Natasha Barnes, a Mission Cliffs climber, and bona fide rock crusher has been climbing for the past 11 years. In between sending 5.13d sport routes, bouldering problems like Thriller and Midnight Lightning in Yosemite,and going full tilt on the Yosemite offwidth circuit, Natasha attends Palmer West Chiropractic, where she is obtaining a doctorate in Chiropractics and Physiotherapy.
For the past five years, Natasha has followed a strict vegan diet. "I only eat Vegans," she jokes. Natasha abstains from animal products, processed food, and operates her body on nutrient dense food. She took a moment to talk about her diet as an athlete and how being vegan helps her send.
what are the advantages of being an athlete on a vegan diet?
Being healthy, feeling healthy and recovering faster. Nutritional stress (stress to the body created by food that has unhealthy properties) is a major source of stress on our bodies as climbers. We put our bodies through the ringer all the time and if we are not eating the right foods (unprocessed foods rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, high-quality protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and good bacteria aka probiotics) than our bodies lack the components they need to to regenerate completely and effectively. Regular consumption of nutrient dense whole foods supports cellular regeneration which rebuilds muscle and other body tissue and is essential for recovery. Faster recovery = climb/train more often and harder = climb better.
VEGAN PIZZA. Spelt crust, ricotta, Sundried tomato pesto, basil, spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and sundried tomato topping with a Malbec.
What do you eat to perform your best?
My best performance foods are whole veggies and fruits. The most nutrient dense and hydrating food. Bananas, oranges, apples, bell peppers, dates, grapes, leafy greens, nuts and seeds etc. I like to eat a big salad with lots of different veggies incorporated if I can. My favorite is one I call Guacamole salad. Mixed greens, cilantro (lots of it), garlic, tomato, avocado (2-3), agave nectar and salt and pepper to taste. It's only a few ingredients but its a winner.
Do you have any difficulties cooking on climbing trips?
No. I usually do burritos or veggie stir-fry because its pretty easy to put together no matter where you are. Plus I love black beans, avocado, tomato and cilantro...AND hot sauce!!
Sprouted corn tortilla, lime crema, shredded cabbage and carrot slaw, chile-beer marinated tempeh, cilatro, tomato, avocado.
How do you eat when you are bouldering? How about when you're sport climbing?
I try to eat pretty light while sport climbing. Bananas and other fruits for quick energy or hummus and veggies for lunch, sometimes I'll just snack on whole grain chips and salsa. I've been trying to remember to drink more water lately. While bouldering all bets are off and its cookies down the hatch. For some reason when I am bouldering I want to snack all day.
How do you add variety to your diet?
I try to experiment a lot and try different foods that I see or read about that I haven't tried before or try different recipes. A lot of the time I end up finding a new food that I totally love and I try and make it more. Its a also good way to make sure I am getting a good rotating variety of vitamins and minerals in my diet.
Will bacon ever grow on trees? How can someone switch their diet?
Haha!! Maybe they can genetically modify some plant to do that but that would be weird. It's easy to switch to a healthier diet. It doesn't have to be a vegan diet. Most of us could benefit even from a small change in diet. It's all about experimenting with new foods and finding what you like. Try to incorporate new veggies and fruits into your diet. You might be surprised. There are a plethora of web resources to help you with the transition to healthier living and recipes for vegetarian food.
These are some.
I also HIGHLY recommend this book by Brendan Brazier Canada's best (vegan) triathlete for athletes more serious about healthy living and eating.