provide the daily protein needs for a growing adolescent.
Fluid and mineral balance
As your muscles suffer damage as a result of exercise, so does the mineral and water balance of your body. This balance needs to be 'repaired' and is part of the recovery process. If you have been sweating a lot during exercise, drinking plenty of plain water afterwards is the first priority. It is often tempting to eat very salty foods or even take salt tablets as well. This is not necessary and taking salt tablets can be dangerous, especially if you are dehydrated. Although a few minerals (collectively known as electrolytes), such as sodium and potassium, are also lost in sweat you can easily replace these with foods after you have replaced your fluid losses. For example, fresh orange juice and dried fruits are particularly high in potassium.
Taking salt tablets can be dangerous, especially if you are dehydrated
An alternative is to drink plain water for fluid replacement and eat a banana for potassium. Sodium - part of salt - is found in a wide range of seemingly un-salty foods (bread, breakfast cereals, cheese, drinking chocolate, tomato ketchup, rye crispbread, instant potato). It is not difficult to replace your sodium losses!