A crew of climbers in Catalonia learn that eating well is more than a choice for optimal performance, but also for improved well-being.
Our friend Kike Morales traveled to Catalonia to climb for a month with two professional climbers, curious about the lifestyle change of cooking for ones self can impact performance in the long run. Following the recipes in the original Feed Zone Cookbook, these climbers learned that eating well is more than a choice for optimal performance, but also for improved well-being.
Even on the 17th of December, our friend Kike Morales took note: even from inside his borrowed car w/the air conditioning blasting, its still mind-bendingly hot as he makes way from Alicante to Oliana (Catalonia), Spain.
He didn't know much about what will happen when he reached his destination, but he knew that climbers Gerard Rull + Felix Neumärker would be there with a van and they wanted to climb some very challenging routes over the next month so he brought his climbing gear, a sleeping bag, 6 kg. of Skratch Labs’ Hydration Mix, and a copy of "The Feed Zone Cookbook;" a guide they would later lovingly refer to as ‘The Book’.
It was Kike's first time climbing with "pros" and he was a bit nervous; the point of the trip for Kike was to attempt to cook real food to fuel their burns and to see if he could set a few lifestyle changes in motion that will make them better climbers now, and after they left Spain. He was curious to see if "ordinary, delicious, food" would be ample enough to fuel a month of challenging routes in extreme conditions. There were a lot of big questions on his mind as he traveled the last miles to Oliana: would he physically + emotionally be up to the task of a month of aggressive climbing? Would there be an ample kitchen to cook in? Immediately after meeting his climbing companions it became apparent that Gerard + Felix were quite fit, quite prepared and that the month would be challenging. Their "kitchen" was to be the open ground space around their simple sleeper van. But they all brought huge appetites, and that's really all they needed.
By the time they arrive in camp that first night, its late evening and Felix took charge of getting the fire going, warming up the gas stove so that they could cook up a simple meal of pasta with tomato sauce and lots of cheap cheese. They started to flip through the pages of "The Book," and got to talking about food. With "The Book" as their guide, it was clear to see that they would be eating a lot of rice, yes, but that the food they would be cooking over the course of the month would be as much about performance as they would be about taste. "The Book" instructed them "...to enjoy the ride." says Kike, "Cook tasty dishes, sit around a table, enjoy your meal, share some stories, laugh; make something out of this necessity of nutrition."
As they fell to sleep that night, they started to embrace the idea that if they wanted to eat good food, they were going to have to put some love into it. As Kike reports, it was a mindset of “dude, cook something tasty, you deserve it”.
The first morning, they cooked up porridge from "The Book"; a simple concoction of oats, almond milk, nuts, banana and honey. They enjoyed their warm bowls while eyeing and plotting Breakfast Burritos for tomorrow. Then they headed to the crag. For a few days, they work an 8b+ route. Felix sent it on the second go, and then goes back to the relax mode, then turned it on again. Each day, day after day, they returned to the campsite and started thinking immediately of what they would eat. They climbed beautiful sections of the range, achieved some impressive results but in the end of the trip found that the food they cooked and enjoyed was just as important to their training as the crags they climbed. "This is the most important change," reported Kike, "...the [shift] from the training just being painful, to training as a discipline itself." In this case, the discipline that Kike noticed was the dedication to considering what they ate when they got off the rock, to taking the time to prepare ingredients and cook meals, and to enjoy what they cooked together. This, more than anything, kept their time in Oliana fun, productive, and kept them inspired to send it day after day; what they ate contributed not only to their training, but to their journey. "This is the newest facet of the discipline; where science and gastronomy collide, where cravings for something delicious and wholesome become part of a new lifestyle that fuels performance." he says.
On leaving Catalonia, Kike and his companions were inspired to keep up their dedication to cooking real food to fuel their performance. "Sometimes we are prisoners of our short-term anxieties and wills, but if you look at the lives of these athletes, when they ‘just climb’ they are using a practice of the past," says Kike. Their trip was easy proof - to them, and others - that delicious food, eaten among friends, fuels not only performance but a lifestyle and mental shift that's healthy for athletes in every facet of their lives. Letting in the joy "is the only way to overcome the the sorrows that for sure will come [in climbing]. In cuisine that [joy] is called gastronomy, and it is at the service of the high performance."