Lately I have been noticing a movement within the powerlifting community where people are finally realizing that your physique does not have to suffer in order to keep strength gains consistent for this sport. As someone that takes pride in my physique and health I refused to believe that I could only continue to make strength progress by eating like a bear going into hibernation. Although, it’s true that athletes do have to eat more than the average person in order to achieve optimal performance, that doesn’t mean we can eat at taco bell 3 times a day and still reach our full potential on the platform. If you are a serious competitor you should find a serious nutritional program, but where do you begin? I found myself asking the same question. So, how did I eventually find a program that worked for me? Well, first I needed to know exactly what my goals were. I wanted to stay lean and build muscle but I also wanted to make sure that my lifts kept improving in the meantime. It was a time consuming process and took a little experimenting but by identifying several factors that I needed to consider to be successful, I eventually found a program that fit my needs.
In this article I’m not going to outline what my nutritional program is or what it consists of because 1. I already did that in a previous article a few months ago and 2. One program does not fit all so only about 5% of the people reading this would benefit from that anyway. Instead, I made a list of the most important factors that I considered when searching for a successful nutrition plan which I believe will be way more beneficial for you.
A successful program begins with knowing what results you are willing to strive for to achieve. Are you trying to cut weight for a competition with minimal strength loss? Are you trying to gain lean mass and lose body fat? Or maybe you are just trying to maintain weight and focus solely on performance. Be specific with your goals. Also, it is important to be realistic with your goals as well as the time frame you want to accomplish them in. Remember, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”!
Our metabolisms vary from person to person. Women do not typically need the same amount of macros in comparison to a male of the same discipline, weight, and stature but that doesn’t mean that every 5’1, 123lbs female needs the exact same nutrients either. Know your body. Do you seem to gain weight easily? Do you eat more frequently than others but can’t seem to gain weight? Do you feel lethargic when you intake a higher amount of carbs or is it the opposite? Everyone responds differently so it is imperative to your success to be aware of your body’s reactions to foods and your eating habits.
Your schedule plays an important role in what, when, and how much you are eating each day. Realize that if you are a person with an inconsistent work or training schedule, a diet that relies on time specific nutrition may not be the best for you. Instead, you will have to construct one that is flexible in a way that you can switch meals around without too much thought or hassle. If you have a job where you are always on the run and have limited time to eat, you will have to figure out a program that allows flexibility for that as well. Identify your availability and construct a meal schedule based on that.
Your training program plays a huge role in your nutritional needs and can vary vastly from person to person. Things to consider would be the amount of volume you are doing per session, the pace and intensity of your training sessions (longer rest periods vs. shorter), and how many times a week that you train, and your training discipline (crossfit, strongman, bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc.).
In order to pick a type of program, you need to at least know what your options are. Do some research on what is available and understand each program’s basic concepts. Ask other athletes what they have used in the past that has been both successful and unsuccessful. Read peer reviewed studies and articles if they are available. Know what you’re getting yourself into and make an educated decision.
If you feel confident enough to construct your own nutritional program then that’s great. For those that are not quite so confident, I highly suggest that you hire someone with more experience and knowledge to help you if you aren’t familiar with programming. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should contact the first person that is recommended to you or that you find on the Internet. Do your research and find out the person’s track record with their clients, how much experience they have with people in your specific sport, and how available they are to their clients for communication.
By analyzing all of these factors, you should be able to develop a basic understanding of what type of programming you need in order to reach whatever goals you may have. Of course, it may take a little trial and error; this list should at least give you an idea of where to begin.