Diet and Nutrition

Powerful nutritional tactics for meet day

Today is the day of the big competition. You’ve been putting in some of the hardest training sessions of your life. You’ve been getting plenty of sleep, even taking those extra power naps that help you recover from those brutal workouts.

You’ve been taking the latest supplements, making sure you have that natural edge. You’ve even been avoiding those late nights out with the boys to make sure that your training doesn’t suffer. Your gear couldn’t be in better working order. You just had that double ply denim bench shirt tweaked just right, and those new knee wraps have really made the difference this last training cycle. Everything is perfect or is it?

You run out the door after wolfing down some breakfast and are at the meet with enough time to weigh in and listen to those boring rules meetings. Yeah I know, you have to break parallel in the squat. Come on and get on with the show! You double checked your gear twice to make sure you have everything from your ammonia caps to that all important water bottle used to wet down the seams in that new denim shirt. Just when you think you brought everything that you will ever need to the meet, including that good luck jock strap from when you used to play high school football, it suddenly hits you. You forgot one very important thing-FUEL. Not the type to run your car, but the kind that is going to get you through the entire contest, and keep you going strong all day long. You have forgotten to bring the right nutrients that your body will need to perform optimally at the contest. No problem you say, “I’ll just grab something at the meet.” Food is food right? Wrong! This major mistake has just caused you to hinder your performance on the most important training day of the year. All the preparation and hard work, the endless hours of sweat and tears could be completely ruined if you don’t plan out your nutritional tactics for meet day. Don’t let this happen to you!

Nutrition is often overlooked in the sport of powerlifting. I know, we don’t have to have 3% body fat like the bodybuilders we so strongly detest. Nor do we have to posses the endurance to run or cycle mile after mile like a triathatlete, but that doesn’t mean that nutrition doesn’t play a vital role in the performance of the powerlifter. The above scenario may seem unrealistic, but I have seen it happen not just at state meets but at national and world meets! I have witnessed one guy scarf down link after link of sausage, gorge himself on endless strips of bacon and then wash it down with some sugary fruit punch drink less than half an hour before squat warm ups. Then I hear him complain that he feels bloated during his squat attempts. What else would you expect to feel after inhaling several small farm animals right before your warm ups. Another personal favorite is the guy who scarfs down a couple candy bars and washes them down with close to two liters of soda after his squats. He seems to be flying high until he misses his 2nd and 3rd bench attempts. Later I hear him telling his handlers that he just ran out of steam and he can’t figure out why. Considering he consumed enough sugar to put a polar bear into a diabetic coma, I’m surprised that’s the only thing that happened. Then there is the guy who avoids breakfast because of his nervous stomach. For the rest of the day he may have a couple pieces of fruit but his hunger starts to kick in right at the worst time. His favorite time to load up on a double burger, fries and a vanilla milkshake- is oh about 45 minutes before his first deadlift attempt. Then he complains that he his stomach hurts trying to get down into proper deadlifting form. I know these scenarios sound really funny but they are things I have experienced while coaching some of my athletes at competitions.

The purpose of this article is to help the competitive powerlifter plan out what kind of things one should and should not do on meet day in regards to nutrition and supplementation. Let’s start off with some of the better things to eat on meet day. Nerves can be at an all time high come competition day and you don’t want to weigh yourself down with foods that take several hours to digest. Breakfast is going to be a very important meal so make sure you start your day off in the right direction. You want to consume an adequate amount of protein, carbs and fat, yet you don’t want to eat half of the country’s livestock just before doing squats. Breakfast should take place about 2 hours before warm ups. If you are the type that has a hard time stomaching food on meet day, make it 3 hours. One word of advice, eat only until you feel slightly satisfied, not to the point where you have to unbutton your jeans to get a little breathing room. Remember, you are fueling your body for competition, not trying to get your moneys worth at a Sizzler buffet. For breakfast you want to eat a low glycemic carbohydrate that is going to give you the proper energy source to start off your day. My personal favorite is a bowl of rolled oats with a diced apple and cinnamon for flavor. For a protein source, a lean piece of beef or a small omelet is perfect.

The best thing to drink would be a glass or two of purified water. This will help keep you hydrated before you start your warm ups. Foods that you want to avoid would include fatty meats like sausage, bacon, and high glycemic carbohydrates like fruit juices and pancakes smothered in syrup. This will cause the blood to be pulled from your muscles and to be relocated to your stomach to start the digestion process. This is not something you want come meet day, especially before your opening squat attempt.

During the competition, eating large amounts of food, especially the wrong types are not recommended. This will cause you to feel lethargic and out of the groove. Even worse is if you don’t eat the right combinations of foods you may cause a massive insulin spike that will drain your energy at the time you need it most. During the competition small meals should be consumed that are easily digested. For carbohydrate sources you want to stick with ones that have a low glycemic index. This will protect you from your blood sugar level from taking a rollercoaster nightmare which will cause a decrement in your performance. Protein is also important in keeping your blood sugar level stable and to maintain an influx of amino acids to your hard working muscles. Chicken breast, fish and lean cuts of beef in small amounts will do the trick. In the charts 1A and 1B, I have laid out what types of foods to consume, and to avoid on meet day. This allows you to mix and match to your desired taste. These are not your only choices available, but this will give you a start. You can find a Sample Nutritional and Supplement Outline below also. This is an example of one of my athletes that they have used with success on competition day. Remember, everything is relative. If you are a smaller lifter you may eat less, if you are a super heavyweight you may have to increase the amount of nutrient dense food.

Hydration is another key factor in obtaining your optimal performance come meet day. You should never be thirsty, as this is an indication that you are already dehydrated. Even a 2% dehydrated state will cause a decrement in performance, so make sure you bring at least a gallon of purified water with you. For those that made weight in the morning using a sauna or some other type of water weight loss technique, hydration will play an even more important role with you. Consuming a liquid electrolyte formula after weigh ins to replenish minerals you have lost will be very important. An electrolyte imbalance can cause you to cramp, decrease your strength, and set you up for injury. Electrolytes improve fluid absorption and the transport of nutrients into working muscles, so their importance cannot be over emphasized when cutting weight. Sipping on a glucose polymer solution between your attempts and events will help replenish glycogen stores and prevent dehydration.

In regards to supplementation, this can be your ace in the hole for your meet day nutrition strategy. For those that can’t stomach too much solid food during the contest a protein shake can be substituted. I recommend that you stick with a whey protein isolate because it is fast absorbing and it is easy on the stomach. Egg or casein protein powders may cause bloating in some individuals, so avoid them on meet day.

Protein bars can also help when in a bind but make sure they are low in sugar. Everyone likes some type of pick me up for the show and the most popular is the Ephedrine/Caffeine/Aspirin stack in either synthetic or herbal versions. Make sure you check with your organization for specific supplementation rules. One ingredient that has benefited my lifters is adding L- Tyrosine to the stack. This is an amino acid which the brain converts to several stimulatory neurotransmitters. These include dopamine, epinephrine, and nor epinephrine. Studies have shown that L-Tyrosine can increase energy levels, improve mental concentration, and increase performance. Stacking this with your ECA can really give you that extra kick. Creatine is another valuable meet day supplement. Since it helps replenish your ATP stores, it will help increase your overall output and help you recover for the next event. My lifters take a serving directly after the squat and bench press. The glucose polymer solution that I mentioned will be beneficial in keeping you hydrated and maintain your blood glucose levels, keeping you fuelled throughout the day. Just make sure the label says glucose polymer. This is a longer chain carbohydrate molecule, so they prevent you from crashing like the bench presser I mentioned earlier. The perfect type is a combination of maltodextrin and amylopectin starches. Avoid many of today’s popular sports drinks as many of them contain the wrong types of carbohydrates that can decrease your performance. Avoid drinks containing corn syrup or sucrose. In regards to supplementation on meet day, don’t take anything that you haven’t used in training. You don’t want anything to upset your stomach or give your nervous system a shock right before the meet. As always, don’t change anything last minute.

Into the millennium powerlifters are looking to increase their performance from many new angles. Optimum sports nutrition for the powerlifter can no longer be overlooked when trying to obtain a PR. If you have overlooked your powerlifting nutrition in the past now is the time to make a change. Eating three square meals a day will no longer cut it. In powerlifting, performance nutrition is the weak link that can drastically affect your progress in the long run. A powerful nutritional regiment is going to take powerlifters to the next level in their health, recovery and performance. Don’t be the one that has forgotten about his nutritional tactics for meet day because your competition won’t!

Table 1A – Foods to Consume

Table 1B – Foods to Avoid

Sample Nutritional and Supplement Outline

Breakfast 7:00 AM

Meal 1

1 bowl of Rolled Oats
1 Apple
1 Omelet consisting of 6 egg whites and 2 yolks
1 Tbsp. of Flax Oil or Fish Oil
16oz of water
Vitamin/Mineral Pack
1 gram of Vitamin C

9:00 AM

ECA stack + 3 grams of L- Tyrosine

9:30 AM (During Squat Warm-ups and Attempts)

8-16oz of Glucose Polymer Solution
Continue to sip solution as needed after attempts

11:00 AM (After Squat Event)

Meal 2

5 grams of Creatine
5 grams of Glutamine
50 grams of Maltodextrin
25-50 grams of Protein
1 Sweet Potato

1:00 PM (Bench Press Warm-ups and Attempts)

8-16oz of Glucose Polymer Solution
Continue to sip solution as needed after attempts

2:00 PM (After Bench Press Event)

Meal 3

5 grams of Creatine
5 grams of Glutamine
50 grams of Maltodextrin
25-50 grams of Protein

3:00 PM (Long break for the Bench Press Competition)

Meal 4

1 Chicken Breast
¼ cup of Brown Rice
1 Apple
1 Tbsp. of Flax Oil or Fish Oil

4:15 PM

ECA stack + 3 grams of L-Tyrosine

5:00 PM ( Warm up for Deadlift and attempts)

8-16oz of Glucose Polymer Solution
Continue to sip solution as needed after attempts

5:45PM (After Deadlift Attempts)

Meal 5

5 grams of Creatine
5 grams of Glutamine
50 grams of Maltodextrin
25-50 grams of Protein
Vitamin/Mineral Pack
1 gram of Vitamin C

Meal 6 (After the Meet)

Here anything goes, but here is my personal favorite.

16 oz Steak
Baked Potato with Sour Cream
Chocolate Milk
1-2 pieces of cheese cake ( Hey you deserve it!)

Written by Anthony Ricciuto

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