The following is a list of dietary supplements that a group of brave local climbers have used experimentally on their own bodies to determine the effect of the supplement for enhancing climbing and/or recovery.

Massive doses of coffee
One member of our group swears by this and religiously consumes it at every opportunity. Too much coffee makes me jittery on lead. I use it when I need a boost and for something to do in the morning.

Mexican climbers turned me on to Arnica. They use this cream on injured or painful muscles and stiff finger joints. I tried it along with five friends. All of our fingers were less stiff for sure. We donít know what it is or what it does. I use it occasionally when my fingers are real stiff and when I remember. Mari Kromljanek massages arnica and also comfrey (another herbal remedy) into her hands and fingers to promote ligament/tendon/muscle healing and swears that it helps.

Glucosamine is a pill that is sold in health food stores. It definitely relieves stiff joints. It may be more effective with older climbers. Even two of the disbelievers in our group have reluctantly admitted that this  Glucosamine works.

This is the staple food of British climbers and they all climb 5.13.

Flax Seed Oil
Flax Seed Oil, rich in Omega three fatty acids is necessarry for keeping joints working and many other good things. Don't take it and check out your finger joints in 10 years. You will wish you followed this advice.

Hockey players use large doses  between periods to jack them up. I use this occasionally when energy is too low although it can make me jittery especially if I am leading. I used it on a wall once when energy was gone and all seemed lost. It is a banned substance in most sports. Watch out for the drug testers. It is also useful if you have a cold or hay fever.

Chocolate Coated Espresso Beans
Peter and I used these regularly on walls to a boost. This worked well until one hot day all the chocolate melted and we were left with a sickening mess. Peter ate them anyway.

Melatonin makes you sleep deeply. It is great for recovery from hard workouts. It is also useful for uncomfortable bivies. Like Layton Kor, donít tell your partner that you use it. He will wonder how you can sleep like a log on that five-inch sloping ledge while he tosses and turns all night. This stuff is banned in Canada but available over the counter in the USA. For some reason it is deemed to be too dangerous for Canadians but not Americans. 

I bought some of this liquor from Homero's store in Mexico and became addicted. One glass acts as a total muscle relaxant. Two glasses makes you Psychotic. No-body who has gone beyond two glasses can talk coherently about the experience. A friend who we will call Jeff was there but canít remember anything. Unfortunately they donít sell this Mezcal in Canada. I complained to the LCBO but was told that it wouldn't sell in Canada.

Yerba Mate
Argentinian climbers turned me on to Yerba Mate. It is some kind of herb that you drink from a special gourd with a metal straw like instrument. There are all kinds of web sites that describe the effect of this stuff. Mate does all kinds of  good things to you.  It is also fun to drink in a group. It is the national drink of Argentina.  "Che" described drinking it in his Motorcycle Diaries. It makes me feel energetic but calm at the same time. 

Creatine is a supplement that body builders use to increase muscle size. Some climbers have found that it increases power endurance. To avoid increasing bulk, take it on a cycle. Try it for about 5 days in 3 weeks and experiment from there.

Pelinka is Romanian liquor that is good for starting a fire in wet conditions. Also can be taken orally. Be careful. Do not light a match or smoke around this stuff. Pelinka can takes your mind off climbing on a rest day. It is not easy to find in Canada but  worth the effort.

Medical experts have not endorsed the above list and probably won't. But what do they know? All we get from them is ranting about the lack of studies supporting this or that and that there may be dangerous side effects related to consumption of this or that. In a short thirty years studies will be complete and they will know unequivocally that such and such hypothesis is not disproven. The above information was gleaned from climbers used to being at the sharp end, men and women who do not fall for the latest elixir, men and women who are not in the habit of buying snake oil and used cars from strange men in plaid suits and are not sponsored by supplement companies (or any company for that matter). I say go for it. At the very least, try some Pelinka next New Years.

Bob Bennell
May 12/2000

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