how not to poop your pants while climbing
We’ve all been there, anxiously looking up at the first pitch of the day. As you rack up, the sweet sound of carabiners clicking onto your harness triggers your bowels like Pavlov’s dogs salivating at the ring of a bell.

In the urgency of the situation, there is no time to reflect on the tedious topics of sports nutrition. As you make the solemn decision to sacrifice your water bottle to make a backcountry bidet, it is then that you question the events leading up to this moment, “Why did I drink an entire bottle of Chardonnay last night? Why couldn’t I go at the gas station earlier?”

To quote pro climber, Jason Kruk, after not quite sending the Squamish 5.11 offwidth, Boogie ‘til You Puke:

“If you climb enough offwidths, one of these days, you’re going to get your knee stuck and then shit your pants. It’s just an odds thing, really.”

The fact that the route has since been jokingly renamed Boogie ‘till You Poop may further solidify the events of that day, but it raises an important question:

Should we accept the eventuality of poo pants as an unavoidable part of climbing, or rather, could nutritional considerations prevent the majority of crack boogying blunders?

While there are few absolutes in nutrition, properly adjusting your diet can certainly help reduce the chance of gastrointestinal upset during exercise. Simply put, the goal of a pre-crag meal is to provide energy for the climb while not interfering with performance. There is no universal, perfect climber’s diet. However, we can examine some nutritional factors that influence both athletic performance and the likelihood of sounding a brown alert mid-pitch.

Overhung start

Veisalgia, AKA a hangover, causes a slew of symptoms that could negatively affect climbing performance. To break it down, drinking causes a hormone response that dehydrates the body and makes you expel nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and sodium, which happen to be super important during exercise.

The morning after drinking too much, alcohol irritates the stomach and intestines, potentially leading to the triple threat: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Common sense tells us to avoid excessive drinking the night before climbing, but if you must partake, know that you are better off choosing vodka or gin rather than wine or a dark liquor like whiskey, because clear liquors are less likely to cause hangovers.

For more information on the physiological effects of alcohol withdraw check out this article. Considering the link between dehydration and hangover symptoms, it’s wise to drink water during and after alcohol consumption. The American College of Sports Medicine covers hydration recommendations in depth in their Position Stand on Exercise and Fluid Replacement.

To aid or free

Some would swear that a cup of coffee in the morning keeps them regular. If you are one of these folks, your daily dose of java may help you to take care of business before you set off on the approach. However, if you are not a regular caffeine consumer, grabbing an extra-large French roast or energy drink from the gas station may leave you experiencing the adverse effects of caffeine toxicity, including nervousness, irritability, elevated heart rate, and gastrointestinal disturbances.

In other words, you’ll be anxiously pooping in the woods with your heart racing, and you probably won’t find the humor in that.

Breakfast beta

The crag is not the place to try out a new diet.

If you eat oatmeal with blueberries every morning and feel great, then stick with that plan on the morning of climbing. With a long day of physical exertion ahead, it may be tempting to take the opportunity to consume as many Tudor’s Biscuit World calories as humanly possible, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Also, this is just a personal opinion, but I think it’s prudent to avoid any restaurant with a name that sounds like a euphemism for flatulence. Although, who I am I to yuck another’s yum? Athletes have unique needs, tastes, and sensitivities. Whatever meals are successfully tried-and-tested by you should be employed for outdoor days.

Fart ascent

On that note, save your experiments with possible crag snack options for rainy days at the gym. Test out different fruits, nuts and granola bars to see what agrees with you. Not all meal replacement bars are gut-friendly.

In fact, certain brands have an effect on me that can only be described by what pharmaceutical companies might call excessive, uncontrollable flatulence. It bears mentioning that your performance may not be the only thing affected by your dietary decisions. The occasional escape of air may be harmless, but your belayer’s well-being should be kept in mind. When in doubt, never trust a fart.

Leave no trace

The next time you head for the hills, use these tips to prevent the classics from changing names to poop puns. Sometimes, despite your best efforts and preparation, there is no stopping an untimely call of nature. Hike to the nearest pit toilet, carry a wag bag, or at least pack a cathole trowel. Remember, always do your best to leave no trace at the crag and in your underpants.

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