TweetEating for Power
Whether you're a powerlifter, strongman or bodybuilder, nutrition is one of the most important components in anystrength sport. In powerlifting, some weight classes have the wonderful option of taking a shotgun approach to nutrition. The shotgun approach is when you eat everything in an attempt to make sure you get all of your essential nutrients and calories. I've tried this method and found that you can gain tremendous strength, until you become so lethargic that you don't want to leave the house.
Unfortunately, if you are trying to stay in a specific weight class, maintain endurance for a strongman competition or full power meet or if you are a bodybuilder, then you may need a more targeted approach to eating. Personally, I've been anywhere from 167 to 311 lbs in the last 11 years of my life. I've competed in everything from road races and wrestling to arm wrestling, powerlifting and strongman. After Jockeying my weight for years, I've learned a few things about when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat and how to supplement my diet to meet my current goals and not lose that hard earned strength and muscle mass.
Eating for Power
(When to Eat)
Most people know by now that they should eat 5 to 6 small meals a day. This helps to keep the metabolism high and allows the body to make the most efficient use of its nutrients. Your body has a tendency to rid itself of unused nutrients. So in a way, eating big meals is somewhat similar to filling your gas tank when you know it has a leak. Most of your fuel is wasted.
What many people don't take into consideration how we use our fuel and how that correlates with our meal timing. For example, why would you eat a high carbohydrate meal just before bedtime. Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy. You won't use this energy while you're sleeping. Therefore, your body will more than likely store that energy as fat. I'm a firm believer in eating the majority of your carbs early in the day and reducing the amount of carbs per meal throughout the day. I workout in the evenings, so once I've completed my workout, I don't need anymore carbohydrates until morning. Proteins and fats on the other hand, are essential to building new muscle, so after the gym, my last meal of the day may consist of a piece of meat, a protein drink and some flax oil or extra virgin olive oil, or something along those lines. Don't forget that your workout should tear down a lot of muscle tissue, and your body repairs the majority of these tissues while you are sleeping.
Eating for Power
(What to Eat)
Protein- Every strength athelete either knows or should know the importance of protein. The first time I attempted to get down to 220 lbs after about 8 months at 245 lbs, I almost died when I hit 230. I couldn't lose another pound. I tried cardio, reducing my caloric intake and eventually became ill. I couldn't understand it. My bench had dropped through the floor. So I took a long, hard look at my diet. Most studies will tell you that you need 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per pound of body mass. I would have to say that I've found 1.8-2.0 grams to be a better fit when you training heavy. I was probably down around the 1.2 range because of the restrictive diet I used to reach my goal. I began supplementing whey protien and snacking on beef jerky. Amazingly I drop 10 more pounds and my bench came back with a vengeance. Now, I don't expect that most people will sit around with a scale and a book on nutritional facts trying to get the exact amounts, unless they are a pro bodybuilder. My suggestion would be to estimate and always keep in mind that a little extra protein is better for strength than a lack of protein. Your body will tell you whether you are getting enough or not.
Simple Carbohydrates- Maybe you've heard the term complex carbohydrate. The carbohydrate situation is just that, complex, but it doesn't have to be.
We'll start with simple carbohydrates. This includes monosaccharides and disaccharides. You may know them as sugars. If you see something on the nutritional facts that ends in -ose; glucose, fructose, galactose and even lactose, then you are consuming simple sugars. Your body will always burn these fuels first and you may get a short burst of energy, but you may also experience a serious drop in energy afterward. This is caused by sudden changes in glucose levels. I don't want to make this more complicated than it really is, so here is my solution. Since they are necassary though, I recommend getting your daily supply of simple carbs from fruits, dairy products, cereal (not frosted flakes, etc) and not get to bauged down in the technical stuff. Most people can make a concious effort to consume some sort of cereal and dairy product, but I have to stress the need for fresh fruit so I'll hit the techical side really quick. Fructose doesn't spike your blood glucose levels like other sugars because it is absorbed into the blood stream slowly. Have some fruit or fruit juice, in the morning and you'll find your day will start out much better. The bottom line is that fruits, dairy products and cereal are good sources of simple carbohydrates and beer, table sugar, candy bars and soda are bad sources of simple carbohydrates.
Complex Carbohydrates- Complex carbohydrates can actual be more simple than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are also known as starches, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Complex carbohydrates have so many positive effects on the body that I'm going to stick to the topic of power for the sake of time.
Complex carbohydrates supply sustained energy to working muscles, thus improving your endurance during these grueling workouts. Try working out with someone on one of those protein and fat only diets. You'll see one tired, grumpy, smelly and frustrated gym rat.
Complex carbohydrates help increase brain function. Contrary to popular belief, even strength athletes need to use their brain. The brain is like the CPU to your central nervous system. Without a healthy central nervous system you will never reach your strength potential.
Also carbohydrates play a role in cell volumization, elimination of toxins in the body and recovery.
Fats- Fats may be the most misunderstood component of a well balanced diet. Fats actually deserve their own section of the site. You may actually see this in the future, but for now I will try to summarize.
Transfatty Acids (coffee creamer, margarine, shortening, etc) are the worst or the worst in the fat world. It was once believed that TFA's were healthier than saturated fats, but it turns out that these should be avoided more any other.
Saturated Fats (egg yolks, beef, pork, dairy products, etc) carry health risks, but are essential in building muscle mass. The great thing about saturated fats is that you don't need a lot saturated fats and chances are that unless you're vegetarian, then you'll probably get plenty of it without even trying.
Monosaturated Fats (olive oil, cashews, almond oil, etc) actual help you to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and help to prevent hardening of the arteries. Probably more interesting to our readers is that it actually influences testosterone levels, and we can all use that.
Polyunsaturated Fats (salmon, flax oil, herring, etc) are the grand daddy of good fats. Polyunsaturated's can help lubricate joints, increase aerobic and strength performance, decrease recovery time, help burn fat, increase insulin sensitivity in muscle and support your immune system. Check out Omega 3 capsules in our supplement shop if you'd like to increase you polyunsaturated levels.
Eating for Power
Supplementation is very understood by many people. There are several reasons for nutritional supplementation. The most common reason is to fill a nutritional void in your diet.
Most of us have full time jobs and have a very hectic workout. We don't have time to cook nutrient diverse meals. Products like Myoplex, Labrada Leanbody offer a nutrient rich meal replacement that can be quickly and easily mixed and consumed. Many meal replacements are geared towards people with different goals and come in forms of drinks, powdered shake mixes and bars.
Other supplements such as whey protein and creatine are great for supplying the body with significant amounts of nutrients that cannot be reasonably consumed in the form of food. For example, a 280 lb man such as myself that is active in powerlifting requires as much as 504 to 560 grams of protein per day. So I could either consume 4 lbs of beef in a day and let it take its tole on my body or I can digest a combination of meats, dairy products, legumes and protein supplements.
If an evaluation of your own diet uncovers a need for additional nutritional supplementation, please visit our online supplement shop for the best prices and the highest quality.
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