In a strength sport such a powerlifting, there are numerous factors that dictate how well you perform in competition. Sleep, training regimen, recovery, nutrition, and supplementation are just a few that affect the success of a competitor’s training cycle. In this article I will focus on the nutrition aspect of the sport but more specifically, I’ll explain the way that I diet and supplement for my competitions. One thing I want to emphasize initially is that the way that I diet is not the only successful way to reach your nutrition and competition goals. I am not trying to tell you how you should diet for a competition. I am simply sharing what I have found to be successful for me. There are many diet regimens out there that may be more effective for you but that is only for you to decide through research as well as trial and error.
I designed my own plan based on the concept of John Kiefer’s carb-back loading diet. I do not follow the book exactly so I call it a very loose and modified version made to fit my specific needs based on my current bodyweight and goals.
First of all, before picking a nutrition plan of any kind you need to identify your goals. About 80% of the time I utilize my diet as a way to maintain my weight while increasing strength. The other 20% includes adapting this diet to help cut weight for a competition during the last 2-3 weeks of my training cycle. In this article I’ll explain how I set up a daily nutrition plan to maintain a lean body mass while gradually increasing strength.
When setting up my daily plan, I use these basic guidelines that are familiar to carb-back loading:
- For diet prep, a consecutive amount of days without carbs is needed to put your body into the ketosis state. The book says 10 days.
- Less than 30g of carbs before 6pm. No more than 3g of carbs at a time before 6pm in order to avoid insulin spike. After 6pm, carbs are allowed in certain moderation.
- Coffee and heavy whipping cream for breakfast is fine, but no solid meals until 11am or 12pm.
- High protein and fat intake is necessary for this diet to be successful (fat is your friend and energy source).
- Green veggies are allowed because these contain fibrous carbs and do not count against your net carb count.
Other guidelines that I have implemented:
- Daily get at least 1g of protein per lean pound of bodyweight. I usually get around 20g over the minimum.
- Make sure that you get a serving of some kind of fat with each meal.
- Post-workout shakes contain around 40g of carbs and are consumed within a 30min window after the workout is over. 1 hour later have a solid, carb-contained meal along with a serving of protein.
- No fats or keep them as low as possible in meals after 6pm.
- Non-training days – 100g carbs after 6pm with clean carbs such as brown rice and sweet potatoes.
- Training days after 6pm (which includes carbs from post-workout shake) – min 150-170g max of carbs. This number is based on a 125-130lb female. If you weigh more, then you would increase this number depending on your weight.
- Drink only water if possible (I drink at least ½ gallon a day). In the evenings you can have diet soda but carbonated drinks cause bloat and the artificial sweeteners can still cause an insulin spike in large amounts if consumed during the day.
It should be noted that a regular workout schedule including both cardio and weight lifting should be followed for optimal results on this diet.
An example of a complete day of dieting goes as follows:
6am – Coffee, 1 Splenda, 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream or coconut oil with a dash of cinnamon. Sometimes I use a scoop of vanilla protein powder (low carb) instead of whipping cream and Splenda to get in some protein.
11am – 6oz of protein (usually tuna, grilled chicken, buffalo, beef – any type of protein you’d like). 6oz of green veggies (broccoli, a small salad with Mrs. Dash seasoning and a tablespoon of olive oil instead of dressing.) Sometimes I add a small amount of cheese (1 serving) to add taste and fat to the meal if I’m not having the small salad with olive oil.
2 pm – Half a serving of walnuts (1 serving = ¼ cup on a bag of walnuts). 2 boiled eggs. On a non-lifting day you can add a low carb protein shake here instead of the eggs. The walnuts insure that you get enough fat to fulfill energy needs for the day.
6pm – Usually a post workout shake because I workout in the evenings – includes 60g protein, 40g carbs.
8pm – 9 oz. of lean protein, carbs of any type (bread, cereal, chips, anything) . I keep the carbs close to 150g. Keep fats low here.
– On non-workout days, instead of post workout shake at 6pm eat a meal first with 9oz of protein and clean carbs such as rice or sweet potato keeping it to 50g of carbs. At 8pm – eat 6oz of protein with 50g more carbs keeping them clean here also. Keep fats low with these meals.
I realize that this is a crazy low amount of carbs per day, but through my experiences I’ve found that my body performs and feels its best with very low carb intake. With this design I have more energy throughout the day and throughout my workouts. Whenever I eat more than described, I feel very lethargic and tend to be less productive. This may seem rigorous but on special occasions I do tend to allow room for some cheat carbs outside of the plan and it does not harm my performance or physical look as long as it’s in moderation. After all, I’m human and I have to live a little too! Also, you can play with your meals and find low or zero carb recipes online that fit within these guidelines so that you can add some variation. Diets don’t have to be bland or make you suffer. I find a lot of recipes on Pinterest.com or I just search Google for zero-carb meals.
The next subject that I want to introduce is supplementation. Along with a meal plan, supplements go hand in hand. Getting the right nutrients in your daily consumption is important. Although I believe that the best way to get your nutrients is through actual food; you still may need to add supplementation to make sure that you’re getting the sufficient daily value of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function optimally. This is why every morning I have a list of vitamins of my personal preference that I take to get all of the nutrients I need. These include: Magnesium & Zinc (bone health), Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Potassium (heart and circulation), Fish oil (heart health), Evening Primrose oil (a female supplement for healthy skin and hormone balance), folic acid (heart health), Biotin (hair, skin and nails), and Acidophilus (probiotic enzyme for digestion). I take several vitamins separately simply because taking one multi-vitamin tends to make me sick to my stomach. If you can handle taking a multi-vitamin, that is completely fine and probably a lot more cost efficient. In addition to this list I take workout supplements such as BCAA’s before and after workouts, protein shakes throughout the day, a joint supplement containing glucosamine chondroitin and MSM, and a recovery supplement that contains valerian root and melatonin at night for sleep. Brands and types of any supplement should be personal preference but when choosing a supplement I suggest reading their purposes and reviews first before buying them.
Overall, I am not a professional nutritionist but I found that through a lot of trial and error, this regimen is what works best for my performance. It is not for the loosely dedicated individual. Like any diet, dedication is key to its effectiveness. What works for one person may not work for another, so keep this in mind also while choosing a nutrition plan. One final thing, if you do choose to hire someone to design your nutrition plan please do your homework and research his or her credentials first to avoid unsatisfactory results of any kind or scamming.
Caitlyn Trout is fierce competitor in the raw powerlifting world. She is a graduate student at Eastern Kentucky University and is home based at Berea Barbell where she achieved Elite status in less than year of competing. Her best competition lifts are 352/160/365 at 122 body weight. Caitlyn’s squat of 352 is the World Record in the 123 weight class. This young athlete has a promising career in front of her, as she looks to inspire females to pursue strength.