Nutrition for the Female Powerlifter

By: Lisa Guggisberg

As a female powerlifter one of the most recurrent questions I am asked is “What do you eat?” or “What is your diet?” I am usually hesitant to answer this question primarily because I am not an expert nutritionist. I also reluctantly answer because I usually start to lose people when I tell them what I eat as my diet is not sexy. It’s boring, regimented, strict and resembles an old school bodybuilder diet. Most people don’t want to hear “it’s hard and not easy”. Most people want a diet that’s easy to follow and allows you to eat whatever you want and still obtain your goals. Let me tell you, there is not a magic pill or magical fairy dust.

Let me give you a disclaimer before I chap some asses; everyone is different, every body responds differently, there is no right or wrong way to program a diet and let me reiterate again, I am not a nutritionist. Therefore, do what you know works for you. This article is simply meant to share what has worked for me. With that being said, I have noticed there seems to be a new trend that eating doughnuts will help you hit PR’s, Oreos are squat fuel, bacon makes you strong, or if it fits into your marcos you certainly can eat that double bacon, doughnut burger or chemically potent fat free ice cream. Understand that food is a drug. Nutrition and its effects can be manipulated to reach an objective. How, what and when you dose yourself determines the product, and in the case of a powerlifter the product is strength. I eat to perform and base my diet off what will give me optimal performance; therefore, nutrition is one of the base lines of my strength gains. You can work hard training in the gym, but if you are not putting the correct fuel in your body it will hinder strength and just as important…your recovery. It’s simple; you get what you put in. I do treat myself to cheat meals; however, I keep the junk food limited to holidays when I am not in meet prep.

[wa-wps]

This leads me to the second trend I have notice among female powerlifters. As strength athletes our caloric intake is slightly higher than the average female and for that matter, many other female athletes. We typically do not reduce calories as a figure or physique competitor would do. Powerlifters are not as concerned with aesthetics, however, that does not mean you should eat an entire pizza or a 20 oz. steak and call it “gains”. You do not need to eat like a 300 pound man just because you are a strength athlete. Remember that you are a female and your caloric intake is different than a man’s. I see a lot of female powerlifters taking in excess calories which results in non-muscle weight gain. The goal is to gain lean muscle, not just weight. Lean muscle is what equals additional pounds on the platform.

So you may be asking what should I eat? When planning a diet consider your macronutrient ratios. I typically run two diets:

The first diet is a high carb/low fat (macronutrient ratio of 40-50% carbs/ 40-50% protein/ 10-20% fat). With a high carb diet you will have high energy levels and be in constant state of anabolism. The carbs will keep you constantly pumped and not be in a shortage of muscle glycogen. I run this a high carb diet when I am training in higher percentages and energy and recovery are key.

The other diet is a high fat/low carb (macronutrient ration of 30-40% fat/ 40-50% protein/ 10-30% carbs). I use this for losing fat. Generally I run 50-150g of carbs per day on a low carb diet. When running a lower carb diet your body will go into ketosis. Ketosis is the metabolic process that occurs when your body does not have enough glucose for energy and uses stored fat for energy. Insulin levels will stabilize and help reset the metabolism. I wouldn’t recommend going under 20 grams of carbs a day. If there is not enough glycogen ketosis will deplete muscle glycogen, water and ultimately strength. Good fats are coconut oil and olive oil, stay away from saturated fats. I usually return back to this diet after a meet to reset everything and to work off any post meet “bloat”.

Typical day on High Carbs

6:00 a.m.

20 oz. hot water with lemon

7:00 a.m.

½ scoop protein, 3 oz. of nuts

9:00 a.m.

½ cup oats.

1 cup liquid egg whites or 3 oz. of chicken.

1 cup of greens (kale, broccoli, asparagus or I scoop of powder greens)

11:00 a.m.

7 oz. Sweet Potato

1 cup of egg whites or 3 oz. chicken

1:30 p.m.

1 cup of white rice

4 oz. chicken

3:30 p.m.

4 oz. of lean ground beef

1 cup of greens (kale, broccoli, asparagus or 1 scoop of powder greens)

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

5:00 p.m. (Training)

Intra workout shake of BCAA’s, glutamine, creatine, L-Carnitine

Immediately Post training shake protein ½ scoop of low carb protein

8:00 p.m.

4 oz. chicken

2 cups white rice

10:00 p.m.

¼ cup of oats

1 scoop of powder greens

½ scoop of low carb protein

lisa 22

Typical day on High Fats

6:00 a.m.

20 oz. hot water with lemon

7:00 a.m.

½ scoop protein, 3 oz. of nuts

9:00 a.m.

2 whole hard boiled eggs

3 oz. lean ground beef

1 cup of greens (kale, broccoli, asparagus or 1 scoop of powder greens)

½ tablespoon of coconut oil

11:00 a.m.

7 oz. Sweet Potato

1 cup of egg whites or 3 oz. chicken

1:30 p.m.

3 oz. lean ground beef

1 cup of greens (kale, broccoli, asparagus or 1 scoop of powder greens)

3:30 p.m.

4 oz. of lean ground beef

1 cup of greens

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

5:00 p.m. (Training)

Intra workout shake of BCAA’s, glutamine, creatine, L-Carnitine, plus Gatorade or intra carb mix.

Immediately Post training shake protein ½ scoop of low carb protein

8:00 p.m.

4 oz. chicken

1 cup white rice

10:00 p.m.

¼ cup of oats

1 scoop of powder greens

½ scoop of low carb protein

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Supplements

Regarding supplements; remember that supplements are exactly what their name implies. They are to supplement your baseline diet. They are not to meant to play a key role in your diet.

Glutamine: A naturally occurring essential amino acid that can help minimize muscle breakdown and increase protein metabolism.

Creatine: There is a ton of research and articles regarding creatine. Basically is helps push carbs (energy) and water through the muscle, which means muscle growth.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin: If you have issues with your joints Glucosamine and Chondrotin may help, they help joint stability and cartilage lube. They may help prevent and relieve joint pain in strength athletes.

BCAA’s: Branched chain amino acids. Help to increase the rate of protein synthesis and increase the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis. Basically, they help break down protein and get it where it needs to go.

L-Carnitine: This is another amino acid. It helps to reduce lactic acid build and help metabolize food as energy.

Women’s multi-vitamin: This helps to fill any gaps missing in your diet, be it calcium, Vitamin C, etc.

A Few Guidelines or Rules I Follow

  • Don’t mix fats with carbs during meals. The body will run off either fats or carbs. Adding the two together will shut down any fat burning or energy process.
  • Small meals every 2 hours.
  • Measure and weigh food. Eyeballing can get you in trouble. 1-2 oz. over at every meal all day can add up to significant overages of unnecessary calories.
  • Be flexible and find substitutes to food. Don’t like egg whites? Try lean sliced turkey.

The bottom line ladies, (and some gentlemen) is to train like a man and eat smart. There is not magic potion, just dedication and the right mind set.

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A self-proclaimed former high school band nerd turned meathead nerd, Lisa has been coached and mentored by Brian Carroll using 10/20/Life principals for 3 years. She started CrossFiting in 2006 but gave that up after realizing all she wanted to do was squat, bench and deadlift heavy. She now competes as a raw and multi-ply powerlifter in the 114 and 123 weight classes. Lisa has All-Time top 10 totals in both raw and multi-ply in her respective weight classes with a raw pro total of 936 lbs at 114 and a pro 1118 lb multi-ply pro total at 123 and 1090 lb multi-ply total at 114. She is currently ranked the #1 female multi-ply lifter at 123, #2 at 114 multi-ply female and #3 raw with wraps. Lisa has a B.A. in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration, but hates politics and political debates. She is a mom of two, a firefighter wife and has worked as a full time litigation paralegal for almost 20 years.
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