Carbohydrate Foods for Mountain Climbing

Written by jillian o'keeffe Google
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Carbohydrate Foods for Mountain Climbing
Climbers require carbohydrates for energy and endurance. (climbing image by Terry Reimink from

Foods carried by climbers and mountaineers need to be high in energy as well as compact and as light as possible. The carbohydrate in high-carbohydrate foods helps the climber to maintain energy levels that are depleted by the strenuous exercise needed to climb those peaks. Suitable foods are available neatly packaged in specially designed forms, or they can come straight out of the kitchen cupboard and into the backpack.

Energy Bars

Energy bars typically contain carbohydrate in the form of grains and sugars such as glucose syrup and honey. Energy bars also generally contain fats and protein in the form of nuts or seeds. "Climbing" recommends eating fats and protein along with carbohydrates to slow digestion and promote long and even energy release. The bars are light, compact and take up little space in a backpack.

Instant Foods

Instant foods like porridge and even cold cereal like muesli or granola are recommended for climbing food by the Alpine Ascents Mountaineering School in Alaska. The cereals should not be sugary and should be high in calories. The added benefit of instant foods like these is that the milk or water that must be added will help keep the climber hydrated and warm.

Dried Food

Another dried food that is high in carbohydrate and easily carried on climbing expeditions is pasta, especially macaroni. Above 4,000ft, water boils at a lower temperature than usual, so cooking rice or large pasta will take longer than small pasta shapes. Freeze-dried food that is especially made for mountaineers and packaged compactly and lightly is an option, but it can be pricey. Protein and fats should be eaten with carbohydrate meals to increase endurance.


A novel way of getting energy is through an energy gel. These gels are laden with carbohydrate in the form of maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, honey or fructose. Some preparations come with added amino acids to reduce muscle cannibalisation, vitamins, minerals or caffeine to aid the climber in keeping alert. The gels are packaged in light, soft containers, and some gels can be mixed with water to create a sweet drink.


The International Mountain Guides company, based in Washington state, suggests candy to take with you on a climb. Recommended carbohydrates also include chocolate bars, dried fruit, cookies, trail mix, bagels and fresh fruit for the first day of climbing. Fruit leather and jelly beans are also a good choice. Coffee beans covered in chocolate can also give a caffeine boost for summit day.

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