Part III: Nutrition // Peter Dixon

Peaking for Performance – A training blog series by Peter Dixon.

Professional climber Peter Dixon came on the scene suddenly by winning the Portland Boulder Rally against a strong field. Comparatively unknown, he quickly made his name by making finals in national level events such as ABS Nationals and the Dark Horse Championships. Vegan, and well-read in topics about overall health, he shares his wisdom on the Mad Rock Blog.

Take a look at…
Part 1: Mind and Body
Part 2: Weight

And today, here’s Part 3:

Nutritional Supplements

Today, I’ll be revealing my top 3 key supplements involved in peaking for climbing performance:

Iron, B-12, and Vitamin D.

If you’re a human being like me, one of the biggest components to a successful training routine is fuel.

What you put in your tank before, and during, a workout is just as important as what you put in your post-workout to recover.

Over the past four years, I’ve been trying a lot of different methods, and I’ve discovered firsthand the question of what to eat and when to eat – this does matter!

The goal was to test theories and experiment to find out what worked and what didn’t. Early on, I made mistakes which, no doubt, cost me the podium. But after much trial and error, I’ve discovered what works best for my body.

Ultimately, it pays to find out for yourself what works best for your own unique system. Education, experimentation, and listening to your body are the best methods to hone your optimal diet.

As humans, most of us come from varied ancestry whose adaptations to distinct environments over thousands of years helped them pass on their genes. Those adaptations, for example, are what explain why some people can eat foods like grains with no problem, while some cannot tolerate them at all.

Aside from experimenting with your diet and learning about what foods work best for your body there are certain vitamins and nutrients everyone should think about these days, especially athletes. Below I’ve listed my top 3 key supplements which I’ve found help optimize my performance when combined with a healthy diet. There are many reasons why supplementation is a good option for improving performance and health. From genetic differences to a lack of minerals in the soil we grow our food in, to the diets we choose, it never hurts to examine ones own nutritional profile and intake. The best place to begin is with blood work to determine potential deficiencies, and pro-actively prevent health problems from occurring due to a lack of vital nutrients.

Vitamin B-12

With regards to performance there are real consequences to missing certain vitamins and nutrients in the short term, as well as some permanent consequences to missing certain nutrients in the long term. B-12 is among the hard hitters when it comes to both. B-12 is a water soluble vitamin involved in the metabolism of every cell in the body and holds a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system.

In regards to athletic performance a deficiency in B-12 inhibits the transport of oxygen in the bloodstream, where as long term B-12 deficiency can cause serious neurological problems.

Although B-12 supplementation is especially important for vegan and vegetarians due to the difficulty of acquiring dietary B-12 from non-animal products, many studies now show that 15% (and in some studies upwards of 40%) of all Americans are deficient in this vital nutrient.

There are many types of B-12 supplements on the market today but the best offer B-12 in the form of Methylcobalamin. Since B-12 is only made by bacteria, I like to fortify my health and B-12 intake by consuming fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kombucha, and limit the foods which can drain the body of B-12 such as wheat, alcohol, and caffeine.

Vitamin D

Although technically a hormone, vitamin D is one of the only vitamins we produce ourselves rather than through consumption. Our bodies typically produce this vitamin from sun exposure, however recent studies are showing that 50% of the general population are deficient or insufficient in vitamin D including groups of people that spend lots of time in the sun.

In regards to athletic performance Vitamin D has been shown to increase VO2 max (which is a measurement of the amount of oxygen an athlete can utilize), decrease muscle inflammation, and increase muscle power and testosterone production.

In addition Vitamin D has been linked to muscle function and energy through the increase in mitochondrial efficiency (which are like the batteries of the cell).

It is of course best to increase your levels of Vitamin D naturally through sun exposure. However, sun exposure is not exactly all you need and here’s why; Depending on where you live and the time of year, the angle of the sun has a direct relationship to the UVB rays (or vitamin B rays) of the sun. When the sun falls below 50 degrees in the sky there is too much atmosphere for the UVB rays to reach your skin. Fortunately there’s an easy way to check to see if you can get UVB from the sun no matter where you live. The U.S. Naval Observatory has an online resource for calculating the angle of the sun in relationship to your current location and time of the year. You can visit the AZIMUTH TABLE HERE and a video explaining how to use the table HERE.

If you live in a rainy state like me, and unable to absorb vitamin D from the sun for several months out of the year, there are several options available. You can simply use a tanning bed or take a supplement. Most tanning beds give off high levels of EMF’s – its important to research the best beds, and optimize your UV dosage based on skin pigmentation.

If you’re looking to raise your Vitamin D through supplementation however, its a good idea to do some research. I would recommend checking out Dr. Mercola’s Vitamin D Resource Page to find out about how to safely raise your levels. The most import factor is to always take vitamin K2 with any D3 supplement. Dr. Rheaume-Bleue recommends that for every 1,000 IUs of vitamin D, you can benefit from about 100 to 200 micrograms of vitamin K2.


Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiency in North America and is especially important to look at for vegetarians or vegans.

Dietary iron recommendations are 1.3 to 1.7 times higher for athletes than non-athletes and 1.8 times higher for vegetarians and vegans. Iron is especially important for athletic performance and is required for transporting oxygen in the blood and muscles and controlling the release of energy from the cells. The best way to make sure your getting enough iron is to increase your consumption of iron rich foods and to maximize your absorption of iron through simple techniques.

Tips for maximizing IRON absorption.

  1. By eating iron rich foods like the examples shown to the left with foods containing vitamin C, you can boost the absorption rate of Iron by up to 5 times! Examples of foods high in vitamin C are; Peppers, Broccoli, Citrus, and Tomatoes.
  2. Avoid Coffee and Tea an hour before and two hours after eating, as the tannins in both inhibit iron absorption.
  3. Eating less at one time but more throughout the day can help your body process the iron more efficiently.
  4. Although spinach is a great source of Iron, it also contains oxalates that can block absorption.

The bottom line is – in order to maximize athletic performance – it’s important to know where your body is at in terms of nutrition and potential deficiencies.

And again, the best place to start is to consult your health care provider and to request blood work. There are lots of great resources online on how to properly read and interpret your results.

By understanding where your at right now, you can then make the right adjustments for your body to optimize your peak performance.

I hope you’ve found the information provided above as informative and helpful as I have.”

– Peter Dixon