When attempting any mountain climb it is really important to eat well and meet nutritional needs. You should eat enough calories to provide energy for the climb and also eat a variety of foods, paying attention to good protein, good carbohydrates, plenty of antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables and enjoy fibre-rich wholegrains. Fluid is essential and you should drink 2 litres a day before climbing, raising it to 3 to 4 litres daily during the climb.
Start your diet as soon as you know you’re going to climb the mountain, the earlier the better and you should begin your fitness regime at the same time as the two go hand-in-hand for good hiking health.
Choose nourishing food and fluid because these will provide energy to your muscles, help with endurance and aid muscle recovery. Nutrition-rich foods will also help to prevent injury and if you are injured, these foods will speed up recovery. Another important factor is immune system, eating the right foods will boost it and make sure it functions properly so there is less chance of you falling unwell.
When choosing fruit and vegetables, your weekly shop should consist of brightly coloured varieties (yellow, orange, dark green and red) because they give you added Vitamin A and C. You can also drink fruit juice, but don’t choose concentrate, freshly squeezed is the best.
Stock up on carbs! You can eat wholewheat pasta, wholewheat rice, wholewheat or brown bread, cereal (avoid too much sugar), corn, barley and oats. Always choose wholegrains if you can as they are much better for you nutritionally because they are fortified with vitamins, minerals and fibre.
You need protein because it contains zinc, iron and magnesium. Protein helps to repair muscle tissue so choose lean meat, fresh, oily fish, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and tofu.
Milk or soya milk (or other alternatives) is important because it gives you calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, protein and good fat. Calcium and Vitamin D help to maintain bone density so it’s great for when you have to carry a backpack for long periods of time because it also helps to reduce muscle cramps. Remember, dairy products are often loaded with saturated fat so instead, choose low fat milk, low fat yoghurt and low fat cheese. A good idea is to drink a glass of milk after training as it’s an excellent natural muscle recovery drink.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an endurance test and drinking is absolutely essential. To prepare, your body must be well hydrated because it will lose fluid during ascent and descent. Drink plenty of fluid before any of your pre-climb training, during training and after planning to replace lost fluid. Remember, while sweating naturally cools your body it can also lead to dehydration after exercise. When your body sweats it also loses electrolytes, these are substances that convert into ions and conduct electricity. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate and used to maintain normal organ and cell function. Your body needs them to perform, especially during high exertion, the more fluid you lose through sweat, the more electrolytes are lost. This can affect muscular function so you must stay hydrated. Some sports drinks replace lost electrolytes so these are suitable for climbing but drinking 3 to 4 litres of water daily during the climb should be all you need.
It’s a good idea to supplement if you want to but always seek advice from your GP because all necessary vitamins and minerals should come from your daily food intake. However, a good quality multi-vitamin is always recommended.