Diet Plan For Powerlifting : An intensive diet plan that can help you preparing for big competitions and can not only make you lighter but also stronger. It’s not easy to guess the diet of powerlifters, in this article we expand its secrets and help you understand what the diet of a power lifter really is.
The Powerlifting Diet: Eating For Strength (Definitive Guide)
You’re a powerlifter looking to gain strength.
So how should you fuel your lifts? Should you just stuff your face and hope for the best?…Absolutely not.
As a powerlifter, you require very different nutrition than the average Joe.
I’ve seen way too many powerlifters leave nutrition behind only to find their performance and recovery decline.. As a sports nutritionist and experienced coach, I’ve compiled a science-backed comprehensive guide for you to follow.
So what should a powerlifter’s diet be made up of? A powerlifter’s diet should have a macronutrient breakdown of 5-8 g per kg body weight of carbohydrates, 1.4-2 gram per kg body weight of protein, and 30% of total calories from fat per day.
As well, these five principles are equally important to understand when it comes to your diet for powerlifting:
- During most training periods,you should increase your caloric intake by about 15% above your baseline calories in order to build lean muscle mass. This will lead to greater gains in strength. I will explain how to determine your caloric intake later.
- During competition phases, you might need to maintain or reduce your body-weight according to a specific body-weight category. I will explain some protocols you can use to help manage your weight leading up to competition at the end of the article.
- Nutrient timing (i.e. when you eat) is not as important as overall caloric intake. However, nutrient timing can support better muscle recovery and strength. We’ll learn more about this below.
- Nutrient type (i.e. what you eat) improves overall wellness and energy levels. I’ll give you a grocery list for each of the macronutrients later.
- Supplementation such as creatine monohydrate, caffeine, and beta-alanine have been shown to have beneficial effects when added to a healthy powerlifting diet. I’ll detail the research on these supplements later.
- Competition day nutrition requires proper meal timing, with high carb/protein and low-fat meals. At the end of this article, I discuss nutrition for meet day.
It’s time to improve your performance, get bigger gains, and help your health with this ultimate powerlifting diet guide.
Calories: How many Calories Should You Eat As A Powerlifter?
Powerlifters need to build muscle in order to develop greater potential for 1 rep max strength.
In order to build muscle, you need to take in more calories than you burn.
When you consume less calories than you burn, your body will break down muscle and use it for essential brain energy — the opposite of what you want for powerlifting.
How to Determine Your Calorie Requirements
Even at rest, your body is working hard to keep you alive.
According to Healthline, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum number of calories required for basic functions at rest. In other words, your body burns calories to support breathing, circulation, nutrient processing, and cell production.
You can estimate your basal metabolic rate by using calculations such as the Harris-Benedict formula (I encourage you to do this quick calculation now).
Once you determine your basic caloric needs, you can then add “activity factors”, according to how active you are.
Here’s an example:
- Say your BMR is 2,000 calories per day. This is how much you need to survive by just resting.
- You might be exercising 6-7 days per week, so you’ll want to multiply your base needs by 1.725.
- 2,000 calories x 1.725 = 3,500 calories per day
Now, this is a pretty rough calculation.
Exact calorie needs vary greatly from person to person.
It can be influenced by age, gender, body build, hormone levels, and even gut bacteria.
But, it’s an excellent starting point for how many calories you should be eating as a powerlifter.
Later in this article, I will tell you how to breakdown your total calories based on carbs, protein, and fat.
But for now, let me explain some nutritional requirements specifically for powerlifting.
Calories for Powerlifting
If you’re powerlifting for physical or competitive reasons, your needs will change depending on whether it’s your off-season or pre-competition training.
In order to meet your weight class for competition day, you may need to:
- Gain muscle
- Maintain your current status
- Lose weight
Here are some broad guidelines to work with depending on which goal you fall under.
1. GAIN MUSCLES
When you’re not having competitive events, you’ll need extra energy for muscle building (about 15% additional calories).
As Mayo Clinic suggests, about 3,500 calories is equal to one pound of body weight.
So in general, if you add about 500 to 1,000 calories per day in order to gain one to two pounds per week.
The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) delivers some great tips on how to increase calories in your diet.
Here are a few of our favorites for a powerlifting diet:
- Top hummus or peanut butter on crackers, fruit, and bread.
- Add olives or avocado to sandwiches, salads, or snacks.
- Sprinkle nuts or seeds on yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, and stir-fries.
- Shred cheese on eggs, chili, or salads.
- Scoop some nut butter into smoothies.
If you need to gain weight quickly, such as if you’re only a few days before the competition, you can add extra carbs, salt, and water to your diet. This will help you retain water.
2. MAINTAIN WEIGHT
Simply keep doing what you’re doing best.
Use the above calorie recommendations as a general guide and then maintain as close to that number as possible.
Focus on balanced and wholesome meals that contain carbs, fat, protein, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Try not to incorporate any new supplement or food to your diet at this time since it may result in retaining unnecessary water weight or interfering with your performance.
3. LOSE WEIGHT
If you need to lose weight, you’ll want to restrict your calories by about 15% from its baseline in order to drop excess fat.
Avoid crash diets since they can increase the risk of injury and illness.
You should plan to lose approximately 1-pound per week on average, so given how much weight you need to drop, you’ll know how many weeks ahead of your competition you need to start restricting your calories.
Focus on lots of protein since it can increase feelings of fullness and prevent muscle loss during weight loss.
As an athlete restricting your calories to lose weight, studies suggest that you should eat about 1.8-2.7 grams of protein per kilo (0.82–1.23 g per pound) of body weight per day.
Keeping track of what you eat is scientifically proven to help with weight loss. Use a food journal to record what and how much you eat. When you eat, try to eat slowly and mindfully as this can help you feel fuller.
Avoiding or limiting sugar and processed foods can both help you reach your body fat goals as well as decrease water weight pre-competition. Carbohydrates are stored in your body as glycogen and glycogen binds to water. So when you limit your carbs pre-weigh in, you’ll have less water weight.
You can also lose water weight by consuming less fluid or excreting more fluid.
Fluid loss can be achieved via exercise sweat or saunas or heated environments. Scientific information states that mild dehydration (<2% body mass) is unlikely to affect relevant performance but more than that can be problematic.
However, you should only plan to lose fluid for the day of the competition, and not during any training period.
The easiest of easy wins is getting the right nutrition around your workout. You’d be shocked at how many people I talk to who don’t eat or drink anything before or during their training. Now, fasted training does have some benefits if you’re looking to lean out, but you have to implement it extraordinarily carefully to avoid losing massive amounts of strength while training fasted. And, if you’re trying to gain strength and muscle, fasted workouts are a terrible idea.
But even those who do get some nutrition around their training often don’t eat and drink the right stuff, or even the right amount of stuff. Here are my two biggest “musts” to keep in mind:
Nearly all strength athletes would benefit from drinking more water. Even a small amount of dehydration can massively hurt your performance in the gym, and it’s such an easy fix that there’s no excuse for a lack of hydration. I make sure to drink at least a half-gallon of water throughout the day before I train. Depending on your size and schedule, you may need more or less, but you absolutely need to drink something.
Much like with fasting, unless you’re dieting pretty hard, you really need to make sure you get good carbs in before, during, and after your training. You’ll even hear some people talk about carb loading before lifting, and that’s not a bad strategy if you’re trying to gain a lot of size. Regardless, you still need to get simple, easily-digested carbs in during your workout (assuming you’re training with sufficient volume for hypertrophy). It’s too easy to deplete your glycogen stores, especially if you’re training for upwards of two hours at a time, and when that happens, your performance quickly deteriorates. And, of course, you need to get carbs and protein after you train to fuel muscle growth.
Obviously, there are a lot of other strategies you can take to maximize your circa-workout nutrition, but if you’re not already getting enough water and carbs around your workouts, then start—NOW.
Now, outside of circa-workout nutrition, I don’t think carbs are essential. This is a pretty individual thing; personally, I respond extremely well to carbs, so I keep a pretty high carb intake all of the time. But other people don’t do well with high-carb diets. They feel sluggish, gain too much fat, or have digestive issues. Unfortunately, if you’re in the latter group, it can be pretty difficult to avoid carbohydrates entirely, especially because they taste so damn good. On the other hand, if you want to stay lean while gaining size and strength, or to just get lean, carbohydrate manipulation is one of the most straightforward ways to reach your goals.
Carb cutoffs are a very simple way to manipulate your carbs and control your overall caloric intake without having to write down every little thing that you eat. Pick a time—say, after 6 PM—and resolve that after that time, you’re done eating carbs for the day. Just to be clear, the timing of the carbs, in this case, isn’t really the important thing. It’s just simple and convenient to use a limit based on time rather than on amount. This is the same basic principle behind intermittent fasting and carb backloading.
If you find that cutting off carbs at 6 PM isn’t enough to produce the results you want, just set your cutoff one meal earlier. One important thing to note: if you train late in the day, this probably isn’t the best method for you. If you do train late and still want to try carb cutoffs, I’d recommend including carbs only at breakfast and around your workout as described above.
Here are the supplements I take and recommend.
- Intra-workout with carbs
- Fish Oil
- Zinc, Magnesium, Calcium
- Melatonin, GABA, Valerian Root
What I Eat to Get Lean
Just a heads up: I’m not recommending that this is what you should eat to get lean. But I get a lot of questions specifically asking what my diet is like, and it can be helpful to look at others as a starting point. Just don’t think of it as a template; what works for me or someone else might not work for you.
I like to carb cycle, so I eat more on my training days and less on my off days. That’s not necessary, but I tend to have good energy levels from setting things up that way.
- 1 large red potato
- 6 ounces chicken breast
Meal 2 — Pre-Workout
- Protein pancakes with sugar-free syrup
- ½ cup oats
- 2 whole eggs
Following this meal I have pre-workout.
Meal 3 — During Workout
- Intra-workout supplement with EAAs and carbs
Immediately after training I have a protein shake with sugary cereal.
Meal 4 — Post-Workout
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 1.5 cup oats
- 6 ounces chicken breast with BBQ sauce
- ½ cup rice
- 6 ounces steak
- Steamed vegetables
- 6 ounces chicken breast
The stats on this day come out to roughly 3,800 calories with 500 grams of carbs, 300 grams of protein (just under 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight), and 75 grams of fat.
- 1/2 cup oats
- 8 egg whites
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 large red potato
- 8 ounces chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon fish oil
- Steamed vegetables
- 8 ounces chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- Steamed vegetables
- 8 ounces salmon
My off days are obviously much more sparse than my training days, but I do fine that way. Off days total around 2,000 calories, 150 grams of carbs, 225 grams of protein (just over one gram per pound of bodyweight) and 60 grams of fat. On both my training and off days, I supplement with EAAs and creatine.