In the third part of this five part series I will be covering some basic mistakes that are made by a lot of powerlifters. I have gotten tons of response from our readers here at Bodybuilding.com about the first two parts and how many of them were guilty of the nutritional blunders that I discussed. Sometimes doing something that doesn't appear to be a nutritional mistake can really hold back your progress on many fronts.
From the response that I have been getting from readers including the hundreds of emails that I get every month, many powerlifters are now realizing how important a proper nutritional program is for your powerlifting success.
Not Having A Cheat Day
Now how did this end up in this article? Yes its true, not having a cheat day scheduled into your nutritional program is a big mistake. If you don't have something to look forward to at the end of the week, then what will help keep you on track? Well I was hoping that you would say that your intense desire to reach your optimal potential in powerlifting, but most will probably say their cheat day. Now I know that I constantly criticize powerlifters for eating some of the worst diets that I have ever witnessed, but telling a super heavyweight that his diet is going to based purely around chicken breasts and vegetables is about as realistic as that super showing up at his next contest in the 132 pound class.
With a cheat day in place each week, this will give you not only something to look forward to at the end of a hard week, but it will give you a break from all the nutritious foods that you have been devouring like a machine for the last 6 days. The purpose of the cheat day is to allow yourself to have one or two cheat meals for the day, to give you something to smile about. Now it still has to be in moderation here, don't get me wrong.
Don't think that I am advocating you going down to your local donut shop and starting off your day with a dozen donuts. This is not the case. I know as powerlifters we might like to do this once in a while, but not on a weekly basis. You see, I am not some boring nutritionist that just sits around nibbling on carrot sticks and nuts. With your weekly cheat meal or two in place depending on where you are in your training cycle and your current goals, it will give you that mental break and help you get through another week of eating clean. Not having a cheat day can be a big mistake so make sure that it is definitely part of your nutrition plan.
Changing Your Diet Too Drastically
Here is a mistake that I see too often with powerlifters even though their intention is good. Drastically changing your diet in a flash like many powerlifters do is not a good idea. This can also go both ways for both gaining and losing weight. A lot of lifters when looking to go up a weight class start just stuffing themselves like the world is going to end tomorrow. Even worse is that their nutritional guidance is not the greatest so a large majority of those ingested calories come from processed and refine carbs, sugar and saturated fat.
So where is this going to leave you? Well you can bet it will take you up a weight class but you sure aren't going to look good in your Speedos. If you have gone up a weight class recently, look in the mirror. Now I don't want you to oil yourself up and start posing like a gyrating maniac or anything but take a look at your physique. If you have put on a lot of lean tissue while your body fat has barely gone up then pat yourself on your oily back. I knew you couldn't resist and you just had to put on the posing oil.
If on the other hand you look like your midsection resembles a woman just about to go into labor, then you have done something very wrong with your nutritional plan to get you where you are now. Eating like this is only going to help you put on excessive amounts of body fat and this is not the goal in powerlifting. Fat weight can help you, but if you gained the exact same amount of lean muscle tissue instead then you are going to be a lot stronger. Take your time and work in stages. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day and an elite total won't be either.
Not Eating Every Three Hours
"What? I have to eat every three hours? I don't think I can do that. It's a lot to ask of me." Some powerlifters really take this the wrong way. It's like I asked them if I could use their toothbrush because I left mine at home. Eating every three hours is almost unheard of for powerlifters. Many lifters just have the "Big Three" each day and think that this is going to help them reach their goals. There are way too many benefits to eating every three hours. Just to give you an idea of what it will do for you is the following.
It will keep your blood sugar levels stable, keep you in a positive nitrogen balance, prevent hypoglycemia, prevent you going into a catabolic state, increase your energy levels, keep your metabolic rate elevated, keep you in anabolic state, optimize hormone levels including testosterone, insulin, insulin growth factor 1, growth hormone, and increase your insulin sensitivity just to name a few. Now I know these physiological processes may sound all scientific, but the bottom line is eating every three hours will make you a stronger, leaner, more energetic powerlifter that is capable of handling higher volume workloads with faster recovery.
Now that I am speaking in your language do you think I have a case? I sure do, so make sure you keep the meals frequent and don't go all day without eating. Remember, the only one you are cheating is yourself, so make sure you feed the machine the right fuels so that you will lift like a hydraulic jack not a human being.
Eating Too Little When Cutting a Weight Class
Now just how powerlifters seem too eat too much most of the time, there are other times when they eat too little. I know this is hard to imagine as I did say the word "Powerlifter" but this is something that I see with a lot of lifters when they are trying to go down a weight class. The first mistake that I see with powerlifters when trying to go down a weight class is that they start skipping meals or reduce the number they have per day. This is the completely wrong way to go about what you are trying to accomplish. Doing this will slow down your metabolism and this is exactly when you don't want this to happen.
This is the worst thing to do especially when you are trying to keep it as elevated as possible. Second this is going to cause you to lose the wrong type of weight. When a lifter comes to visit me for a consultation many are happy that they have lost weight on their own. Usually nine times out of ten, the lifter did it the wrong way. Now what I am going to explain to you is something you won't like to hear. So let's say that Mr. Powerlifter informs me that he has recently dropped 10 pounds in the last week or two. He is thrilled to the max, but he shouldn't be.
You see when he revealed to me what his nutritional program consisted of to help him lose is weight I can tell right away what type of weight he lost. Now because he dieted incorrectly, out of the ten pounds that he lost, eight will be muscle and water.
The other two measly pounds were fat. Does this sound like a good plan for a performance strength athlete? Do you think that losing 8 pounds of muscle and water will have a positive effect on his performance when he steps up on the platform? Of course it won't, it will most definitely decrease his performance. When a nutrition program is customized for an individual by a professional, the only thing that you should lose is fat, that's it! The lean tissue should be maintained or increased as well as your water volume. This is why with my personal practice the clients lean tissue, water volume and body fat percentage are constantly monitored to make sure that the client is going forward with their progress not backwards.
I cannot stress how important that body composition monitoring is. The goal when going down a weight class is too lose as much body fat as possible while maintaining your lean tissue, thereby keeping you just as strong at a lighter weight. Only when this is accomplished can water manipulation be played with the last days before the event. You see going down a weight class is a little more scientific than skipping a few meals and cutting down on your cheesecake the last couple of weeks before your national championships.
Eating Carbs By Themselves
Here we go again. Another powerlifting nutritional folly that I see from not only beginning lifters but from world champions as well. If you remember back to my article series called the "Carbohydrate Manifesto" I really went through and explained the carbohydrate macronutrient in full detail to give you a better understanding about this very important nutrient. Now don't get me wrong, I don't look at carbs as the main reason for all the strife in the world like some nutritionists, but eating the wrong ones, at the wrong times, combined with the wrong foods can definitely lead to a nutritional disaster guaranteed!
If you are one of the powerlifters out there eating carbs alone in any of your meals, stop put down that fork and read on. This is one of the worst mistakes you can make and should be avoided. Eating carbs alone can not only change the way your physique looks for the worst, it can decrease your performance, and cause a slew of health problems as well. First off eating carbs alone will cause you to increase your fat stores. So if you are interested in putting a couple more inches of love around your midsection keep eating carbs alone.
Hey maybe your better half likes playing with the extra folds of flesh around your midsection, but I'll tell you one thing it sure isn't going to take your total to an elite level!
Remember, the carbs that you eat are going to be first stored in your muscle cells in the form of glycogen, and then your liver. When these reserves are full your excess is going to be shuttled right to your fat cells. This is where all the trouble starts and now your "Love Handles" need their own zip code. See, it doesn't sound so good does it? So now that you know that this going to make you look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man instead of a strength athlete, take my advice and don't eat carbs alone.
Ignoring Your Fruits And Vegetables
Yes your mother was right all those years. Ignoring your fruits and vegetables is another mistake many powerlifters are guilty of. Both of these should be a large part of your nutritional plan. The problem with most powerlifters is instead of fruits and vegetables being a staple in their diet, soda and ice cream are. Fruits and vegetables is a complex topic as I can do an entire article on them alone. Now lets take a look at some of the positive benefits of eating your fruits and vegetables. One very important thing that they contain is something called phytochemicals.
No, this is not some type of chemical warfare agent produced by some rogue state. Phytochemicals are chemicals produced by plants. They are substances that limit the growth of cancer cells in humans. It is believed that the phytochemicals found in strawberries, blueberries, and spinach has the power to increase cell membrane fluidity. Now you might be wondering what the hell does cell membrane fluidity have to do with powerlifting, but stop your whining and listen up. This would allow nutrients to easily pass through the cells, which is something you want especially when you are eating a power packed nutritional plan day in and day out.
Phytochemicals can aid in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Different fruits and vegetables are believed to fight off different types of cancer as well. Now there are many different types of classifications of these phytochemicals so I won't go into them all right here as I will save this for an upcoming article. Another very important thing that fruits and vegetables contain is antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals and this is a good thing. You see free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron. This makes them something you don't want running around your body like a hyperactive kid with ADD after eating 6 chocolate bars. Since they are missing an electron this gives them strong electro negativity or the need to fill their electron shell. To complete their shell and become positive, free radicals will take an electron from another molecule or give an electron to another molecule.
The molecule that gained or lost an electron is now a free radical. This is called oxidation and is something you want to avoid if you want to enjoy a healthy life. The new free radical now looks to make it positive. It finds another molecule and completes oxidation. This sets off a chain reaction which can harm many molecules. Antioxidants stop this chain reaction from taking place. Some antioxidants give the free radicals an electron, while others destroy the free radical. Free radicals can cause a variety of negative effects, so it is important to get rid of them not only for your powerlifting success but for your health as well. Fruits and vegetables are known for their antioxidant properties and this is another reason why they should be a major part of your nutritional plan. So listen to your mom and make sure you are eating your fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Not just when she forces you to eat them so you can have your dessert.
Here are some nutritional mistakes that I have witnessed with a lot of powerlifters and strength athletes that have come to me for nutritional program design and consultation. Many of the above mistakes you may have known of, but weren't quite sure why they were a mistake and how they affect your health and powerlifting performance. Now with this knowledge you can apply these rules to your nutritional plan. Next month I will be discussing some more advanced mistakes that will surely leave your total far from your true potential. So until next month eat your fruits and vegetables and make sure you don't become another powerlifting nutrition statistic.