I remember how crap I felt at my first powerlifting meet.
I’d drastically cut weight, hardly eaten for 24-hours, not hydrated properly, and had about as much energy as a sodium-saturated slug.
I got my nutrition totally wrong, and as such, my performance majorly suffered.
I wish I’d had this guide.
Enter today’s guest blogger – Powerlifting extraordinaire, bodybuilding champ, online coach, and straight up New Yorker, Anthony Bevilacqua of AB Fitness Trainer
Most people think of huge monstrous guys with bulging guts lifting a ton of weight.
Lifting the big weight is true but is that gut part true?
This is the dogma that surrounds the sport of powerlifting. Powerlifting is all about lifting heavy weights from point A to point B. Is that gut necessary to do this? Performing the powerlifts takes a tremendous amount of skill and power however most powerlifters limit themselves nutrition wise.
Properly fuelling our bodies is extremely important for any sport.
80% of what we see in the mirror is based on our nutritional habits. There is no reason why a powerlifter needs to look like a couch potato. Fat can actually be good for a powerlifter because having bodyfat can change your leverages.
When you squat, deadlift or bench press your body goes through a certain range of motion. Having a high bodyfat can shorten that range of motion. It may shorten it by centimeters but that is enough to help you break a new PR.
Let’s say you normally compete at a weight class of 93kg but for this next meet you wanted to drop down to the 83kg class. You would have to drop roughly 20lbs; this would change your leverages completely. If you diet correctly you would lose bodyfat, which would increase your range of motion. However if you dieted slowly and follow the tips revealed later in this article you can move down in weight class without compromising your lifts.
Yes and no, You want to make sure you are providing your body with enough calories to get through your gruelling workouts but not enough to the point where you are actually putting on fat.
Muscle is an active tissue in your body.
Muscles are responsible for helping your joints move through certain ranges of motion, unlike fat, which its primary job is to insulate you. Muscles are what actually lift the weight, fat doesn’t. Adding a ton of calories just because “your’e powerlifting” will make you heavier but not in a good way. You may gain 20lbs in a couple of weeks while preparing for a meet but how much “muscle” weight was that really.
For a natural lifter your body can make roughly .25-.5lbs of muscle per week. Adding a ton of weight quickly is not the route to go.
When we gain that much weight in a short period of time it may hinder your performance. That extra 20lbs of weight will just leave you feeling fatigued and sluggish.
I’ve been down this road before. I am a naturally thin guy, who struggled to gain weight my entire life.
A couple of years back I decided to finally “forget about keeping my abs” and bulk myself up. I normally sit around 185-190lbs, within a couple of week’s time I bulked up to 217lbs eating roughly 5,500 calories per day. Sounds extremely fun huh? It wasn’t, it was a job. I felt sick all the time trying to shove food constantly down my throat and I remember one day walking up stairs and feeling out of breath!
Extra fat does nothing but sit on your frame, which adds pressure to your joints.
Take my word for it! I did add some muscle to my frame but not much more than if I would have bulking up slowly.
Mike Tuchscherer –
Mike is around 5’9 265lbs of brick sh!t house. Mike is far from overweight; he carries a ton of muscle on his frame and is super strong. He has broken world records all while keeping himself built pretty well and no huge gut.
Next lets look at
Layne is 5’10 and competes in the 93kg class.
He is also a competitive bodybuilder who steps on stage at around 195lbs. Layne is competing at about 10lbs away from show weight which is super lean. Layne recently broke the squat world record at the IPF World Championship
That dogma of big overweight lifters is over…its time for the new era to take over. The era of big, strong and lean!
Proper nutrition can make the difference between winning and losing. It can also make the difference between having to buy a bigger size belt or not.
Macronutrients and calories fuel our bodies.
Protein provides us with the raw material needed to build and repair muscle.
Fat is needed for hormone production and energy.
Carbohydrates are specifically important when it comes to providing our body with energy too. Adequate carbohydrate intake can properly fuel your workouts. Even though powerlifting training doesn’t burn many calories, it still places a demand on your body.
This article is broken down in 3 different sections.
The first section is about what you need to do in order to diet down to a weight class.
The second section will cover everything you need to know about gaining the proper amount of weight to move up a weight class.
The third and final section will cover gym performance and meet day performance.
The basics still apply – calories in vs. calories out.
That doesn’t change when you’re trying to lose weight or gain weight. I believe in flexible dieting and hitting certain amounts of each major macronutrients. It matters much less what you eat but more the amounts of what you eat. Yes you can get lean eating ice cream but yes you can gain weight from too much grilled chicken and broccoli.
(Note from Mike –
Oh man, I know THAT feeling.
In fact, I DID get fat eating chicken and broccoli, and lean on Subway and ice cream. Check this article out – http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/how-clean-eating-made-me-fat-but-ice-cream-and-subway-got-me-lean/ )
Dieting down for a weight class can be almost as difficult as training for the meet itself.
Dropping 10-15lbs for a meet doesn’t seem like much work, but it is.
Remember the goal is the drop fat not muscle. Losing muscle when dieting will make you weaker and leave you feeling fatigued. Dieting down for a weight class takes precision and will power. You have to keep your goal in mind the entire time while dieting, there will be times because your training is so demanding you will be extremely hungry. Fighting off that hunger will leave you leaner and stronger.
You need to know how many calories you are taking in before dieting in order to properly begin your diet.
I recommend keeping a food log for 3 days (Be honest because this will give us a more accurate starting point). Track every calorie consumed on these three days. After the 3 days are up take the total number of calories per day and add them together. Then divide that total by 3 so we can get your average calorie intake.
Day 1: 3500 calories
Day 2: 4300 calories
Day 3: 3700 calories
3-day average is 3800 calories.
This is the key part here, In order to lose weight you need to be in a caloric deficit (taking in less calories then you burn) but you do not need to be in a steep caloric deficit. I usually start with a 500-calorie deficit and go from there.
3800 current calorie intake- 500 calorie deficit per day= 3300 calories required to begin your cut
Protein- Protein is important while dieting. Protein provides our bodies with the building blocks we need for muscle. I recommend for someone trying to drop fat 1-1.25g per pound of bodyweight
For our example lets say I weigh 190lbs and I am trying to get to 183lbs for the 83kg class
Bodyweight: 190lbs x 1.25g per pound= 237g (we will round it to 240g for simple numbers)
Fat- Fat is usually the next thing I figure out. I do not like to bring fat below 20% of our total calories
3300 x.20=660 calories from fat/ 9calories per gram= 73g per day
Carbs- I like to keep carb intake as high as possible when trying to lose body fat. Carbohydrates will keep your muscles full and fueled up and also provide you with a feeling of satiety. I use up our remaining calories for carbohydrates
Total Calories= 3300
Protein=240g per day x 4 calories per gram =960 calories
Fat calories= 660
Next we take our total calories and minus that from what we have so far: 3300- 1620= 1680 calories from carbs per day. Divide the total by 4 to get total grams of carbs per day= 420g of carbs per day
(Note from Mike:
If you want a done-for-you guide to figuring out your perfect fat loss macros, check out “The Fool-Proof Flexible Guide to Fat Loss” by clicking this link. )
The worst thing you can do is have to cut calories severally to drop weight into a meet.
I like to take my time dieting so I never really have to drop my calories so low.
The goal is to keep your calories as high as possible while still losing around .25-.5lbs a week. By losing slowly you allow your body to adjust to your new weight and to allow yourself to adjust to any new leverages you may come across. I recommend dieting for 12-24 weeks before a meet to drop down a weight class. I would rather be lighter then miss my class and have to compete one class higher.
Even better, in fact this is the ideal situation.
If you reach your weight goal before the meet you can now slowly add calories back into your diet (5-10% of your calories every week). By adding calories in you are speeding up your metabolism and giving your body fuel to work with, which will allow you to feel less, drained.
With reverse dieting you do not want to gain weight. You want to add only enough to let you maintain or even lose weight. If you happen to find yourself gaining weight scale down the calories by 20%
Two days per week (I would schedule these days on your hardest workouts for the week) I want you to have a “refeed day”.
Basically we will be taking your calories back up to maintenance to give you a mental break and to help restore the fat burning hormones like leptin and T3. I want you to raise your daily carb intake by 100g, drop your fat by 5g and drop your protein down by 10g.
Gaining weight seems rather simple, eat more calories then you burn. Only problem is we aren’t looking to put on any kind of weight. We want to put on lean muscle mass. If you’re looking to gain quality muscle you need to follow these basic rules
Patience is a virtue. Unfortunately we all cannot gain 20lbs of true lean mass overnight. Despite what the magazines tell you, its impossible for a natural to do that. I recommend giving yourself plenty of time to gain good quality size. The general rule of thumb for proper lean mass gain is .25-.5pounds per week. Giving yourself enough time will ensure you can gain good quality size.
If you are currently taking in around 3300 calories and you are maintaining your weight I would add 300 calories to that to begin your bulk. Since we only synthesis so much muscle in a day consuming anymore then that will more then likely make you fat.
No need to rush the process as I said earlier. If you hit a weight gain plateau add 100-200 calories to your current intake and wait at least 2-3 weeks before making a change again. Adding a boatload of calories when you get stuck will just end up making you fat
I know some of you get excited when it comes to gaining weight because it means you get to stay clear of the cardio machines.
Cardio while bulking can be beneficial. Cardio can keep you leaner helping you burn through extra substrates and will also help to improve your endurance.
I recommend performing a HIIT style cardio 2xs per week for 10 HIIT Sprints.
Ok so we covered moving up and down in weight classes but what about everyday gym performance. If your performance in the gym sucks you will end up smaller, risk getting injured and stand a chance of actually becoming weaker. Your everyday gym performance can make or break you on the platform. If you are not properly fuelling your workouts you wont get anywhere.
Consume an adequate amount of carbs pre workout. Carbs before workouts fuel your muscle glycogen levels giving you the energy to perform at maximum level. Keep this meal under 10g of fat so that it doesn’t get digested slow and gets right to your system. I also recommend consuming 20-30g of protein in this meal as well. How many carbs you should eat before hand will be determined by trying to cut down or bulk up. A general range is 30-100g.
Powerlifting training can be brutal, set after set, rep after rep. At about some point in your workout you will feel totally spent and ready to leave the gym. This is where an intra workout meal or shake can help give you that extra push you need to finish your workout strong. I recommend having some form of fast digesting carbohydrates and 5g of BCAAs.
Some quick sources of carbohydrates: handful of fat free candy or Gatorade
How many carbs will be determined by you goal (bulking or cutting).
If you’re cutting 15-20g, bulking 25-35g depending on your total carb intake. This intra-workout shake/meal has helped me get thru some brutal workouts. They actually make you give you a boost right when you need it. Some people like to sip this thru their workouts; I like to start sipping it almost at the point when I feel like I am fading (usually about an hour into my training).
The big day has finally arrived; all your training boils down to the next couple of hours. You want to make sure you are properly fueled. If you have to make weight for a meet I suggest not eating or drinking until after you weigh in. Once you weigh in, begin sipping water and consume a medium sized meal with around 30g of protein and 50-70g of carbs while staying under 15g of fat.
I recommend something like 1.5 scoops of whey protein mixed with 2-3 packets of instant oatmeal and 1tbsp peanut butter. This meal will digest slow and give you a slow release of glucose into the blood stream. Depending on how long you have between weigh in and your first lift I recommend consuming another 30g of carbs with some fat. For this snack maybe some baked chips would work great.
As you begin performing your squat warm ups I recommend sipping on a caffeine based pre workout mixed with 30-50g of liquid carbs.
**Quick tip for a good burst of energy, only consume half this drink while warming up for squats. Consume the other half of this mix after your second attempt on Bench press to help you have energy to finish strong**
Nutrition is a vital component of strength but it is not the end all be all. You still have to make sure you are training properly. Always strive to consistently add weight to the bar. Doing this over years will add up to extremely impressive numbers.
Anthony Bevilacqua is a certified strength coach with a BS in nutrition.
Anthony has been an online coach for over a decade with many athletes under his belt.
Anthony specializes in getting his clients results; he can take anyone who is stuck not getting results and finally get them to where they want to go. In addition to having trained thousands of people Anthony is also a competitive natural bodybuilder’s and raw natural powerlifter.
For more information on him visit his website: www.abfitnesstrainer.com
Podcast on ITunes: New York Muscle Radio: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/new-york-muscle-radio-podcast/id931748952?mt=2
Then you’ll love this –
The DUP Method is the #1 training system for maximising your powerlifting performance whether gaining weight, or cutting.
This meet-specific protocol is guaranteed to send your squat, bench press and deadlift sky-rocketing.
Tags: contest dieting, cutting weight, meet prep, powerlifting, powerlifting nutrition, weight training
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