Staying Nourished At
by Helen Lutz, MPH, RD
while at high altitude is an immense physical and emotional challenge.
Mountain experiences can be strengthened by strong physical training,
acclimatization to altitude, emotional preparedness, and careful choice of food
and beverages during the months of pre-climb training and while at altitude.
Not only will food and fluids support your training program, but
nutritious choices will support muscle repair and recovery following your
due to the enormous number of
details involved in planning and undertaking a high altitude ascent, the consideration
of high quality food and beverage choices has often been
over-looked. Fortunately this is
changing as emerging research shows how important food and beverage choices are
for maintaining strength in high endurance activities.
“Eating for Everest” incorporates the principles of sports nutrition,
yet takes into account the particular challenges posed by high altitude.
“Eating for Everest” will provide regular and relevant nutrition
updates, offer mountaineers an opportunity to “Ask the Dietitian”, and
offer Peak Freaks clients personalized nutrition support. Given
that the nutritional needs of women differ from men, this site will provide
women mountaineers with current and accurate nutrition information to support
their health and wellness. Be sure to check “Eating for
Everest” regularly for new information
and features. Your feedback and suggestions for content are
Lutz, MPH, RD
is a Registered Dietitian living in Nelson, BC. Over the past 15 years
Helen has developed expertise in nutrition education, chronic disease
prevention, media and public speaking, and involvement in health
promotion and wellness initiatives. Helen is highly regarded for her ease
of communication and practical approach to translating the
science of nutrition into everyday language and practice. Helen enjoys
telemark skiing, cycling, baking, gardening, and being a mom to her
boys. Helen, her husband and two young sons enjoy adventuring together in
the great outdoors.
contribution to the Peak Freak team is extremely valuable. Helen offers climbers
and other athletes expert
guidance in nutrition and meal planning to help attain conditioning prior to
Well to Age Well
eating is important for healthy living and aging.
Canadian studies show a gap between the nutritional intakes of
men and Canadian nutrition recommendations. Every day, one third of the energy
intake of men is provided by foods rich in fat, sodium and/or sugar and poor
in nutrients. More than half of Canadian men fall short of the daily
recommendation for fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products. According
to the World Health Organization, these food behaviours constitute a major
risk factor for chronic disease such as heart disease and some cancers. Fortunately,
nourishing food for meals and snacks can help you feel your best every day and
prevent some chronic and other illnesses.
does healthy eating mean?
eating means choosing foods that meet your daily nutritional needs. For
enough calories to maintain a healthy weight and provide energy for
a variety of different foods
plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables every day
fibre-rich, whole grain products to keep your bowels healthy.
plenty of fluids, including water.
eating by sharing meals with family and friends.
your body’s special needs, particularly as you age.
The daily requirements for calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B6
are higher for older adults.
Nutrients for Healthy Aging:
helps balance calcium levels in your body for healthy bones. You need more
vitamin D as you get older. Vitamin D is found in milk, fortified soy
beverages, egg yolk, and fish. Adults over age 50 should take a daily vitamin
D supplement of 400 IU.
needs increase as people age. Vitamin B6 is important for protein metabolism
and brain function. Food sources of vitamin B6 include fish, beef livers,
meat, poultry, whole grains, nuts, dried beans, peas and lentils.
absorption decreases with age. Older adults absorb less vitamin B12 from foods
and need to take vitamin B12 fortified foods or a supplement. Lack of vitamin
B12 over a long time can cause a type of anemia, resulting in tiredness. Other
symptoms include forgetfulness, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and
possibly numbness or tingling in fingers and/or toes. Good food sources of
vitamin B12 are milk products, meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
is one of the B vitamins important for a healthy heart and blood cells. A lack
of folate may cause anemia. Foods with folate are dried peas, beans, lentils,
orange juice, dark green leafy vegetables and other vegetables, fruits, nuts
is important for your bowel regularity and health. Certain types of fibre can
help to lower cholesterol and to keep blood sugar levels normal. Fibre may
also help to manage or keep a healthy weight. Foods with fibre include whole
grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
are important for good hydration, regular bowel function and good oral health.
Seniors may not notice sensations of thirst and may not drink enough. Water,
milk, and juice are the best sources of fluids. Moderate amounts of tea and
coffee can also be counted as fluids.
or salt use may increase as people age, possibly due to less sense of taste.
Too much sodium in your diet can increase your blood pressure. Try using
unsalted herbs, spices and seasonings in cooking instead of adding salt to
foods. Limit the use of salty foods, including instant soup, sauce and gravy
mixes, soy sauce, salad dressings, and salted meats such as ham, bacon and
Friendly™ Fact sheets available on the Dietitians of Canada website at www.dietitians.ca.
Well with Canada's Food Guide
available on the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index_e.html
Loss at Altitude
first article featured in “Eating for Everest” will examine the issue of
climber’s weight loss while at altitude.
Weight loss is a common consequence of climbing and mountaineering at
altitude. The physical challenges
of climbing in rough terrain and deep snow with heavy weight clothing and gear
are enormous. Some researchers
estimate that climbers can burn up to 6000 calories per day in such extreme
environments. Yet food intakes of
climbers at altitude have been shown to fall by 10-50% depending on the rate
of ascent and individual tolerance. Just when a climber needs food energy the
most, a high altitude, low oxygen environment immediately reduces a
climber’s appetite and interest in eating, making weight loss a serious
loss at altitude represents the loss of lean muscle mass.
Those lean muscles are the ones that are needed to get you up (and
down) the mountain. Excessive
weight loss caused by loss of appetite, exhaustion and stress can lead to
further weakness and may mean the end of a long awaited dream trip.
Fortunately there are strategies to put into place during the months
leading up to the climb, as well as during the climb that can help minimize
weight loss. Future articles will
consider strategies to optimize nutrition during training.
for Everest: Minimizing Weight
Loss at Altitude
is possible to meet your body’s energy needs while climbing at altitude, but
it does require a concerted effort. Carbohydrates
have been shown to be the most efficient source of energy to consume at high
altitude. Complex carbohydrates
are found in whole grain bread and cereals, potatoes, dahl, rice and pasta.
These foods take several hours to digest, but provide the body with a
sustained long lasting source of energy.
Simple carbohydrates on the other hand are digested very quickly and
provide instant energy for working muscles.
Simple carbohydrates are found in honey, jam, candy, sweet drinks, and
fruit juice. Choosing food and
fluids that provide the most energy with the least amount of digestive
“effort” is the best choice while at altitude.
Research has shown that aggressively loading a climbers diet with
carbohydrates, particularly sweet fluids.
Here are some additional strategies to minimize weight loss:
out foods that feel good in your mouth, sit well in your stomach and are more
likely to stay down, Common "hiking" foods such as jerky, trail mix,
chocolate, cheese or nuts may take too much energy to chew, swallow and
to prevent food boredom, A tasty, easily digestible meal or snack can be a
real highlight on a challenging climbing day. Consider a variety of foods
that will please you, and try to avoid packing the same ones every day.
on small amounts of food frequently throughout the day and be sure to keep
these handy and within easy reach.
carbohydrate rich fluids is helpful to meet energy needs. Examples include
sweet liquids such as apple cider, hot jello drinks, Gatorade, and sweet
a schedule for regular, enforced drinking of fluids
warm beverages if and when possible. They are great physical and emotional
nausea strikes, sip on fluids frequently
experts will suggest avoiding caffeinated beverages at altitude. However,
the U.S. Army reports that some soldiers find relief from high altitude
headaches by drinking a double strength of coffee.
mountaineers will agree that physical training and practice climbs are
essential prior to the big trip. In
addition to the training, sports nutritionists would argue that taking the
time to practice with a variety of food and fluids is just as important.
Don’t wait until you reach altitude to discover that all the food you
brought disagrees with you. Instead,
practice eating at altitudes above 10,000 feet to see what your food and fluid
preferences really are. You may
be surprised. Peak Freak Guide
Tim Ripple says “As
much as I love chocolate, I can't even look at a chocolate bar above 26,000ft.
If you like spicy food you might have a hard time with it at higher altitudes
above base camp as I do”.
make the most of your pre-climb training time to strengthen your physical body
and optimize your nutrition with professionally guided food and beverage
choices and careful attention to the use of nutritional supplements.
CLIMBING TRAINING NUTRITION
nutritional base supports pre-climb training
trip is in sight and the hard work of training has begun.
Pre-climb training will build your endurance, which will benefit you on
the mountain. Strong training
increases the volume of blood pumped by your heart and delivers more oxygen to
working muscles. Training also
increases the amount of reserve fuel (glycogen and fatty acids) that your
muscles can store. Training will
increase your body’s ability to burn carbohydrate for fuel during intense
exercise and improve your muscle’s ability to clear lactic acid from the
blood. This is beneficial as a
build up of lactic acid contributes to fatigue.
food is essential to maintain your pre-climb training schedule.
Nourishing food and fluids will provide energy to support consistent
training and muscle recovery, will reduce the risk of injury (and the time
lost due to injury) and improve your immune function making you less likely to
fall ill. The protein,
carbohydrate and fats in your diet, the vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals
and fluids provide an essential mix of nutrients for strong training and
your training diet measure up? Take
a sheet of paper and write down all the food and beverages that you ate and
drank yesterday from morning until bedtime.
If yesterday wasn’t a typical day for you due to illness or travel,
then pick the day before. As you
read through the following principles of sports nutrition, check to see how
your diet measures up. Can you
spot some room for improvement?
frozen or canned vegetables and fruit should make up the largest percentage of
your diet each day. Choose the
most brightly colored ones (red, yellow, orange, dark green) for that extra
nutritional boost from vitamins A and C.
Pure fruit juice can be a good choice, just choose small portions.
Unsweetened apple juice has the same concentration of sugar as
vegetables and fruit, grain products are the next biggest group of foods to
fill your plate with. Examples
include pasta, rice, bread, cereal, muffins, crackers and pitas, in fact all
foods made from wheat, rice, oats, corn and barley.
Be sure to choose whole grain varieties of bread, rice and cereal more
often than the refined grains as they have the added benefits of fibre,
vitamins and trace minerals.
and vegetarian protein alternatives provide important nutrients such as iron,
zinc and magnesium as well as protein and fat.
Athletes need protein to help repair muscle tissue, however high
protein “sports” diets and protein supplements are often unnecessary and
can be dangerous so consult with a dietitian or physician first.
Instead, choose protein rich foods at each meal, including lean meats
and fresh or canned fish, as well as a vegetarian meal each day (or several
times a week) using beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, seeds and tofu.
and milk alternatives provide the athlete with calcium, vitamins A, D and B12,
protein and fat. Calcium
and vitamin D are important for maintaining bone strength during high impact
and load bearing activities as well as prevention of muscle cramps.
As dairy products are high in saturated fats, choose lower fat milk,
yogurt and cheese and/or choose “fortified” soy beverage every day for
good nutrition. Depending on your
particular needs, and whether you are male or female, you may need these foods
2-4 times per day. A glass of
cold milk is an excellent and easy choice as a recovery drink after a training
and oils in modest amounts are an important source of calories and nutrients
for the training diet. Choose
higher quality fats and oils that contain more monounsaturated fats such as
those that are soft or liquid at room temperature as well as olives, nuts,
seeds, avocadoes and fattier fish.
Fats are high in calories, so use (and choose) them wisely.
your food list, did you also include the cookies, sweets, cold beer, potato
chips and other things that we commonly eat and drink?
What did you eat in the car on the way home?
What did you eat while preparing supper?
Everything you put in your mouth counts towards your body’s overall
nutrition. When you burn
extra calories with training, it is important to fuel your body with
nourishing foods before and immediately after working out.
Sweets and treats can certainly fit in to your training diet, but make
sure the majority of your food and beverages are healthy and nutritious.
what to drink? The next article
will focus on the importance of hydration and electrolytes.
Your Way to Better Performance
essential that athletes drink plenty of fluids before, during and after
exercise to replace fluid lost from sweating.
Sweating is an effective way to cool your body, but sweating can
lead to dehydration, especially if exercising in the heat.
Wondering what beverage to choose?
This article will discuss hydration and offer guidelines for
choosing a beverage.
During exercise, our body
loses water and electrolytes through sweat and breathing. Electrolytes are substances that become ions in
solution and conduct electricity. Maintaining
a fine balance of these electrolytes (i.e. sodium, potassium, chloride,
and bicarbonate) in our bodies is essential for normal function of our
cells and our organs. Simply,
the more fluids we lose through sweat and respiration, the more
electrolytes we lose which can affect muscle function.
Even a small amount of dehydration can significantly impair
is the major positive ion in fluid outside body cells. Sodium regulates the total amount of water in the body.
The movement of sodium in and out of body cells is critical in
the generation of electrical signals and many processes
the body, especially in the brain, nervous system, and muscles, require
electrical signals to function. Too
much or too little sodium can be extremely dangerous.
is the major positive ion found inside cells. Among the many functions
of potassium in the body are regulation of the heartbeat and normal
function of the muscles. A
disturbance to the balance of potassium in the body can profoundly
affects the nervous system and increases the chance of irregular
heartbeats (arrhythmias), which can be fatal.
is the major negatively charged ion found in the fluid outside of cells
and in blood. Sea water has
almost the same concentration of chloride ion as human fluids. Chloride
plays a role in helping the body maintain a normal balance of fluids.
The balance of chloride ion is closely regulated by the body.
Significant increases or decreases in chloride can have deleterious or
even fatal consequences:
The bicarbonate ion helps to maintain the normal levels of acidity (pH)
in blood and other fluids in the body.
Our body’s acidity is affected by foods or medications that we
ingest and the function of our kidneys and lungs.
or Sports Drink?
For most athletes who
exercise for one hour or less, plain cool water is the number one
choice. According to the
American College of Sports Medicine, athletes exercising less than one
hour generally don’t benefit from using sports drinks.
However, the longer you exercise, the greater your fluid losses,
and the more your body will benefit from additional electrolytes and
carbohydrates for energy. This
is where sports drinks can be very helpful before, during and following
Sports drinks provide
fluids for hydration, carbohydrate for energy, and electrolytes to
replace those lost in sweat. For
activities lasting longer than an hour, choose a sport drink that
contains 4 to 8% carbohydrates along with some added sodium.
According to Kristine Clark, sports nutritionist with Penn State
University, "A sports drink can do many great things to increase
energy levels without the complications of digesting and absorbing a
meal". If you
prefer fruit juice to a sports drink, then great, but always dilute
fruit juice (one part juice to one part water) to prevent stomach upset.
In hot, humid
conditions with prolonged exercise the body needs more fluids to replace
sweat losses and prevent heat injury. A general guideline is to aim for
a minimum of ½ -1 litre of fluid per hour.
bottom line is to avoid dehydration during exercise by drinking fluids
prior to exercise, and choosing your beverage based on the length of
time you are exercising
back for the next entry on “Eating for Everest” soon.
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