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Kilimanjaro climb - carbs and grains?

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  • Kilimanjaro climb - carbs and grains?

    Hey everyone,

    This is a combined intro post as well as a question. First off, I'm slowly integrating primal methods into my lifestyle. To give you an idea, I'm mid-twenties male with around 29% BF with a slightly noticeable gut, haha. A couple years back I decided to start getting strong and started Stronglifts 5x5. I started a training log on that site and have gained a decent amount of lower body strength IMHO (225 lbs 5x5 squat, 265 lbs 1x5 deadlift) with slight gains in upper body. I took a slight hiatus from doing anything remotely healthy while finishing my graduate degree last fall and am now starting again (to give you an idea I can do 165 lbs 5x5 squat right now). So, that brings me to PB and I read the book in a week from top to bottom. I love a lot of what I see, and as I said I am slowly migrating my diet from current CW-thinking to PB-thinking.

    So, enough about me. I've read a few posts here and have noticed that some people intend to or have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I actually climbed last year and summited with my brother (yay!). To be frank, it was the most exhilarating experience of my life and I would do it again in a heartbeat. At the time, the main thing I did for training was the SL 5x5 to get my leg strength up and a bit of stair climbing to test endurance.

    The route that we took was the Machame route with a local outfit that provided a guide and porters. The food that we received on the mountain was fit for a king, IMHO. At the end of the first day (~6 hrs), when we reached our camp, there was a dinner tent ready with popcorn and biscuits. Dinner typically consisted of some vegetable soup, some starch, and either beef or chicken. Breakfast consisted of eggs, sausage, and porridge. What I found interesting at the time was that as we climbed higher, the meals contained less and less protein, at least from meat. This occurred to the extent that at our final camp (4600 m) our dinner was literally a plate of rotini with some spices.

    When I asked our guide about the lack of meat, he suggested that it had something to do with how our bodies cannot digest the meat or absorb the protein at higher altitude levels, and that's why there was an emphasis on carbs. Does anyone on this board have any insight into whether or not that is true? If so, could it be the case that we could have overloaded on vegetables instead of grains and starches and gotten the same effect at the higher altitudes?

    In short, I'm interested in the science behind differences in nutrient absorption with respect to altitude. Is there any research on this?

    Thanks to everyone, great board so far!
    Last edited by faisal; 04-08-2011, 08:38 PM. Reason: tpyo

  • #2
    Not sure how people feel about this on this board but … bump.


    • #3
      I don't see why, from a logical standpoint, digestion of protein would be more difficult to accomplish at the higher altitude, but digestion of (almost indigestible) grains does not change.
      Everything in moderation, including moderation.


      • #4
        Good on you for making the climb... sounds amazing. Any pictures? Curious, just how much stair-climbing did you do in preparation?

        About your question... my first thought is that the people providing the food are saving money by using less meat, as the longer you climb/hike, the less picky you will be about food. But I'm just naturally skeptical.

        Anyway, here's something I ran across while researching altitude sickness. Maybe you'll find it interesting - several studies referenced:
        Energy and Water Balance at High Altitude
        Jen, former Midwesterner, living in the middle of nowhere.


        • #5
          Haven't climbed Kili, but I have climbed to 5800m in South America, and the principle behind eating more carbs at higher altitudes (4800m+) is that the body requires more oxygen to digest 1g of fat than it does to digest 1g of carbs. Furthermore, I found that eating a Kind bar (lots of nuts, high in fat) for a snack on summit day made me feel like hell, whereas a Larabar (less fat, more carbs ... simple sugars from fruits) was much more tolerable.

          So, essentially, yes, you need more carbs and less fat at high altitude.

          The problem with loading up on veggies for your carbs on a climbing expedition is they're not as calorie-dense, so you'd need to carry a crap-ton of them up the mountain with you. Aside from the sheer absurdity of walking up a glaciated peak at 4600m with a pack full of zucchini and mangoes, starchy meals tend to be easier to prepare.

          I'm considering climbing Orizaba/Ixta this winter (5650m and 4800m, respectively), if I can find a reliable partner, so if I go I'll probably have more to say about eating paleo/gluten free on high altitude climbs.
          Last edited by AmyMac703; 04-15-2011, 03:19 PM. Reason: changed units to metric
          Subduction leads to orogeny

          My blog that I don't update as often as I should:


          • #6
            What Amy said.

            I'm planning a Mt Kili climb in August this year.