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. 


Macronutrient breakdown for a powerlifting diet

Macronutrient breakdown for a powerlifting diet

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.

Related Article: 12 Natural Food Sources of Glutamine (And, How Much To Eat)

Calories:  How many Calories Should You Eat As A Powerlifter?


Calorie breakdown for powerlifters

Calorie breakdown for powerlifters

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.


BMR calculation for powerlifters

BMR calculation for powerlifters

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.

Macronutrients:  What Should Your Macros Be As A Powerlifter?


Macronutrients for powerlifting: Protein, Carb, Fat

Macronutrients for powerlifting: Protein, Carb, Fat

One of the main problems with traditional calorie counting is that it doesn’t take into account what you’re eating. Meaning you can hit your calorie goal by eating donuts and french fries.

While this might be tempting, it can lead to a plethora of diseases.

Macronutrients are nutrients that your body requires in large amounts.

They include:

  • carbohydrates

  • Protein

  • Fat

Macronutrients can help you measure how much you eat as well as what you eat. A balance of these is crucial for a good powerlifting diet.

1. CARBOHYDRATES


What carbs should you eat for powerlifting?

What carbs should you eat for powerlifting?

From keto to Atkins, carbohydrates (carbs) have been getting a bad wrap.

Yes eating too many can impact your weight, but more emphasis should be put on the type of carbs you’re consuming.


TYPE OF CARB

Everyday Health explains that simple carbohydrates are easy-to-digest sugars. Some are naturally occurring such as in fruit and milk. While refined or processed sugars are often added to candy, baked goods, and sodas. The latter is what you want to limit.

The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons (26 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day. For women, the recommendation is 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day.

Complex carbohydrates are naturally found in whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables. They are built of longer sugar molecule chains, resulting in more time for your body to break them down. Giving you sustained and consistent energy levels.

WHY CARBS ARE GOOD FOR POWERLIFTING

During the digestive process, simple carbohydrates (sweeteners, fruit, candy, soda, juice) are readily absorbed into the bloodstream. When you’re not active, this can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash, leading to cravings and energy fluctuations.

However, when you’re powerlifting, less complex carb sources like corn can actually help.

In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who strength train at least twice a week need at least half of their calories coming from carbohydrates.

During powerlifting training, you need quick fuel and carbs will give you just that. Carbohydrates are easily converted into a storage form of glucose, called glycogen. Meaning that when you need some extra energy to push through those extra reps, the stored form of glucose (glycogen) is there for you.


AMOUNT OF CARBS

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, during the off-season, carbohydrates should make up about 5-8 grams per kilogram of your bodyweight. This equals about 2.3-3.6 grams per pound of weight per day.

For example, if you weigh 200lbs (90kgs), then you should aim for about 450-720g of carbs per day.

What about fasting before a workout?

Research shows that there’s no benefit to doing fasted cardio when trying to build muscle.

HEALTHY CARB SOURCES

Here is a list of carbs sources that you can add to your grocery list:

  • Potatoes

  • Oats

  • Fresh fruits

  • Legumes

  • Whole grain pasta

  • Brown rice

  • Plain dairy

  • Quinoa

  • Buckwheat

2. PROTEIN


What protein should you eat for powerlifting?

What protein should you eat for powerlifting?

When you lift, you create microscopic tears in your muscles, sometimes making you feel sore.

This is a normal process and is what makes your muscles grow.

Protein is essential for this process.

Here’s how it works…

Protein provides amino acids. These are protein building blocks. They’ll not only increase your muscle size, but also prevent excess damage when you work out. Some muscle tearing and soreness is good but too much can lead to negative consequences.


PROTEIN TIMING

Precision Nutrition explains that eating any source of protein before a workout will help.

So the speed of digestion doesn’t matter so much. Just make sure you have enough time to prevent a stomach ache.

For instance, aim for something like yogurt or lean chicken instead of a quarter pounder from Macdonalds.

However, a review by the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggested that protein sources are best consumed every 3-4 hours across the day.

Having some pre-sleep casein (30-40 grams), found in milk, may further increase muscle protein synthesis.


AMOUNT OF PROTEIN

The International Society of Sports Nutrition also completed a review on current sports nutrition research. It found that for building and maintaining muscle mass, the overall daily protein intake should range from 1.4-2.0 g protein per kilogram of body weight, per day (0.64-0.90 g per pound).

For example, if you weigh 200lbs (90kgs), then you should aim for about 126g – 180g of protein per day.

There is novel evidence that suggests higher protein intakes of greater than 3.0 grams/ kg /day may have positive effects on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. It may help promote fat loss. But this has not been thoroughly researched.

HEALTHY PROTEIN SOURCES

Here is a list of protein sources that you can add to your grocery list:

  • Eggs

  • Plain yogurt

  • Milk

  • Lean beef

  • Chicken

  • Beans

3. FAT


FATS FOR POWERLIFTING.jpg

Just like the other macronutrients, fat is essential to a healthy diet.

Fats can help you feel satisfied after a meal and contribute to muscle gains.

They can also help you absorb nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, and K.

TYPES OF FAT

First off, it’s important to differentiate between body fat and dietary fat.

Body fat is the extra stores on your body. It serves to insulate, produce hormones, and even brain function. It’s the main composition of cell membranes. It can serve as a cushion for your vital organs.

A common misconception is that dietary fat makes you fat.

Yes, fat is higher in calories but it doesn’t directly lead to body fat.

Dietary fat can be classified as saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated fats used to be thought of as very unhealthy, but a handful of recent reports have pushed back on this hypothesis.

Harvard University shared a meta-analysis that concluded there is not enough evidence to show that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease, but that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fat may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Unsaturated fats are the more healthy ones. They come in forms including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, contribute to heart health, and benefit the brain.  These are found in oils, nuts, and fish, and seeds.

Trans fats are the ones you should avoid. The American Heart Association states that eating them will increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These are found in fried foods, fast-food, coffee creamer, packaged crackers, cookies, and cakes.

AMOUNT OF FAT

Research tells us that the ideal percentage of fat for powerlifters should be about 30% of your total calories.

Since fat is higher in calories per gram — 9 kcal per gram versus protein and carbohydrate’s 4 kcal per gram — it’s a great option if you want more calorically-dense food to keep you fuller for longer.

For example, let’s say that you weigh 200lbs (90kgs) and you are eating 3500 calories per day.  30% of your overall calories are 1050, which should come from fat. That means that you should eat 117g of fat per day (1050 calories divided by 9).

HEALTHY SOURCES OF FAT

Here is a list of fat sources that you can add to your grocery list:

Saturated fat (better sources): 

  • Animal fats

  • Full-fat dairy

  • Grass fed beef

  • Whole eggs

  • Coconut oil

Unsaturated fat: 

  • Fish

  • Avocados

  • Olive oil

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Olives

  • Nut butters.

Powerlifting Supplementation:  What Supplements Should Powerlifters Use?


SUPPLEMENTS FOR POWERLIFTING.jpg

Now that we’ve covered those mega important macronutrients, you may be asking, what about all those powerlifting supplements out there?

There’s no lack of supplements out there telling you that they will boost your performance, but these are research backed: creatine monohydrate, caffeine, and beta-alanine.

1. Caffeine


CAFFEINE FOR POWERLIFTERS (1).jpg

Caffeine is a compound found in plants such as coffee, tea, and cocoa.

It’s stimulating to your nervous system. When it reaches your brain it increases alertness. It can also help increase performance during powerlifting training.

A comprehensive scientific review noted that caffeine ingestion may enhance strength in the squat and bench press. Optimal doses are likely to be 2 to 6 mg per kilogram body weight.

Another study found that caffeine improved exercise performance by 11.2% and lowered feelings of perceived exertion by 5.6%. Meaning that you have that extra push to get you through a tough workout.

TIMING OF CAFFEINE

Aim to take caffeine about 60 minutes pre-exercise, depending on how it affects your stomach.

For quick caffeine sources such as gum, aim to take it about 5 to 10 minutes before the start of exercise. If you’re planning to work out for an extended period, it may be helpful to repeat the dose.

When you’re doing powerlifting training, you may only want to consider caffeine for sessions with the highest intensity. This is because if you have it to frequently, your body can develop a tolerance to it therefore you may not see as many benefits when you take it and train.

TYPES OF CAFFEINE

Aim to get natural sources of caffeine whenever possible.

However, if you’re opting for a capsule form, make sure to consult your physician before giving it a go.

Keep in mind that not everybody responds well to caffeine.

Try your best to avoid stimulants at least six hours before bedtime to prevent your deep sleep from being impacted.

If you recognize negative symptoms such as anxiety, shakes, irritability, caffeine may not be the right option for you.

HEALTHY FOOD SOURCES WITH CAFFEINE

  • Coffee

  • Dark

  • Chocolate

  • Cocoa

  • Tea

  • Kola nut

2. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)


bcaa for powerlifting.jpg

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

A “branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure. These amino acids include leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

BCAAs can help you improve your athletic performance, prevent fatigue, and reduce muscle mass breakdown. They can be helpful for both increasing muscle size as well as maintaining muscle mass.

In terms of preventing or decreasing soreness, the science is inconclusive. Previous research has shown that BCAAs can potentially reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness.

One study compared the effect of BCAAs plus carbohydrate, versus carbohydrate-only sports drinks after an intense workout. Similar levels of perceived soreness and associated markers were found for both groups.

HEALTHY FOOD SOURCES WITH BCAAs

  • Meat

  • Fish

  • Poultry

3. Creatine Monohydrate


creatine for powerlifting.jpg

Creatine is a compound formed in protein metabolism.

It’s present in many of your tissues and is involved in muscle energy and contraction. It supplies nutrients to make ATP during intense workouts. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) carries energy within your cells.

In a review of over 22 studies, when subjects supplemented with creating while doing resistance training, they averaged 8% greater increase in muscle strength and size when compared to a placebo. When creatine supplementation was added to resistance training, there was a 14% greater average of weightlifting performance when compared to placebo.

According to research conducted by WebMD, creatine can help athletes achieve bursts of speed and energy during exercises such as powerlifting.

But it’s important to note that the scientific research on creatine has been mixed. Some people’s muscles respond well to it while others don’t.

If you are going to try creatine, Healthline recommends using the loading method. Consume 20 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for 5-7 days, followed by a standard dose of 5 grams per day. A lower dose of 5 grams per day for a few weeks can also increase creatine stores.

Since creatine has been suggested to have significant performance benefits, aim for 1-2 grams from natural food sources if you don’t take a supplement.

If you’re interested in learning more, read our in-depth guide on whether you can get stronger without creatine.

Healthy food sources with creatine: 

  • Beef

  • Pork

  • Fish

Meal Timing: When Should Powerlifters Time Their Meals?

Now that you’re an expert in what to eat, let’s talk about when to eat.

Keep in mind that nutrient timing isn’t the only thing you should focus on with a powerlifting diet. It’s only one piece of the powerlifting pie.

A strong powerlifting routine should include the right fitness and training, consistent nutritional balance as you just learned, plus nutrient timing.

Keep in mind that these are general recommendations.

The size of these meals can vary greatly. They depend on your body size, sex, genetics, training, and time and intensity of your workout.

1. Pre-Workout:  What To Eat Pre-Powerlifting Workout?

What you eat before exercise can strongly influence both your performance and recovery.

According to Precision Nutrition, in the three hours before a workout, it’s important to consume something that sustains energy, boosts performance, hydrates you, preserves muscle mass, and speeds up recovery time.

Eat a healthy and balanced meal containing protein and carbohydrates about one to two hours before your powerlifting workout and another meal about one to two hours after your workout.

Protein will spare your muscles from being broken down, improve recovery time, and boost strength. Carbohydrates will enhance training capabilities. They will also help preserve muscle and liver glycogen, improves protein synthesis, and prevent protein breakdown.

Fats appear to be neutral ground.

They neither improve or decrease sport performance. Keep in mind that they help slow down digestion. A good thing if you’re eating well before a killer workout and need sustained energy. A bad thing if you’re eating a lot of fat right before a workout. Nobody wants to run to the toilet between reps.

The ideal pre-workout snack should be adjusted to your personal needs and can depend on when you’re working out. You can have a pre-workout meal a few hours before exercise or a smaller snack just before exercise. Or say if you workout later in the day, you may want to do both!

WHEN SHOULD THE EXACT TIMING BE?

Two to three hours before a workout, have a balanced macronutrient meal and water.

If you have an hour or less before training, focus on an easily digestible meal. You may want to consider a homemade shake or smoothie.

2. During Training:  What To Eat During Your Powerlifting Workout?

You only need to worry about fueling during training if you’re doing long and intense exercise sessions or if you have multiple training sessions per day. It can also be helpful if you’re trying to make significant changes to your body, such as with bodybuilding.

The goal of nutrition during powerlifting training is to stay hydrated, provide instant fuel, prevent protein breakdown, and increase your performance.

Only a bit of protein is required in order to slow or stop protein breakdown (about 15 grams per hour). If you like to exercise on an empty stomach or are bulking while fasting, then you may want to consider taking amino acids instead.

Carbohydrates during fitness provide an immediate fuel source. Carbs can help balance hormones during exercise. However, carbs are only necessary in certain circumstances such as marathon runs or if you’re trying to bulk up.

Fats during exercise should be avoided because they take longer to digest and absorb. They can result in stomach aches, muscle cramping, or uncomfortable bathroom trips.

WHEN SHOULD THE EXACT TIMING BE?

Precision Nutrition teaches us that the max amount of carbohydrates that can be digested and absorbed during exercise is 60-80 grams per hour. If you’re combining with protein, you can achieve the same endurance benefits with only about 30-45 grams per hour.

A good rule of thumb is that if your exercise lasts less than two hours, then you don’t need to include foods but rather focus on hydration. For training that’s longer than two hours, try a sports drink, gel, or some easily digested food. Focus on 15 grams of protein and 30-45 grams of carbs every hour.

3. Post-Workout:  What To Eat Post-Powerlifting Workout?

Hitting the grub after a grueling workout can help with recovery, hydration, build muscle, and even improve future workouts.

E
ating some protein after training can help to prevent muscle protein breakdown. It can also help boost anabolism, otherwise known as muscle building.

Previous recommendations encouraged us to guzzle a shake, with partially processed proteins, right after hitting the gym. Whey or casein hydrolysate ring a bell?

But new research shows that hydrolyzed, fast-acting proteins may actually get into our bodies too fast. Too quickly in means too quickly out.

So rather than protein powders, try whole food based proteins after exercise.

Pretty much any high-quality protein should work, as long as you get enough (about 40-60 grams for men and 20-30 grams for women) and as long as it’s relatively easy to digest. Yogurt, milk, eggs, and tofu for instance.

Aim for a blend of minimally processed whole food carbohydrates or some fruit in order to restore muscle and liver glycogen.

As for fats, some research showed that as much as 55 grams after training, then another 55 grams in the following meals, did not impair glycogen replenishment when compared to a low-fat meal with the same amount of carbs.

Meaning fats are A-OK.

If you’re tempted to hit the bar after raising the bar, check out whether beer and alcohol are good or bad post-workout.

Competition Day:  Powerlifting Meal Plan

The big competition is here!

You’ve been training like a beast, eating like a saint, and getting plenty of sleep and rest.

You wake up feeling ready.

But what should you eat to keep this adrenaline-charged on feeling all day?

All of your preparation and hard work could be thrown in the gutter as a result of not feeding yourself the right stuff on competition day.

Proper fuel is crucial for performance.

Hydration

Keeping your body hydrated is a necessity for nailing your competition day. Bring at least a gallon of water with you and drink it throughout the day instead of chugging it all at once.

If you’re trying to make weight and sweat via a sauna or other method, it’s even more important to hydrate during the competition. Add an electrolyte fluid after your weigh-in. Electrolytes can help prevent dehydration, cramps, and muscle weakness.

As a general rule of thumb, if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Another way to determine your hydration status is by looking at the color of your urine. Usually, when your urine looks lighter, it means you’re hydrated. Think white wine versus apple juice.

Pre-Competition

You’ve heard this hundreds of times: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. It’s also the most important meal to start your competition day.

After you weigh-in, you’ll want to eat right away, which will usually be between 1.5-2 hours before you step onto the platform.

You’ll want to keep fats away from this meal as it will slow down the absorption of the carbohydrates.

You want a carbohydrate-heavy meal. Some protein is okay, but avoid fats (keep it incidental).

Focus on long-lasting carbs like oatmeal with fruit, lean protein like eggs or tofu, and avoid foods that are very high in fat (bacon, hash browns, sausage) or sugar (pastries, fruit juice, syrups).

If your weigh-in is in the morning, then most powerlifters will simply wake up and pack a meal to eat after the weigh-in.

If your weigh-in is in the afternoon, then trying to eat what you normally would when you wake up.

Eat until you’re satiated but not stuffed.

You want the meal to “stick to your ribs” but not give you a stomach ache.

During Competition

During the competition, you want to eat small but frequent meals.

If you have a large amount of food, your blood will be rushing to your guts and not your muscles. It can also leave you feeling tired and unmotivated.

Aim for carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index, which is part of what determines how quickly the carb will raise your blood sugar level.

Examples of lower glycemic index foods include steel-cut oats, whole grain bread, brown rice, yogurt, and sweet potatoes.

Protein is important for keeping energy sustained during a long competition and for muscle recovery in between attempts.  Aim for lean sources such as lean beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and tofu.

Whenever you have 2 hours or more between lifts, try for a meal with a whole food protein source and slow-acting carb (as much as you can get in).

If you have less than 2 hours between lifts, have a protein shake immediately post lift, followed by a mixed slow acting/quick-acting carb snack (i.e. oatmeal and banana).

At the end of the day, have a large balanced meal with protein, carbohydrates and fats – eat as much as possible.

Supplements

If you can’t stomach solid food during the competition, prepare yourself a protein shake to bring.

If you prefer a protein supplement, aim for whey protein versus egg, casein, or soy since these may cause bloating. Just make sure to give these a try before the big day. You don’t want an unexpected tummy ache to get in your way.

Same goes if you’re using protein bars — test them during your training. But these aren’t required; natural foods will do the trick.

Aim for protein and carbs. Examples include a handful o
f nuts and a piece of fruit, whole-grain toast with nut butter, yogurt and fruit, an egg with a banana.

The supplements we covered earlier (creatine, caffeine, and BCAA’s) may give you that extra something during the competition day.

Specific Suggestions

Nancy Clark, Registered Dietitian and sports nutrition guru, created handy and helpful suggestions for eating before a competition in her Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

Use the following guide based on when you compete:

  • 8am competition start time: The night before, eat a high carb dinner and drink plenty of water. The morning of, around 6-6:30am, eat a 200-400 calorie meal (yogurt, banana) and have more water.

  • 10am competition start time: The night before, eat a high carbohydrate dinner the night before and extra water. Have a breakfast you’re used to by 7am to prevent fatigue.

  • 2pm competition start time: The morning of, eat a high carb breakfast and a light lunch or combine them into a big brunch eaten by 10am. Be sure to have a high carbohydrate dinner the night before, drink extra water day before and up to noon on the day of.

  • 8pm competition start time: The day of, eat a large, high carbohydrate breakfast and lunch, have dinner by 5pm or a lighter meal by 6-7pm, drink extra fluids all day.

  • All day competition: Two days before the event, cut back exercise to rest the body, rest completely the day before. Eat a high carbohydrate breakfast, lunch, and dinner the day before and drink extra fluids. The day of, eat a breakfast you’re used to on the day of the event, snack every one and a half to two hours with healthy carbs during the day. Eat lunch if you can, drink fluids before you feel thirsty.

Build Healthy Powerlifting Meals

The good news is, eating a healthy and energizing powerlifting diet can be super easy.

Start by picking whole-grain carbohydrates such as grain breads, brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal. These are packed with fiber which lends a helping hand to your gut bacteria, digestive health, and allow carbs to be digested slower, giving you sustained energy.

Next, add a healthy source of protein such as lean red meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, yogurt, or tofu.

Then add good fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and nut butter, or olives.

Finally, enhance your meal with fruit and/or vegetables as well as herbs and spices as you please. These are going to give your body key nutrients to support energy metabolism, killer workouts, and overall health and wellbeing.

Here are a few examples of some balanced meals:

  • Whole grain bread + one egg + sliced avocado + a handful of spinach

  • Brown rice + tofu + oil + stir fry veggies + ginger

  • Quinoa + chicken + peanuts + chili powder

Final Thoughts

You’re a powerlifter. You’re like a superhuman working to find ultimate power. So you should eat like one.

Your diet will determine whether or not you reach your goal. Prioritize what you put in your body by focusing on whole foods, aiming for macronutrient balance, and timing what you eat according to your needs.

The goal of your prime powerlifting diet should be to increase muscle mass and boost performance. This is best attained by increasing your calories by 15% above baseline needs unless maintaining or losing weight. Your macronutrient intake should be 5-8 g per kilogram bodyweight of carbohydrates, 1.4-2 gram per kilogram bodyweight of protein, and 30% of total calories from fat per day.

One you nail the perfect meal program, consider adding beneficial boosters such as creatine monohydrate, caffeine, and beta-alanine to your routine.

The bottom line is that you’re different than everyone else and have different needs than everyone else. Use this powerlifting diet guide as a way to experiment and explore what makes you feel your personal best. Lift yourself up to your target with a prime powerlifting plan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Lisa Booth

Lisa Booth

Lisa is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with over 15 years of experience in nutrition, fitness, and mental health coaching and education. She studied Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University and earned a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University.

Having certifications and experience in group exercise, intuitive eating, coaching and psychotherapy, and digestive wellness, she’s enthusiastic about the relationship between the body and mind.

She’s dedicated to helping people understand how to implement healthy habit change, while gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them feel their personal best.