We all want to climb hard multiple days in a row, but as I creep into my mid-thirties that dream is starting to feel more like a fantasy. I get sore easily, recover slowly, and lose power faster than an iPhone 5. Luckily, Gnarly Nutrition is doing their part to make second-day-on sends a reality for all of us.
I’ve spent the last two months incorporating their BCAAs and Whey Protein into my usual climbing and training, and I’ve experienced notable improvements in recovery time and day to day endurance.
I’m obsessive about reading labels and try to avoid processed foods. But Gnarly goes out of their way to keep their products free of artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, as well as allergens like gluten and soy. Their whey is sourced from milk from grass-fed cows. Bottom line, this was an ingredient list that made me feel more than comfortable.
Protein shakes have always scared me. I love being strong, but the last thing I want is to get “swole.” So I started using the Vicious Vanilla Whey Protein sparingly at first, making a shake only when I knew a post-workout or post-climbing meal was a few hours away, being careful not to overload on protein and calories. Once I trusted that my biceps weren’t reacting like Popeye to a can of spinach, I started incorporating a shake as part of my regular aprés climbing routine.
According to Shannon O’Grady, director of product development over at Gnarly: “Increasing protein intake alone cannot lead to increases in muscle mass. To see large increases in muscle mass (swole status) you’d have to increase your total calorie intake dramatically and change both the type and frequency of your workouts.”
I saw benefits drinking protein after working out in a few ways. Bringing a shaker bottle of whey to the gym or the crag gave me an easy way to get some protein immediately after working out or climbing, and hit that 30-minute recovery window. More importantly, getting some nutrient-dense calories helped stave off the dreaded “hanger.” Further, since I mixed one scoop of whey with about 20 ounces of water (a higher water ratio than what Gnarly recommends, but I prefer a milder, more diluted flavor), I was also hydrating. In general, I felt less fatigued after a hard training day while supplementing with whey. I was still tired and sore, but didn’t feel completely drained and run-down.
One scoop provides 12.5 grams of high-quality whey protein, and only 1 gram of total sugar (no added sugars either!). I preferred to only supplement with one scoop, but if I knew I wasn’t going to be eating a meal for a little while, I’d double down with two scoops.
Sometimes, when I was home and had time/energy, I’d pull out my blender and throw in some ice and frozen fruit for a real-deal smoothie. But honestly, I think the powder in water alone tastes as good as a vanilla milkshake after a hot day of climbing.
Lastly, while other protein formulas (hello pea protein) haven’t sat well in my stomach, the Gnarly Whey is really digestible for me.
“The 5g of BCAAs in the Whey are naturally occurring so they are bound up in a protein matrix and won’t necessarily be broken down into individual amino acids. Taking free-form amino acids (like in the BCAAs) guarantees you are getting an exact dose and because they don’t have to be digested (like protein), absorption and assimilation are much faster.”
Based on Shannon’s recommendations, I’ve been using the BCAAs during my workouts. I mix one scoop with about 26 ounces of water (again, diluted beyond the package recommendation), and take it with me to the crag or gym to sip throughout the session. I’ve been using the Berry Lemonade flavor, without caffeine, and the taste is generically fruity though with a slightly medicinal aftertaste … like Syzzurp.
The BCAAs have helped extend my climbing day. Instead of tanking after a couple of warm-ups and two attempts on a project, I notice having the stamina for an extra pitch or two.
For me, anything that helps me climb more is certainly worth a lot, and both the BCAA and whey have helped me extend the quality of my time on the rock, from pitch to pitch, as well as from one day to the next.