Power Nutrition Q&A - Part One!

Check back soon for updates to my power nutrition questions and answers. This week you will find out the importance of nutrition for powerlifters and why protein is so important! Send your questions to me to get REAL answers.
Note: This is part one, click here to view all parts!

During my time here at Bodybuilding.com I have gotten hundreds of emails from powerlifters in regards to nutrition questions or for program design. With my monthly column, I try to provide material that is educational and applicable to what you are trying to accomplish in the gym and on the platform. In this issue, I would like to share with you some of my letters that I have received from readers. One of the things that you may enjoy from these question and answer sessions is that you may notice yourself having the same problems in regards to your power nutrition plan. Here are two recent letters that I received from readers. I know that you will not only find them informative but humorous as well.

I first want to say that I am a big fan of your column. It is really nice to have a nutritional section in Powerlifting USA as I know it is one of the most overlooked aspects of our sport. I have been a powerlifter for the last 6 years and I follow the Westside method of training. I train 4 days a week for about an hour each session. I weigh 232 pounds and I recently have had my body fat percentage taken and it was 28%. I am currently having a hard time to put on lean muscle while dropping the extra pounds around my waist. I currently eat 3 meals per day and I don't particularly watch what I eat. I have never counted calories or my protein intake, but your nutrition column sparked some interest so I decided to give it a try. I went through a normal day of eating and at the end of the day I calculated what I ate. I calculated my calories at about 1835. My protein intake was at 67 grams and my carbohydrates were 150 grams for the day. Is this enough protein for my weight and workout schedule?

John Thomas

John, I am glad to hear that you like the nutritional articles and find them a benefit. You are not taking in the proper amount of calories or protein that your body needs to perform at its optimal level. First off, your calorie intake is way too low for your bodyweight. With the above calculations that you gave me you are not even getting 8 calories per pound of bodyweight. This is not enough calories for any powerlifter at your weight to take in on a daily basis, even if you are dieting. The protein intake is right on the money…NOT! It is no wonder that you are having a hard time putting on muscle and losing body fat. At your weight the minimum amount of protein that you should be getting in on a daily basis is 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. You are about 165 grams deficient of the minimum amount of protein that you need on a daily basis. How can you make progress eating like this? You won't!

First off get your calories up otherwise you are going to decrease your metabolic rate. This will help you jack up your body fat percentage and lose muscle at the same time. The minimum amount of calories you should be taking in is 2800 calories and once you train your metabolism to work at a more efficient rate they should be increased over a period of time to an amount that will be optimal for your individual needs.

I have powerlifters at your weight class consuming more than 5,000 calories per day and they are actually losing fat! Again this is all gauged in accordance to many factors including your basal metabolic rate, total energy expenditure, level of insulin sensitivity, thermic effect of food, age, macronutrient ratios and much more.

As for the protein, you have to increase your daily intake. According to the info that you sent me you are getting 67 grams per day. Protein has 4 calories per gram (67x4) which gives you a whopping caloric intake from nutrient dense protein at 268 calories. Subtract that from your 1835 and that gives 1567 calories from carbohydrates and fat. Now doesn't this look a little off? You have 268 calories from protein and 1567 calories from fat and carbohydrates. Now let's take it a step further. You mentioned that you ate 150 grams of carbohydrates in your plan. As you probably already know carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram as well. This will give us (150 grams X 4 calories) a carbohydrate calorie count of 600 calories.

John you forgot to mention how many grams of fat you ate during the day, but it doesn't matter as a little simple arithmetic will give us the answer. Since fat has 9 calories per gram, we can now subtract your total caloric intake minus your protein and carbohydrate caloric intake (1835 calories-868 calories). This gives you 967 calories derived from fat. This gives us a whopping intake of 107.5 grams of fat. Now if we take a further look into your macronutrient ratios for the day you have a distribution of your calories at Protein 15%, Carbohydrates 32% and your Fat intake at 53%. This macronutrient ratio is way off no matter how you look at the picture. The only thing that you will do with this type of nutritional plan is decrease your energy level, increase your fat stores, decrease your volume workload in the gym, reduce your recovery rate, catabolize your lean muscle tissue, decrease your strength and prevent an increase in lean muscle. This doesn't sound so good does it John?

Now ask yourself a few questions. How good is my recovery rate? Have I noticed an increase in my body fat percentage over the last few months? Have I put on any noticeable amount of lean muscle tissue in the last six months? How much has my total increased since my last competition? Do I have a hard time increasing my total volume workload? Do I burn out too fast in the gym or at competitions? Do I find myself having to use stimulants to keep me fuelled up for my workouts? Do I seem to have high and low energy levels throughout the day? Do I find myself tired after eating my lunch or dinner? John, you don't even have to answer these questions as I am sure I already know the answer to all of them. If you don't treat your body like a machine and provide it with quality fuel, then it will not work at its optimal level. What this means for the powerlifter is a lower energy level, increased body fat percentage, a decrease in lean muscle tissue, and a lower total!

John I highly recommend that you sit down with a sports nutritionist that works with strength athletes and get your meal plan fixed. Your progress in the gym is most definitely being hindered by your sub par nutritional intake. John, I hope that I opened your eyes on what is wrong with your diet and I know once you clean up your nutritional plan you will be very happy with the results.

I have been reading your nutritional column for the last few months and all I have to say is that you are way off on your nutritional thinking. Powerlifters don't need to watch what they eat, that's one of the things that makes this sport so great. I don't watch what I eat and I am already very strong. I have done a 520 squat at 268 pounds bodyweight. I think all this nutritional mumbo jumbo is a crock! I think if you eat all your so called health foods or you have a diet like mine, it won't make a difference once you step up on the platform.

I eat fast foods, candy bars, soda and just about anything else that I want on a daily basis and I am still as strong as an ox. If all your nutritional ideas are so great who have you worked with that can give credit for you nutritional plans? I think we should leave all that watch your fat, drink your water stuff to bodybuilders. Now what do you have to say nutrition man?

Mark "Candy Man" Clements

Hey Mark, the first thing you need to do is lay off the candy bars and gummi bears as I think they have put you into a sugar induced hyperactive state leading to some severe hallucinations! Now I know that you might like to toot your own horn but a 520 squat at 268 pounds bodyweight isn't even a double bodyweight squat. There are women in the 132 pound class out squatting you so I would first start off by not being so cocky about being as strong as an ox. Hey, don't get me wrong I love this sport as much as you but eating low quality garbage food is not what makes this sport great. Yes we may not have to diet like a bodybuilder or shave off all our body hair and get all tanned up when we have to step onstage, but that doesn't mean we should eat an unhealthy diet based upon fast foods and junk.

Now whether you agree or disagree with my nutritional views that is your business. Freedom of speech is one of the things that makes this country so great, but step back and take a look as what you are saying. From your letter, you basically told me that no matter what you eat, it won't affect your performance the least bit? Do you really believe that to be the truth? So if you eat a diet of fast food and candy bars like you mentioned above, or if you scientifically lay out a customized plan that balances your macronutrients in the optimal amounts, and maximize your micronutrients, you will be lifting the same amount of weight?

Well, from looking at your letter you don't have any educational background in the nutritional sciences, so I won't even start quoting different studies to prove that you are dead wrong in your assumptions. I know for a lot of lifters, studies don't really mean a thing. I will be one of the first people to say that not everything in a study will apply in the outside real world 100% of the time. They do however if they are performed in a proper setting with proper controls will help us understand how nutrients can help to better our performance.

So since we won't touch the scientific end in this conversation, how about some real world results? I have worked with numerous professional athletes from many different sports. The top names that I have worked with are too numerous to mention in this column but I will mentions some of my top stars.

Individuals That I Have Worked With:

  • Glen Ross - 3 time Britain's Strongest Man
  • Hugo Girard - 4 Time Canada's and 2 Time North America's Strongest Man
  • Oscar Chaplin III - World Champion and 2000 Sydney Olympic Weightlifter
  • Mike Ruggeria - 1000 pound squatter and Elite Lifter
  • Joe MaCauliffe - World Record holder in the Bench Press 570@198
  • Dr. Larry Miller - World Record Holder in the Bench Press 529@165
  • Bill Crawford - 760 Bench Press World Record @275
  • Jamie Harris - 771 Bench Press World Record@SHW
  • Bill Sindelar - USAPL Masters National Champion
  • Tee Myers - 6 time World Drug Free Champion, 760 deadlift@189
  • Jenifer Maille - Teenage World Champion and Record Holder in the Deadlift
  • Eric Knight - National Bench Press champion
  • Hennis Wahsington III - Top 132lb. WPO lifter,
  • Karren Sizemore - Biggest Female Bench Press @450 lbs.
  • Liz Willet - Multiple World Drug Free Champion
  • Dione Wessells -World Champion and Top level Strongwoman
  • Amy Weisburger - 8 time World Champion@132 lbs.
  • World's Strongest Powerlifter Garry Frank - 2640 Total and All Time World Record Deadlift @ 931 lbs.

I worked with Garry Frank prior to his all time world record Deadlift of 931 that he set back in November. If someone of his caliber is seeing a major difference in his performance then all I can say is the proof is in the pudding. The protein pudding that is! These are just to name a few of the people that I have worked with, so if you doubt my credibility give Garry a call as he would be glad to give you the 411 on how my nutritional programs have helped him reach new heights. It is your backwards mentality that you have for sports nutrition that is holding you back from reaching your potential. Don't take it from me, take it from one of my world champion athletes and see what they have to say.

If that still doesn't convince you I will give you a little wager that may help you to see the light. I am willing to put up $5,000 in cash for this bet, are you? Now all you have to do is follow one of my nutritional regiments for a 12 week cycle.

Don't alter your training, equipment, sleep schedule, or lifestyle. If you don't hit a PR in all three Powerlifts after you have honestly followed my nutritional and supplementation program for 12 weeks, then the cash is yours. How's that for a little faith in what I do? If you are interested in setting up this wager please contact me, and I will set the ball in motion. If I don't hear from you then I know that you probably got lost under a pile of candy bar wrappers or fell into a diabetic coma from your current nutritional plan. Mark I look forward to hearing from you.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to write me at aricciuto@x-tremepower.com.

Note: This is part one, click here to view all parts!