Climbing Nutrition: Andrew Emms

Updated: 28/06/2018 | Published: 01/08/2018
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I don't really know where to go, and so when I saw your 2kg loss on a high carb diet, I thought I should reach out. – Andrew

Working with Tom I lost just over a stone in just under four months (nearly 7kg in total). – Andrew

Andrew approached me via Instagram explaining that he…

  • Wanted to get into shape so he could break his v5/6 climbing plateau
  • Currently 4kg heavier than he was 4 years ago
  • Struggled for years to keep his weight down, and has never really been lean
  • Confused about conflicting opinion on calorie intake as he trains a lot, but "sits on his ass all day at work"
  • Tried "Body Coach SSS" diet and lost nothing in 3 months
  • Tried to do low carbohydrate high fat diet, but due to history of gallstones was advised by his GP to keep is fat intake low
  • Gave up on figuring out calorie and macro intake targets

Your programme looks good, but to be perfectly honest I am somewhat wary of working with nutritionists due to past bad experiences, and lack of results. As you're a climber though I am more trusting and like the fact that you experiment on yourself. I am off for a weeks holiday in August and a week on Fontainebleau in September (roughly ten weeks time) - if I were to go ahead, would that be a problem? – Andrew

Coaching / Programming

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

My recommendation was to initially focus on fat loss, and it took a bit of time to figure out where our targets were for driving an energy deficit. This is not uncommon with clients who have stuggled with fat loss for years. Quite simply they auto-regulate intake and activity, always coming back to energy balance without being aware. In Andrew's case this was a combination of low daily non-exercise energy expenditure, and unregulated eating patterns over the week.

Ideally I would have liked to have spent longer in the fat-loss phase, but due the tight window before heading off to Fontainebleau, I wanted to maximise the time Andrew spent training and preparing for the trip. This meant fuelling appropriately to keep him at maintenance levels, with the odd low-energy day to keep things in check.

I’m happy that the weight seems to be holding steady. Training and performance is a lot better. I feel well fuelled and am definitely not running out of energy as much, unless I’ve not slept well. I don't power out as easily as I used to. Strength is up (+17kg on 15mm edge for 10 secs). – Andrew

Aside from periodised nutrition targets we implemented…

  • Daily low-intensity exercise: yoga, stretching, light running, walking, taking stairs
  • Improving sleep by limiting bedroom light pollution, and limiting screen use before bed
  • Trying to eat during the daylight window: more in the morning, less towards bedtime
  • Higher carbohydrate intake on training days versus recovery days
  • Kept his fat intake static around 1g/kg/day due to gallstone history
  • Strategic 3 day diet breaks, eating at maintenance or above
  • Supplemented with collagen before training to augment soft-tissue adaptations

It’s not been easy and my weekend tendancies to eat a bit of crap here and there hasn’t helped, but I am now the lightest and leanest that I’ve been in about 5 years. Huge thanks to you too for just giving me the guidance I needed. Macro targets have made it so easy to follow. – Andrew

Back from Font and back to reality with a bump. Some good sends. Not quite what I'd hoped for but was battling with the weather and poor skin. Came very close to sending Jeux du toit. Last time I tried it I could barely get past the first move. Still ticked 7A which I'm happy with. And it was a good week away. – Andrew

Le Jeu du Toit (7a), Roche aux sabots, Fontainebleau.

It has been a pleasure working with Andrew, I learnt a lot, and I have little doubt that we will continue to stay in touch going forward.

I do want to thank him publicly, as at one point I posted on Instagram that I questioned the impact I was making, and Andrew immediately sent me a message to chat about it all.

… but the crucial thing I think is that to the right audience, your posts are incredibly useful. The effort you make is worth it because to someone it’s relevant and needed. The key is finding that audience. But what’s also worth remembering is that whilst social seems like it’s all about how many likes and shares you get, none of that really equals quality engagement. I found you in Instagram, and here I am still a client and finding your help and advice invaluable. – Andrew

Andrew Emms, 2018.

Coaching Review

What is your general background, and climbing experience?

A graphic designer who skateboarded as a teen and mostly went to the gym to get bigger in my 20s. I've been climbing since 2010, predominantly as a boulderer. I've climbed 7A outdoors.

What was the reason you asked for coaching help?

I've always struggled with my body composition due to a very sedentary job. After hitting my 30s and finding losing weight to get a better power to weight ratio for climbing, I tried many different diets and a few different nutritionists but with no success. Then I randomly found Tom on Instagram who seemed to be far more clued up than anyone I'd worked with previously.

What outcome or change resulted from the coaching?

Working with Tom I lost just over a stone in just under four months (nearly 7kg in total). It wasn't crash dieting, the focus was all on providing energy around climbing and training. The most important change for me though, was that with Tom's help, I then maintained my weight for 2 months whilst preparing for a trip to Font, despite upping my energy intake for training.

What could have been improved, removed or added to the coaching experience?

I think maybe a meeting in person would've helped, but was geographically not possible. I had Skype and Slack conversations with Tom that were more than enough.

I would've probably benefitted from more stricter guidelines for my three day diet breaks, as there were times were I went OTT with my food intakes and scuppered some progress.

What did you learn from the coaching experience?

I now understand my energy balance / expenditure much more, and can on most given days know roughly the intake I need without having to use a macro tracking app. I've also learned what is really possible with the body when you really try. It was also the first time I tried dieting without a real target in mind. I've also learned that carbs are my friend around training.

What would you say to anyone interested in coaching help?

If you're unhappy with your body composition, speak to Tom, it's not fad dieting, it's scientifially based nutrition and how best to use your macros. And ultimately, be prepared to tweak things and not give up if things don't start working for you immediately. I had a bit of a false start with Tom, but after getting a handle on how sedentary my job really is, we fixed things.

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