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Primal and high altitude mountaineering

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  • Primal and high altitude mountaineering



    Ok, this might be one of the more obscure topics, but whatever.

    I am going to Ecuador this December to climb some high volcanoes (Chimborazo being the highest at ~20,700&#39 and the guiding service I am going with sent me a packet on training for altitude.

    One of the things they suggested doing to mitigate the effects of the drastically decreased oxygen levels at high altitude was to eat a high-carbohydrate diet, specifically one with at least 70% of calories coming from carbs.

    I am a little concerned about this, because I am not sure what facts/studies/etc they are basing this on. I don't want to feel like crap and not summit because of some unknown factor that causes me to need more carbs, but I also don't want to feel like crap and not summit because I followed their advice and ate more carbs when I'm used to eating primal.

    I could understand needing a few more carbs than I would in everyday life because of the massive amount of physical exertion involved in climbing at altitude, but cannot fathom eating 70% or more of my daily food as carbs.

    Though I've never been at really high altitudes, I've done plenty of climbing to 14,000' here in Colorado where I live and have never had problems with the altitudes here despite eating mostly primal meals/snacks before and during these trips.

    So what's everyone's take on this?

    Subduction leads to orogeny

    My blog that I don't update as often as I should: http://primalclimber.blogspot.com/

  • #2
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    I think there is something to eating more carbs for altitude.


    I also remember starting Ginko Biloba about a month out for my first 14er (coming from 200' above sea level). You are used to 14 but with the additional 6k maybe check that out as well.


    I remember reading that more carbs will help you avoid altitude sickness because I was paranoid that I might get it never having been up there before. Luckily it was no problemo.


    Maybe read some training blogs for some of the other high peaks...


    Good luck!

    Comment


    • #3
      1

      [quote]

      One of the things they suggested doing to mitigate the effects of the drastically decreased oxygen levels at high altitude was to eat a high-carbohydrate diet, specifically one with at least 70% of calories coming from carbs.
      </blockquote>


      That&#39;s very interesting. I wonder very much whether that&#39;s what&#39;s been found by experience or whether it&#39;s just what&#39;s become the standard dietary advice is assumed to best here, as it&#39;s assumed to be best elsewhere.


      It&#39;s pretty odd, when one thinks about it, that the advice diabetics are given is to eat plenty of carbohydrates - albeit not sugar. One gets the impression that, having decided that low-fat/high-carbohydrate is good in and of itself, people just keep moving that assumption to new areas.


      So do they know this is best, or are they assuming it is?


      You must keep us posted on what you find out.


      Unfortunately, advice even from the medical experts on extreme conditions isn&#39;t always right. It seems to have been Robert Falcon&#39;s Scott&#39;s tragedy that he was a careful and conscientious man and did consult the medical experts, knowing that scurvy could be a problem for his expeditions. He got the wrong advice on how to combat it. The Norwegian explorers had followed the better strategy of living with the Eskimo and learning their ways.


      The Tibetans, who of course live at high latitude, traditionally ate tsampa (roasted barley flour) and chang (Tibetan beer), but then they also ate meat - they even fed meat to their horses - and they&#39;d add yak butter to their tea, of which they drank dozens of cups a day.


      Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world. The Mongols&#39; traditional diet was pretty much an all-animal one (apart from tea).


      I have to wonder. It seems to look as if, once again, we&#39;re being told that the current fad-diet is best for some purpose when people have been following a totally different strategy for thousands of years. But maybe whoever was making that statement has some hard evidence for it. As I say, let us know what you find out.

      Comment


      • #4
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        I&#39;d be interested to hear what everyone has to say about cold weather/inclimate and diet as well.


        As an avid ice climber, I would consume an amazing amount of calories on any given climb day. Last ice season my diet consisted of a ton of carbs, sugar loaded pre-packaged food (Backpackers Pantry line of food), and nuts. We&#39;re probably talking ~5000kcal a climb day.


        I know for high-altitude mountaineering expeditions, people heavily rely on cans of sweetened condensed milk for a staple in their diet. I&#39;m not too sure what the Primal alternative to that is.


        I&#39;m looking for some alternative foods to bring with me as this season is soon approaching. I was thinking of some &#39;meat-loaf cupcakes&#39; for some portable protein, jerky, a plethora of nuts/seeds, and some fruit.


        Thoughts?

        I grok, therefore I am.

        Comment


        • #5
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          Wow...sweetened condensed milk, I didn&#39;t know that.


          Interesting...

          Comment


          • #6
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            This is an interesting thread, even though I stuck at five feet above sea level for the immediate future. (Except when I&#39;m on the second floor........) I never had altitude problems except, of course, for oxygen deprivation. But never nauseous or anything like that. OTOH, my sister would need to barf every few miles in RMNP when visiting.


            What would a high carb diet do? I think it would keep that glucose humming in the veins for muscles to use, but then if it doesn&#39;t get used, off to the fat factory. Why would this be good for high altitude? I can&#39;t see a connection.


            Fats will, of course provide all the energy a person needs during high calorie expenditure. Jerky and pemmican would be good power food, I would think. The latter would have some carbs, too.


            And 70%! That barely leaves room for protein, which one would need a lot of while climbing.

            Comment


            • #7
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              I have no experience with high-altitude climbing myself (yet) but have researched it quite a bit. I&#39;m really not sure why the high-carb diet except for common misconceptions about carbs being the body&#39;s preferred source for fuel.


              If anyone has watched the Everest: Beyond the Limit TV series, you can get a good sampling of their diet as a good amount of shots are in the dining area after their climbs. They eat an amazing amount of food and a great deal of protein. You would have to with that calorie expenditure.


              It&#39;s been said that when in the extreme cold you burn approx 5000kcal just to stay warm. I would say that&#39;s about right having climbed in -30C weather many times. Post-climb meal used to be a massive burger with fries and then a couple of donuts an hour after that...the food plan might have to change a little this season However, most of that was burned off as I was in peak physical form (for myself). I would go a whole week after being ravenously hungry from a days worth of climbing.


              Being active in very cold weather makes Grok hungry!

              I grok, therefore I am.

              Comment


              • #8
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                I think there are some legit reasons for adding carbs (don&#39;t know about 70%) that deal with altitude sickness not just performance.


                I would not blow it off....do the research.


                This forum might not be the best to deal with things like altitude sickness, you should check with 14ers.com because some of those folks also hit higher peaks and might know. Guessing isn&#39;t good when you are at 20K feet.

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                • #9
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                  Yeah, I&#39;m sure everything changes when 20K above sea level! Hence the usual doctor that accompanies teams that want to be safe.

                  I grok, therefore I am.

                  Comment


                  • #10
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                    You need the calories, for sure...but I&#39;m not clear they need to be in the form of carbs. FAT would be my choice at this point. I know many of the long-distance cold-weather explorers bring a ton of fat along (cubes of butter etc.). Also, eskimo&#39;s rely on fat.


                    Last time I climbed I was in Nepal so we did do a high-carb diet since that was what was on offer (no real choice there). I second Gingo Bilboa for high altitude.

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                    • #11
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                      Follow-up..this is not terribly scientific, but these guys seem to think fat requires more oxygen during metabolism which can then affect acclimatization...?? Not sure about this...

                      http://www.bodyresults.com/e3highaltnutrition.asp


                      Anybody have a comment on this?

                      Comment


                      • #12
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                        Last post I promise....just found this very interesting study on different diets at altitude.

                        Alot in here actually supports a higher-fat diet:


                        Intakes of High Fat and High Carbohydrate Foods by Humans Increased with Exposure to Increasing Altitude During an Expedition to Mt. Everest

                        http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/128/1/50

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                        • #13
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                          High fat, low carb is 35% and 50% respectively? Gimme a break. And that leaves 15% for protein? To get 150 grams of protein would take 10,000 cals/day.


                          It&#39;s amazing how intelligent, trained scientists can&#39;t see the obvious.

                          Comment


                          • #14
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                            I looked into this in 2007 when I was preparing to do Kilimanjaro (19,340&#39. The basis for this advice seemed to be a US military study or research. I don&#39;t have the references handy at the moment. If I recall correctly, the gist indeed was that as you get to the higher altitudes your body&#39;s ability to digest food in general begins to shut down. You lose your appetite and you start burning bodyfat and muscle for energy. The theory was that carbs (the simpler the better) are easier to digest and are converted to usable energy more quickly. Fat requiring more oxygen to burn cited by nini_70 sounds familiar. Of course, as Mark&#39;s recent post notes, when it comes to nutrition, "scientific" research and studies are often suspect. At the time I went to Kili, I was really focused on eating a lot of protein and I was a little worried about switching to mostly carbs on the climb. I ate what the guide service provided which was somewhat carb-heavy but included meat until the last 2 days. But I also had a serving of Endurox R4 every day which includes whey. On summit day they were pushing hard candy (I had a few pieces) and baggies of what I believe was powdered dextrose. I turned down the dextrose because I had gu gel packs instead. I didn&#39;t notice any negative effects from eating more carbs, but I wasn&#39;t eating quite the low level of carbs to begin with that I am now with the primal approach. I guess my advice would be to plan on eating your usual macronutrient ratios for as long as you can as you ascend. If you find your appetite disappearing as you get to the upper altitudes (or, god-forbid, you&#39;re unable to keep the food down) try switching to starches and sugars to see if your body can handle/use that.


                            It sounds like an amazing trip! I&#39;m hoping to do Aconcagua in Argentina sometime in the next few years.

                            Comment


                            • #15
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                              @OnTheBayou - True...the paper can&#39;t exactly qualify as a true "low-carbohydrate" study, but I did find it interesting that higher fat didn&#39;t seem be a problem. And in fact "Perhaps the most surprising observation from this study was the trend of the climbers to self-select a greater proportion of energy from the higher fat foods".


                              @Tundra Tomte - Interesting...wonder if something like coconut oil (which is more quickly absorbing than longer-chain fatty acids) would be as readily availible for fuel as carbs. I guess glycogen stores would also come into play here...rapidly-depleting glycogen stores at higher altitude would put a definite need for more carbs in the diet (same principle as long-distance athletes)

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