Supplements for climbing

A climber friend once told me that there are no studies to confirm the effects of most of the drugs advertised as ‘groundbreaking dietary supplements’. Only a few are proven in sports. Here’s a list of supplements that might be useful in your climbing routine.

Caffeine for climbing training?

The literature states that the greatest benefits will be achieved by those athletes who require very intense effort in a short time – that is, climbers, rather regardless of the competition, although it is said that the efforts are shorter than 10 seconds (time trials, short bulders).

Taking caffeine has side effects. In addition to the best felt tremors, it will be leaching of minerals and acidifying the body, it can also cause stomach irritation. Caffeine is said to reduce the perception of pain, so be careful with it during traumatic training sessions. Coffee is said to be a diuretic, but famous “American studies” have denied that it would have a devastating effect on training performance, so we don’t care.

It is said that the safe amount of caffeine that we can consume a day is approx. 300-500 mg, which corresponds to about 1-2 cups of coffee (addicts have a greater tolerance).

Coffee lovers must be careful – it is generally not advisable to stimulate yourself with caffeine just before the competition – then the level of adrenaline is so high that the additional caffeine will not help, but will interfere with the work and coordination of our muscles.

Some studies find that there’s a slight enhancement in performance when taking caffeine before training. Remember that caffeine can be taken in pills, not only in coffee or tea.

Sodium bicarbonate for climbing?

It’s a bit complicated, but this issue is one of the better-studied topics at the interface between sport and supplementation. I will try to sell it as clearly as possible as far as I understand the phenomenon myself:

During each physical effort, the acid-base balance is disturbed in the human body – the pH decreases, the content of lactic acid increases and the level of the HCO3- anion decreases. Indicators go down, and acidification translates into progressive fatigue and muscle dysfunction (see the phrase: ATP resynthesis disorder. Disturbance of this balance is not good because – making the long story short – it hinders short- and long-term regeneration.

Bicarbonate is a compound that neutralizes the effect of training-induced acidification described above. On the one hand, they are natural buffers found in the body, on the other hand, we can provide them from the outside by irrigating the body with appropriate mineral water (which contains them in a high concentration), diluted baking soda (in the appropriate dose – max 300 mg / kg body weight), or other specifics

By increasing the supply of e.g. sodium bicarbonate, we shift the phenomenon of fatigue over time, especially during high-intensity anaerobic exercise. The biceps do not grow and the foot work does not improve from drinking minerals. It will accelerate the regeneration, which will enable you to train more efficiently, and what you do with it depends on other factors.

Soda is a permitted, effective means of increasing the exercise capacity of swimmers (100 m – 200 m), runners (400 m-1500 m), rowers (500 m – 2000 m) and cyclists (3 km – 5 km). So efforts of a duration similar to climbing.

Note the bicarbonate anion in the mineral water. The higher the content, the better.

Creatine for climbers?

Creatine is perhaps the most researched dietary supplement. How it works? In fact, it occurs naturally in the body and is the primary energy carrier in muscle cells. You will also find it in red meat, fish and plastic cans marked “creatine”.

In the form of phosphocreatine, it is rocket fuel, causing a significant increase in strength in the first minutes of any exercise (the strength for climbing stairs or the power on a multi-movement boulder comes from phosphocreatine). In simple terms, the energy comes from the breakdown of ATP (such a compound accumulated in the body, I refer to google). However, the ATP reserve is only for a short time (1-2 seconds), and phosphocreatine rebuilds its reserves in a short time. The problem is that its reserves are small (approx. 10 seconds of muscle work). By supplying creatine from the outside, we increase its base level in the body, stimulate ATP resynthesis, enabling maximum rapid regeneration and – thus – the possibility of performing high-performance series of our favorite boulders or pull-ups on a pole. For example, you can pull up 12 times instead of 10.

However, it should be added that creatine also helps in protein synthesis, which leads to an increase in muscle mass (and strength). Big guys from the gym owe their appearance to the effect of taking creatine, which increases the retention (accumulation) of water in the body, increasing weight and pumping muscles, which we, climbers, do not necessarily care about. However, there are many varieties of creatine supplements on the market that differ in form, absorption time, effectiveness and retention properties.