icons/avalancheicons/bootscompassfacebookicons/gloveshandsicons/hearticons/helmeticons/ice axeinstagramminusmountainicons/pathsMap Pinplusicons/questionicons/guideicons/ropeicons/gogglesicons/stafftenttwitteryoutube
Aconcagua base camp food for climb

General Fueling & Hydration for climbing and trekking

While train­ing is crit­i­cal to suc­cess in the moun­tains, if not cou­pled with an over­all game plan for diet, hydra­tion, and hygiene when on your climb or trek, there will like­ly be some dif­fi­cult chal­lenges along the path towards your goal.

Here is the first of sev­er­al blogs address­ing these some­times over­looked key com­po­nents that will lead to success.

Ever dig through a climber’s or trekker’s back­pack look­ing for snacks? Per­haps what you found resem­bled a kids Hal­loween haul with a heavy dose of caf­feine? Are sug­ar and caf­feine the best things to take with you on the mountain? 

What about when you’re train­ing for your next moun­tain adven­ture like Aconcagua, where you will have a sum­mit day as long as 12 hours? How will you man­age your food intake? 

Snack food for climbing and trekking
healthy food for mountain travel with Mountain Madness
alpine backpacking food

We’ve talked to moun­tain pros and med­ical doc­tors about nutri­tion and here are some tips we’ve learned the hard way, but that ulti­mate­ly have con­tributed to suc­cess on a climb or trek once they became rou­tine practices.

First, whether you’re train­ing in the gym or in the moun­tains, think of every­thing you con­sume (even that beer) as fuel. Most moun­tain ath­letes don’t eat enough pro­tein. A gen­er­al rule of thumb for calo­rie con­sump­tion is:

Pro­tein = 30%

Carbs = 30%

Fat = 40%

Mexico expedition food pre-climb for volcanoes ascents
backpacking food while on a climb to Mount Baker
Post expedition food

Aim for real food, with ingre­di­ents you can pro­nounce. And, whether you’re trekking or climb­ing, have a plan for how fre­quent­ly you will eat. Don’t wait until you feel hun­gry. While that ear­ly morn­ing break­fast with a pre-dawn start will get you going, what hap­pens dur­ing that break three hours into the climb when you feel dimin­ished ener­gy? And while that tasty tea­house break­fast of an omelette, por­ridge, toast and jam, and some cof­fee may rev up your engines for the morn­ing on your trek to Ever­est Base­camp, it’s a fast fuel burn as you walk up steep hills at alti­tude. Be ready to put some fuel back in your tank, if only enough to get you to the lunch stop. Antic­i­pate your needs.

PRO TIP: On the moun­tain, be sure your snacks are eas­i­ly acces­si­ble for eat­ing on the go. Stuff your pock­ets with bite-sized chunks of your favorite bar and have some quick ener­gy, like hon­ey or hard can­dy, in case you need a boost. If you’re crav­ing pro­tein on the moun­tain, grab a nut but­ter. Those pack­aged in squeez­able pouch­es are espe­cial­ly easy to eat on-the-go. And, some even have a dose of caffeine.

Hydra­tion also plays a huge role in your per­for­mance on and off the moun­tain. Test elec­trolyte mix­es dur­ing train­ing to find one that works best for you. And, have a hydra­tion plan when you’re work­ing hard. Don’t chug big quan­ti­ties when you’re exert­ing your­self. Your stom­ach will like­ly pay for it lat­er as it tries to absorb the flu­ids, result­ing in nau­sea and stom­ach ache.

While a sun­down­er in Arusha Nation­al Park before your Kil­i­man­jaro climb, won’t lead to a hang­over for the start of the climb the next day, it’s wise to min­i­mize or elim­i­nate alco­hol con­sump­tion while on your trek or climb, espe­cial­ly when at high­er alti­tudes. Instead focus on the usu­al water hydra­tion dur­ing the day, but con­sid­er non-caf­feinat­ed drinks when at camp. 

PRO TIP: Save the alco­hol for your cel­e­bra­tion din­ner after the climb or trek.

sundowner time on Arusha before Kilimanjaro climb
hydration for mountain climbers and trekkers
Rich food on expedition in city


The moun­tain of nutri­tion and hydra­tion advice for endurance ath­letes is huge. If you real­ly want to dial it in, work with a licensed nutri­tion­ist who under­stands the demands of endurance ath­letes. Know before you go – exper­i­ment with all the dif­fer­ent options out there and dial in what works and what doesn’t, both for your train­ing and your actu­al adven­tures in the moun­tains. For starters, give a call to Jess Mullen MS,RDN at Fit­first for some tips on nutri­tion and exercise.

For your train­ing in the gym and in the moun­tains, at the very least take men­tal notes of what works and what does not. If you want a struc­tured plan to help you build the fit­ness you’ll need for your next moun­tain expe­ri­ence, con­sid­er hir­ing a train­er that has moun­tain expe­ri­ence, like Alpine Ath­let­ics, who will help you with phys­i­cal, men­tal, and tac­ti­cal preparation.

Com­plied by Lisa Thomp­son/​Alpine Ath­let­ics and Mark Gun­log­son. Pho­tos by Kevin Sanchez and MM Collection