Gnarly Nutrition Gear Review

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Protein and why you need it as a climber

Protein: as humans, it’s a fundamental macronutrient; as athletes, our bodies require it to recover; and as climbers seeking to increase strength, our muscles need it to grow.

In the article How to Recover Faster While You Sleep, Registered Dietician Aicacia Young suggests that in order to achieve an expeditious recovery

climbers should consume 20-25 grams of protein an hour before, during, or immediately after a workout, as well as 20-40 grams of protein 30 minutes before bed.

Sounds reasonable … but do you always reach these numbers for ideal protein intake? Unfortunately, more often than not, as climbers we’re either:

  1. Out in the middle-of-nowhere without access or smart planning to ensure we have good sources of protein with us,
  2. absurdly ravenous after a gym workout and instead settle for a plate of nachos (no judgement!),
  3. and/or too skeptical and nervous about consuming anything that comes in powder form.

Gnarly Nutrition protein: a healthier, cleaner protein powder option

So how do we ensure that we’re getting adequate, high-quality, and easy-to-bring-along protein to support us on our long days of climbing?

One option we recently had an opportunity to try out is Gnarly Nutrition products, which offer a cleaner form of protein powder—free of artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, hormones, GMOs, or cheap fillers found in lesser quality powder options.

Gnarly products

As active and rather health conscientious climbers ourselves—who avoid most packaged and ultra-refined foods, while also living on a tight budget—we’re always looking for natural and efficient food options that we won’t hate ourselves for putting into our bodies.

So, over the course of several weeks, we tried out two of Gnarly Nutrition’s products: their Natural Grass Fed New Zealand Whey Protein in the “Vicious Vanilla” flavor and the Vegan Feast Protein Powder in “Chiseled Chocolate” (also touted as a ‘meal replacement’). To supplement our testing and gain some more opinions, we also had some of our non-climbing (but physically active) friends give the products a try.

Gnarly Nutrition's Natural Grass Fed New Zealand Whey Protein

Grass Fed Whey

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Gnarly Nutrition's Vegan Feast

Vegan Feast

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Our review of Gnarly Nutrition’s whey and vegan protein powders

As mentioned before, we greatly favor natural foods over processed ones, so when it comes to protein or meal replacements in powder form—the ingredients and nutrients they offer matter. Taste, of course, matters significantly, too.


Related: Nutrition Tips: Fueling for Optimal Climbing Performance


Gnarly Nutrition protein powderNatural ingredients and optimized nutrition

In terms of protein powder, if you favor quality over quantity, then you’ll be pleased with Gnarly Nutrition’s offerings.

Gnarly Nutrition’s protein powders don’t have sucralose, aspartame, or any other (terrifying) artificial sweeteners that often sneak their way into other powders. Instead, they use a blend of natural sweeteners, including Monk Fruit, Stevia, and Erthritol. Gnarly Nutrition’s products are also free of artificial flavoring or food coloring, which are often linked to cancer causing agents … ’cause, do we really need to be consuming whatever the hell Blue 2 and Yellow 5 are?

And for those who tolerate milk / lactose, you’re ensured hormone-free and nutrient-rich whey, thanks to the New Zealand grass fed cows from which Gnarly Nutrition sources.

But perhaps what makes Gnarly Nutrition protein powders stand apart most, is that they include prebiotics and probiotics, which support digestion through the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. So, if you’ve struggled with bloating and gas when trying other powders, this subtle inclusion of good bacteria might remedy those uncomfortable reactions!

A comparative look at their nutritional facts:

Go Gnarly's Whey

Go Gnarly Whey Nutrition

Gnarly Nutrition's Vegan Feast

Gnarly Nutrition's Vegan Feast

Whether before, during, or post-climbing, a protein shake is about the easiest way to get quick nutrition to your body. As you can see, both varieties provide a solid serving of protein with virtually no sugar.

Given that the Vegan Feast is intended to work as a meal replacement as well, it also supplies you with some fat and a small amount of carbohydrates (and 9 grams of fiber!) to create a small well-rounded meal in liquid form. You might also notice that the Vegan Feast protein blend is made up of pea protein isolate, chia protein, and cranberry seed protein —natural and rice/soy-free for those with sensitivities or want to avoid the chance of ingesting rice-derived arsenic.

Gnarly Nutrition protein powder taste and texture

Go Gnarly protein powderWhile you likely prefer chewing your food, when it’s coming in liquid form, the last thing you want to experience is something grainy that tastes like chemicals. Luckily, unlike a majority of protein powders out there, Gnarly Nutrition’s protein powders are smoother than most and taste pretty damn good, too.

We, along with the two non-climbers we gave to test the powders were pleased by the texture and taste:

Both of the powders taste great. Most other brands are just “off” where you can only focus on getting it down. This was more savory, rich.

– Scott

Specific to the vanilla New Zealand Grass Fed Whey we all agreed that it tasted smoother, richer, and more vanilla-y than other powders we’ve tried.

Mixes well, tastes great. This may be the best vanilla protein shake I’ve had and I’ve used about 5-7 different brands

– Josh

As for the the chocolate Vegan Feast, the flavor was silky and not cloyingly sweet:

Tastes and even smells more natural than other chocolate shakes

– Scott

I’ve used the chocolate vegan shake about 5 times as a replacement for lunch; usually when I’ve been on the move, without time to prepare something, and not wanting to drop $10 on a meal. Two scoops with water is plenty to hold me over until dinner. I’ve been surprised by how well it mixes (it doesn’t require much shaking) and it has a chocolate creaminess that tastes great.

– Sander 


Overall these are easily some of the best tasting protein powders we’ve ever tried, and digesting both—even the whey—actually felt good. No bloating, no stomach aches, no running to the toilet. Plus, the fact that Gnarly Nutrition uniquely includes pre/probiotics into their powders and actually offers a vegan protein powder option that tastes good gives them extra points in our book.

So, if you already do or are willing to incorporate protein powder into your workout and dietary regimen, Gnarly Nutrition’s all-natural protein powders—while not the cheapest of all options—are far worth the quality of ingredients, nutrition, and taste you’ll experience.

Gnarly Nutrition also offers a host of other natural workout supplements, including BCAAs, electrolyte support, and more. You can explore their full selection here:

Go Gnarly

All photos: Jack Strutz

Now to you

Now your turn: Have you tried Gnarly Nutrition’s protein powders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.