Mountain Nutrition Survey – Feedback

Thank you to everyone who completed our Online Nutrition Survey. 68 people responded from all over the world. The aim of the survey was to gauge a general picture of the current nutrition practices of people who go mountaineering and spend time being active at altitude.

There appears to be little specific nutrition information available to mountaineers to help protect health and enhance performance whilst on a trip. With plenty of emerging science in nutrition for sporting performance there is much that can be applied to mountaineering/altitude that could certainly have the potential to improve every individuals experience on the hill.

Myself and chef/mountain guide Kieran Creevy (who has extensive practice at putting his culinary skills to work in many mountainous regions all over the world) have teamed up to provide practical cutting edge information for nutrition in the mountains for whatever your location, length of trip, activity and budget.

We will be using the results of the survey to help improve mountaineers' eating practices by starting with what is already being done and adding nutritious, health protecting, performance enhancing ingredients and fluids into the mix.

A brief summary of the results of the questionnaire are given below.

62% of responders plan their nutrition intake (good work!) and 38% do not.

Locations at which people are active in the mountains are far and wide, from the Cairngorms in the UK to the French/Austrian Alps, Alaska, Andes, Patagonia, BC Rocky Mountains, Tatras, Nepal and the Himalayas.

Some food items that are used include (in no particular order): energy bars and gels, malt loaf, dried fruit and nuts, protein bars, Clif bars, Nakd bars, sandwiches, beef/turkey jerky, dark chocolate, salami/chorizo, eggs, boil in the bag food, freeze dried food, cheese, wholewheat crackers, pasta, rice, jelly babies,gummy bars, Jaffa cakes, hot chocolate, oats/oatmeal, peanut butter, Mars bars, milk chocolate, soups and tuna (we even had Marmite and Nutella on the list!).

41% buy food at location and 36% take food supplies from home.

The amount of fluid carried ranged from 0.5l-6litres (water, Lucozade, flask of hot drinks).

69% of responders experience weight loss in the mountains.  This is very common and is well documented in the research. However adding the right nutrition at the right time (namely protein) throughout the day can help attenuate this weight loss and preserve muscle mass!

31% manage to not lose weight at all. (This does depend on altitude and duration of trip which were not defined for this question).

Foods craved:

Savoury 24%, protein 17%, carbohydrate 16%, sweet 14% and fats 7%. Other foods craved were good home cooking, fresh fruit and vegetables, salty foods, burgers and beer. (Food does play a huge part in the reward factor after a long day on the hill or expedition - this we realise and will cover in future blogs).

Nutrition supplements taken:

Fish oil, vitamin D3, multivitamins and minerals, magnesium, recovery drink, whey protein, Berocca, CLA, niacin, vitamin C, zinc, electrolytes, isotonic sports drink, probiotic, shot bloc.

Nutritional supplements can and do have their advantage by often being small in serving size and potent at that, lightweight and convenient to use. Certain supplements can play a part in aiding hydration, attenuating weight loss, preserving muscle mass, improving concentration and helping maintain energy levels.

27% of responders experienced an upset stomach, 22% altitude sickness and 43% also experienced migraines, headaches and cold/tingling extremities. Again nutrition can go a long way to ensure good gut health (even before the trip) and perhaps even prevent stomach upsets and headaches.

Finally 72% were interested in learning more and 28% were not (although I'm convinced that for those 28% nutrition improvements could be made that would make a difference - but good on you if you feel you have it sussed!).

Although this questionnaire only covers nutrition intake whilst out in the mountains, the months/weeks leading up to the trip also go a long way to contributing to your experience in the mountains. Again another area that will be covered in the near future (nutrition for training/preparation). A short vlog briefly discusses this here: (you need to register and sign in to view but its free to do so and this site has lots of other useful nutrition vlogs). 

Link to Mountain Nutrition Survey for those who wish to still fill it out: 

Thrive, don’t just survive!