Many of you are wonderfully curious lifters who ask questions not only about lifting technique, but also about the appropriate diet to complement your lifting. We three coaches are not certified nutritionists, but we are passionate about what we do, and we do a lot of eating. Therefore, we’ve done a lot of reading about, and experimenting with, eating habits geared toward maximizing performance in the sport of weightlifting. This is the introduction to a mini-series of posts about our own goal-driven eating habits, which will at the very least entertain you, and might even inspire you.
The point: Your eating must complement your training goals. If you don’t have any training goals, stop reading and go make some.
Your training goals will generally determine whether your body needs to be heavier, lighter, leaner, fatter, stronger or faster. Appropriate training, only when combined with appropriate eating, will allow you to make the desired adjustments to your body and its capacities.
Disclaimer: we are not nutritionists nor do we pretend to be. We are just real people, like you, who have our own goals and experiences with food. Rather than offer abstract advice (i.e. “diets” like Paleo, Zone, Atkins, Cyclic Low Carb) about what you should eat if you want _______, we’re going to simply tell you about (and show you) what we eat and why. We hope that this will be instructive for people who have training goals similar to our own but who haven’t yet figured out an eating plan that is consonant with those goals. We also hope that you’ll be amused by how differently we eat, despite the fact that we’re all three weightlifters in our mid-late twenties. Sometimes Forney eats a pizza and a pint of ice cream while Elizabeth puts down a whole rotisserie chicken and Jenni brings home beef tongue tacos from La Michoacana. Each ‘meal’ contributes towards our goals. This mini-blog will serve as a digest (pun intended) of our eating habits, with commentary on why we ate what we ate. We encourage you to read about our eating habits as three case studies in goal-driven eating.
Case Study 1: Forney (30 year old, male, 5’8’’, 77kg lifter)
My training goal from August 2012 to about March of 2013 was to add bodyweight and strength. My long term goal for the year was to begin competing as a 77kg lifter and to perform as well as possible in my first competition (which occurred in April of 2013). As in any sport with weight classes, there are inherent advantages to being heavier: therefore, if you want to compete as a 77kg lifter, you want to weigh something like 78-80kg when training, and 76.9kg on the morning of the competition, and you would like for only about 6-8% of that weight would be body-fat on the day of the competition. As of returning from Sierra Leone in July of 2012, I weighed about 68kg. This bodyweight was the product of significant loss of muscle mass as a result of de-conditioning and the ravages of a number of tropical diseases that I managed to contract in West Africa. I knew that getting back to 74kg would be easy (I had been there before) but getting my body to 78kg would be a bit of a struggle. I am what, in the parlance of bodybuilding bro-science, is called a “hard gainer.”
Case Study 2: Elizabeth (29 year old, female, 5’5”, 69kg lifter)
Since I made the switch from Crossfit to weightlifting in December 2011, my goal was simple: become a full 69kg (I was more like 66-67kg) and get stronger. After completely filling out and continuing to make strength gains, and after a few competitions under my belt (including University Nationals), my composition goal for the past year was to maintain body weight while still making strength gains. My training goal for 2013 was to compete at two National competitions (goal met: competed at USAW Nationals in July, and am currently preparing for the USAW American Open, which comes up in early December). As for weight, I like to stay no heavier than 71kg, since cutting more than 2kg for a meet can be unnecessary added stress. In competition, I only have 2 hours between the time I weigh-in and the time I lift, so it’s ideal to not be calorically deficient the week before or have to dehydrate too much in order to make weight. As for lifts, I wanted to continue to see an increase in strength while not seeing an increase in bodyweight. I have always struggled with the roller coaster of easy weight gain versus difficult weight loss, and discovered many various ways of eating in the meantime. Some worked well, most didn’t, and very few provided the proper fuel I needed for my physical demands. Recently I’ve managed to find the foods and eating habits to meet my goals (protein-centric meals that avoid inflammatory foods as much as possible) as well as fixing my hormonal issues (quite literally, and I’ll dive further into this topic in future posts, but the summary is “carbs are your friend”).
Case Study 3: Jenni (25 year old, female, 5’2″, 58kg lifter)
When I started CrossFit in 2010, I weighed in at around 50kg. I was very tiny and quickly gained a lot of muscle mass and by the time I got into weightlifting, I was a solid 63kg. After getting comfortable with weightlifting and training, I realized I would perform and feel better as a 58kg. To keep my energy and hormone levels consistent, I eat a high-protein, moderate-fat, moderate-carb diet, focusing on whole foods and appropriately-raised meats. A typical day for me starts with eggs and bacon/sausage, followed by a well-rounded lunch of veggies and meats, and then a protein-focused dinner (adding more carbs if I trained that evening). I drink (probably too much) coffee everyday and try to stay as hydrated as I can. I have been known to binge on chocolate and I have no regrets. My main goal with food is keep a level head and not be neurotic about intake and quality (easier said than done). Food is more than just fuel to me, it’s a way of bonding, communicating, and experiencing the world. Eat, live, and be merry!