In the first part of this article we discussed the benefits of natural energy drinks for climbers. Now we wish to expand regarding some practical questions.
When Should a climber use natural energy drinks?
There are no hard and rigid rules for this, but there are some good general guidelines. First of all, be aware of which type of exercise you are going to do. You might use natural energy drinks whenever you:
- Climb for more than 2 hours straight - because by the third hour your muscle glycogen will probably be depleted and your power will have significantly dropped. If you have consumed energy drinks throughout your climb you ought to be able to keep your power for much longer.
- Climb, but have not eaten in the previous few hours - because you are beginning your climbing session with an energy deficit. The calories contained in natural beverage base solutions will help you remain focused and able to climb or train at your best ability.
- Need absolute top performance - because in this case these beverage base solutions could be the small difference you need to succeed.
How do these drink ingredients do it?
Chief among the various drink ingredients in energy drinks, whether natural or not, is caffeine.
Caffeine, apart from protecting against neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) and various Cancer types (bladder, pancreatic, breast, ovarian and colon), is the number one performance enhancer of ordinary people and athletes alike. There are several ways that caffeine might help you train and climb harder:
- Increased work output and time-until-exhaustion during predominantly aerobic endurance exercise (in multi-pitch climbs for example).
- Increased power output in short, maximum strength and power exercises (lasting less than 10 seconds) like in bouldering, one-arm pull-up etc.
- Improved concentration, alertness, and mood.
- Shorter reaction time and improved movement accuracy.
- Lowered peripheral pain perception.
So, how much caffeine should one consume?
Ultimately that depends on your tolerance. However, a low-to-moderate dosage of 3 to 9 mg per kg of body weight seems optimal (maximum benefits; minimum negative side-effects). For the average-sized climber, this equates to consuming somewhere between 200mg and 600mg of caffeine.
The bottom line:
caffeine use can potentially enhance your training and climbing performance, but caffeine “overdose” will likely hurt your performance. The key is to experiment with and understand caffeine’s unique effects on you.