How Rock Climber Alex Honnold's Vegetarian Lifestyle Has Changed Since 'Free Solo' (Exclusive)

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Jan. 22 2024, Published 3:43 p.m. ET

Alex Honnold wears a red jacket and helmet and ascends Pool Wall in Eastern Greenland.
Source: National Geographic/Pablo Durana

Alex Honnold ascends Pool Wall in Eastern Greenland.

When an athlete is as accomplished as Alex Honnold, it's inevitable that fans will wonder about their diet. And in the world famous rock climber's documentary Free Solo, he spoke about the plant-forward meals that fueled him while preparing for his most epic climb.

Article continues below advertisement

Several years have passed since then — so what is Alex Honnold's diet now? Is the rock climber and environmentalist vegan or vegetarian? Honnold recently touched on the topic in an interview with Green Matters — keep reading to learn how Honnold's environmental and ethical beliefs inform his diet, plus what foods he ate while preparing to climb El Capitan's Freerider route.

Alex Honnold has a bloody nose, and wears an orange helmet and red jacket, holding ropes on mountain, smiling at the camera.
Source: National Geographic/Pablo Durana

Alex Honnold displays a bloody nose after being hit by icefall while ascending Pool Wall in Eastern Greenland.

Article continues below advertisement

Is Alex Honnold vegan or vegetarian?

Alex Honnold is primarily a vegetarian, but nowadays, he makes occasional exceptions.

In an interview with Green Matters, ahead of his show Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold, we asked Honnold if he was still vegetarian, a lifestyle he advocated for in his 2018 film Free Solo.

"I'm still mostly vegetarian," Honnold tells Green Matters exclusively in late 2023. "I occasionally eat meat now."

Honnold explains that he and his family (he and his wife Sanni McCandless have a daughter named June, and are expecting another daughter in February 2024), "basically never buy meat," and he would never go to places like barbecue restaurants.

Article continues below advertisement

However, when he's at work events or traveling the world on rock climbing expeditions, he'll make exceptions rather than waste food.

"Society is awash in meat," he notes, which makes him believe "it's often better to just eat the thing than to throw it away."

"I still care about the environmental side of it," he adds.

Alex Honnold and Sanni McCandless pose on a red carpet at the LA Film Festival gala screening of 'Free Solo' at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 27, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Source: Getty Images

Alex Honnold and Sanni McCandless attend the LA Film Festival gala screening of 'Free Solo' at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 27, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Article continues below advertisement

In 'Free Solo,' Alex Honnold spoke about his motivation for not eating meat.

Towards the beginning of Free Solo, Honnold spoke about his vegetarian diet. The Academy Award-winning documentary chronicled his June 2017 free solo climb of El Capitan's Freerider route, so this scene was likely filmed sometime in the months before then, as he prepared for the epic climb.

"I stopped eating meat maybe three or four years ago, mostly for environmental reasons," he said to the camera, as he cooked a meal for himself. "Then once I stopped, I also kind of pried into the ethics of it."

Article continues below advertisement

Honnold also advocates publicly for vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. In April 2020, he posted a lengthy "rant of the day" on Instagram, declaring that "vegetarianism or veganism are better for the planet" than meat-heavy diets, and that it's "a fact that eating less meat and dairy is the simplest way for the average individual to lower their impact."

The post went along with a photo of Honnold soloing the Excellent Adventure, which he pointed out in response to people who criticize his physical health for eating "mostly plants." "I think the plants did me well that day, as they have for the last seven years or so," he wrote.

"It’s better for someone to eat meat once a week than to eat it every day," he added. "It shouldn’t be a test of ideological purity. Diet is a spectrum and it’s better to do less harm than more."

Article continues below advertisement

What is Alex Honnold's diet like? Here's what he ate when preparing to free solo El Capitan.

Alex Honnold's strength and physical health are important tools in his prodigious career as a rock climber — so what foods fuel him? He has spoken at length about what he ate when preparing to climb El Capitan, back in 2017.

A December 2019 Men's Journal piece featured a lengthy Q&A with Honnold, focusing largely on his diet and other climbing training.

Article continues below advertisement

"Dietarily, I went pretty much entirely vegan, plus eggs, for the five months or so leading up to the solo," he stated. "I was slightly leaner than normal and felt very healthy." The article also published Honnold's recipe for his morning smoothie, which includes spinach, vegan protein powder, nuts, and frozen fruit.

Honnold also told Men's Journal in September 2019 that when he was preparing for the El Capitan free solo, he typically ate a large breakfast (unsweetened muesli, fruit, hemp milk, and chia seeds), a large dinner (eggs), and plenty of snacks (fruit, almonds, nut butter packs, and protein bars) throughout the day.

More from Green Matters

Latest Veganism News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Green Matters. Green Matters is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.