Bookmarks | Peak Nutrition: Smart Fuel for Outdoor Adventure. An interview with Chef Maria Hines

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine we chat with Chef Maria Hines about climbing, outdoor nutrition, and her new book Peak Nutrition, published by Mountaineers Books.
Tess Day Tess Day
Mountaineers Books Publicist
May 12, 2020
Bookmarks | Peak Nutrition: Smart Fuel for Outdoor Adventure. An interview with Chef Maria Hines

Most people know Maria Hines for her culinary accomplishments. In 2005, she was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs, in 2006 she went on to open her first restaurant, Tilth, in Wallingford, and in 2009 she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest.

What most people don’t know about Maria is that her athletic feats also command respect. Maria has completed the Seattle and Big Sur Marathons and run the 18-mile Enchantments Trail, which gains 4,500 feet and tops out at an elevation of 7,800 feet. Passionate about climbing, she has ascended three routes on El Capitan in Yosemite (Tangerine Trip, Zodiac, and The Nose) and sent countless routes in our backyard. Maria also shares her passion as a member on The Mountaineers Advisory Council.

As a chef and avid outdoorswoman, Maria always wanted a
single, comprehensive resource on good food geared toward
climbers. She found many written with runners and cyclists
in mind, but not mountain sports. So one day, on a road trip
to Smith Rock, Maria turned to her friend, NSCA-certified
strength and conditioning specialist Mercedes Pollmeier, and
said, “I ask you so many questions about nutrition. I wish
there was a book about this for outdoor athletes. I think we
should write it!”

That’s exactly what they did. Combining Maria’s culinary
expertise with Mercedes’s knowledge of sports nutrition,
they penned Peak Nutrition: Smart Fuel for Outdoor
Adventure. Coming in May from Mountaineers Books, Peak
Nutrition details 100 simple and tasty recipes that consider
outdoor goals and body science. As mountain athletes know,
bodies perform differently under stress, at altitude, and with
minimal sleep. These factors are taken into account, and
Maria and Mercedes offer the reader information on how
our digestive systems work, the relationship between food,
muscles, and cramping, how nutrition relates to mental and
physical stress, and more.

In advance of the book’s publication, Maria sat down with us
for a conversation about her approach to food and climbing.

You’re well-known for your talents as a chef, but most people don’t know that you’re also an accomplished climber. How did you get into the sport?

A friend of mine took me to the Seattle Vertical World climbing gym 20 years ago, and I instantly fell in love with the climbing movement, which brings the body and mind together.

What’s the most common pitfall you see climbers make in
regards to nutrition?

The most common pitfall is to not think about how nutrition can enhance your physical performance – things like endurance, strength, and recovery – as well as your mental performance, including being calm but energetic, maintaining laser focus, and being able to perform fast decision-making.

Climbers tend to focus on cutting weight, because it’s a
strength-to-weight ratio sport. The lighter you are, the less
weight and effort to climb. But you can cut weight and still
have a pretty crummy diet.

What is your go-to snack to take on your climbs?

Wild-caught salmon jerky, which is in the book, is my go-to
snack. It’s full of omega 3s, potassium, B12, and healthy
protein. If you are a low-carb athlete, it’s the best. Even if
you’re not a low-carb athlete, all of the nutrition qualities
of salmon serve as a powerful performance food. It’s super
delicious and doesn’t require refrigeration while you’re in the
mountains for the day.

If you could give one piece of advice on changing your approach to food in relation to performance, what would it be?

Buy Peak Nutrition. It’s the most comprehensive outdoor
athlete sports nutrition cookbook out there. And fuel timing –
what you eat pre, during, and post-workout – is key. Doing this
will provide sustained energy for your event or workout and
help with recovery. The book tells you all about it.

Has your own approach to food changed over the years?

Absolutely. I’ve become so passionate about nutrition and
its ability to improve performance and heal your body that I
became a Level 1 Precision Nutrition nutritional coach.

I'm available to anyone looking to improve their eating habits, sharpen cooking skills, lose weight, or find guidance on sports performance diets. They can email me at maria@

Maria and Mercedes’s book, Peak Nutrition: Smart Fuel for Outdoor Adventure, is available at the Seattle Program Center Bookstore,, and wherever books are sold.

MAIN IMAGE of Maria and Mercedes preparing a meal ahead of a climb. Photo by Kyle Johnson.

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2020 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.