Climbing Nutrition / System Activation: Aidan Roberts

Updated: 09/10/2018 Published: 05/10/2018
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My pre-competition diet has changed drastically, essentially I used to undereat the day before the competition and after increasing the amount of carbohydrates with reduced fibre I ended up lighter, stronger and more energised! We also did a bunch of work on muscle activation which I use in all of my competitions now, something I would definitely recommend. – Aidan Roberts

It is a pleasure working with Aidan, as he holds a proactive interest in taking on board my recommendations, and experimenting to find what best works for him. He has also helped me understand more about the complexity of world-class competitive climbing.

I look forward to supporting his training and efforts going into the next competition season, and all the projects in-between.

I will continue to update this page with our developments over time.

Coaching / Programming

If you are interested in working with me: Climbing Nutrition Coaching

Aidan has carried on his vegetarian upbringing which I believe has had an important impact on his health and performance. I would not say this is due to the exclusion of animal products (he eats diary and eggs), but because his habitual diet is consistently full of fresh vegetables, beans, legumes, and he excludes typical snack foods. I remember seeing his first food journal and thinking: "What eighteen-year-old eats like this!?" Having such a consistent intake of fresh vegetables optimises his micronutrition and gut microbiome which will augment performance, recovery and mental health.

Our initial work together was helping him recover from his calcaneus fracture in 2016 which saw him go from ranked 3rd in the world (youth), to being unable to compete in 2017.

Our later work has been supporting his training output, and specifically competition preparation and in-competition fuelling.

  • Increased daily protein
  • Periodised carbohydrate intake around training and performance
  • Competition preparation and fuelling: selection and volume the day before, day of, including isolation room strategies
  • Supplementation to augment his vegetarian diet: whey protein, creatine, algae EPA/DHA, tart cherry, vitamin D3, vitamin B12
  • Experimented with a time-restricted feeding schedule

Aside from the nutrition coaching, I took Aidan through a breathing / muscle / nervous system testing and activation session, which allowed us to identify any compensation patterns, and provided him the tools to "wake up" his nervous system before training and performance. This way he can maximise his strength and power through the use of his primary muscles primarily, ultimately reducing his risk of future injury.

We also spent time talking about his breathing and mindset, and how what you think about can drastically impact your performance. This was reiterated right before competition, and reminding him on how well prepared he is, his capability, and the power of his breath in changing his nervous system state.

Coaching Review

What is your general background, how long have you been climbing, a member of Team GB, current ranking, etc?

I am a 20 year old climber from the Lake District currently studying in London. I started aged 13 and was hooked from the word go! I mainly specialize in Bouldering but enjoy the little sport climbing I do and hope to do more of it in the future. I try to find a good balance of competition climbing and outdoor climbing as I am very passionate about both, though I feel outdoor climbing suits my style better.

I became a member of the GB team in 2016 aged 16 and had a great first year of competing in the youth Bouldering competitions. That year I was able to become the European Youth Bouldering Champion and obtain a world ranking of 3rd. Sadly a extreme injury then made me unable to compete for over a year. Now I have progressed into the senior catergories.

You are currently touring the world championships, how has it been going so far, results, good stuff, bad stuff?

This has been a busy year for me! I was able to compete in the majority of the senior bouldering international competitions (6 world cups and 1 world championships). This was my first time competing at a senior level and the step up is very large.

As a whole I felt I underperformed this season. It sounds negative but I am actually encouraged by it as it did not feel as though it was my physical abilities which held me back from fulfilling my potential. I believe that, with the experience I have gained from this season and a full winter of training, I can perform well next year.

My best performance was is the Vail Bouldering World Cup where I was able to qualify for the Semi-finals and the boulders felt very possible in this round. With a lot of work on my mental approach and technical abilities I hope to make finals next season.

I feel I have always eaten relatively healthily but, when we started working together, it became apparent that there were forms of supplimentation which I could significantly benefit from. Examples of these include creatine levels, protein suppliments and certain vitamins I lacked in my diet. From many discussions I feel my knowledge of how my body uses and reacts to different forms of food has massively expanded. This has made a very noticable effect on my performance.

My pre-competition diet has changed drastically, esentially I used to undereat the day before the competition and after increasing the amount of carbohydrates with reduced fibre I ended up lighter, stronger and more energised!

Have you learnt anything else from Tom outside of nutrition strategies?

Definetely. We often would have chats before a competition and I'd feel very encouraged by them, helping with my mental game for the competition.

We also did a bunch of work on muscle activation which I use in all of my competitions now, something I would definetely recommend.

What are your specific climbing and training goals for 2018 and 2019?

My main goal is to final in a Bouldering world cup in 2019. I have multiple other goals I hope to achieve based on specific outdoor climbs and even small training specific goals i.e. on a fingerboard, 1 arm pull ups…etc

What is your proudest achievment to date?

In terms of competitions I feel being European Youth Champion and making Semi-finals in Vail have to be my proudest achievements.

In terms of outdoor climbing, I took a 5 week trip to Rocklands this Summer where I was able to climb my first 8C/V15 'Monkey Wedding' but also get a lot of climbings around the 8B and 8B+ range quickly. I was super happy with this trip as it felt as though I could apply all my physical abilities into my climbing which I feel is a rare opportunity. It was also nice to see the result of a winters hard training had on my strength.

If you could share your story and experience with a junior climber perhaps working towards making Team GB and/or moving into senior competitions, what advice and wisdom would you give them?

It sounds cliché but finding a lot of enjoyment in climbing and training is super important. If this comes down to the people you train with or where you train its very important to have fun with all of it in order to stay motivated as this is key to a healthy reationship to training.

Climbing specifically, there are so many ways to get strong nowadays and all take a lot of hard work and commitment, there is no short cut but also do not rush it. Do not neglect the fact that climbing well will trump how many pull ups you can do any day. Fit a lot of climbing movement between all the training, I didn't do this too well and I feel I have a lot of work to balance out once more.

Do you have any favourite climber(s) you look up to for motivation and inspiration?

So many climbers inspire me, it's hard to name a specific one which stands out above the rest. A good example which really motivated me was watching Kai Harada, a 19 year old climber from Japan dominate the competition and become Bouldering World Champion 2018. I found his style and the fact that no one expected it a very moving performance to spectate.

Outside of climbing, what is your education / future career hopefully taking you? Also do you have any other hobbies outside of climbing?

I have just started studying Mathematics and UCL in London, I am very excited to move down here and whilst I have eased off training post-season and the work load is low, I have plenty of spare time. However in only a few weeks my training will ramp up and so will the workload, I know I will have little time to fit much else in!

I have no specific job in mind from studying maths but I find the subject interesting and I know it will be related to this.

There's so many things I like to do which I end up doing very little of but essentially I prefer climbing to all of them and so it's not too much of a hardship that I give them up.

I very much enjoy cooking and baking, though a career is very unlikely, we will always eat food. May as well make it good!

EpicTV - Aidan Roberts - REACH Film

Bonus material from the REACH film which recently premiered on EpicTV, featuring Aidan Roberts. The exclusive EpicTV version of REACH is no more, so check it out here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/reach