Yes, it's finally here! You now have the final part in this three part series on how to go up a weight class. All the while making sure you don't look like you have been on a serious diet of hot dogs and marshmallows. By the time you finish this article you will know the top 25 ways to put on solid muscle so that going up your weight class is a little more scientifically laid out than raiding your local "All you Can Eat" buffet a couple times a week. In the final installation of this series, I will discuss the last 9 tips to make sure that your venture of going up a weight class was a success, not a higher cholesterol rating.
Avoid Processed & Junk Foods
I know I will get a lot of flak for this one but I had to say it. When I hear most powerlifters discuss that they are going up a weight class it reminds me of children talking about how they are going to Disney Land. It's like they have just won the lottery. Just because you are going up a weight class doesn't mean you have a blank check to eat all the junk that you can get your hands on. I know this may sound funny, but it is a reality among a lot of powerlifters. Plain and simple, processed foods are not healthy for the body.
When you look back to our ancestors they ate mainly foods in a natural state. They didn't eat things like potato chips, chocolate tacos, ice cream, chocolate bars, deli meats, candy, and all the other junk foods that people go crazy for.
Let's face reality for a second here, these "nutritious foods" may help you get a bigger total in "Bizarro World", but I am sad to tell you they won't help your total in this one! Not only will these foods add an extra roll of fat around your waist, they will also increase your chances for a whole slew of health conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes among others.
Schedule A Cheat Meal
"Did you just say cheat meal?" "I thought you told us not to eat all the bad foods that you mentioned above." Well, I do know that powerlifters are human after all, not strength cyborgs from another planet. Yes, I don't want unhealthy junk foods to be a regular part of your diet, but if I told you to have a total abstinence from the foods that you have loved all your life, you will give up before you get started.
The point here with your scheduled cheat day is that you allow yourself one cheat meal per week. Note I said cheat meal, not cheat day. This will allow you once a week to eat whatever you want in a reasonable amount for one meal on your cheat day. The main purpose of this is to allow you to have a mental break from your daily nutritional plan. At the same time it lets you enjoy something you like and it will help keep you on track the rest of the week.
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Consume Your Healthy Fats
If you have been a regular reader of my column, than you already know my view on fat. The type of fat that I will be discussing here is what is known in layman's terms as "Healthy Fats". These healthy fats include your Omega 3-6-9. The Omega 3 and 6 are known as polyunsaturated fats and the Omega 9 is known as monounsaturated fat. The Omega 3's are one of the most important since they have many benefits for the powerlifter. They increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation of your joints and tendons.
Your Omega 9's are important since they contain oleic acid which is known to keep the arteries of your heart supple, and they have a positive effect on your testosterone level. Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram; while fat has over double that at 9 calories per gram. Not only will healthy fats help in many areas for health and strength, but they will provide an excellent source of calories. One tablespoon of flax or olive oil contains 114 calories and 14 grams of fat. Just say yes to healthy fats to keep your weight and total climbing!
Optimize Your Post Workout Nutrition
Now when I say the words post workout nutrition, what comes to your mind? Is it go home and eat what ever you like? Is it to hit the local ice cream shop for a double scoop of chocolate fudge layered in marshmallows and sprinkles? Or is it something you have systematically and scientifically planned out to make sure that you are providing your body with the nutrients that it needs to gain benefit from that crazy workout that you just did? Now from most of the lifters that I have talked to, they don't have a clue what to eat after their workouts.
They just go with the flow and eat whatever is lying around their house when they get home from their workouts, or whatever fast food drive thru is closest to the gym. This may sound funny but if this is you I will tell you straight. You are destroying all the hard work that you just performed by not supplying your body with what it needs at the most important time of the day. Post workout nutrition is much more complicated than just simply eating your piping hot dinner (what ever it may be) when you get home from the gym.
You have to supply your body with quality protein and carbohydrates along with a multitude of micronutrients and nutrient partitioning agents if you are looking to get the most from your training. In a future issue I will be discussing post workout nutrition and how it applies to the powerlifter. Just remember if you don't think that your post workout nutrition plan is optimal, it most likely is giving your competition a major advantage come contest day!
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Prepare Your Foods Ahead Of Time
You are probably wondering what this has to do with packing on mass. We are in a time when we are working more hours than we like, our family responsibilities are at an all time high, deadlines for work and life have to be met, and the amount of free time that we have for ourselves is very limited. With this in mind, I recommend for all my athletes to prepare their meals ahead of time. That is unless you live on a lavish estate where you have your very own servant and chef waiting on your every beck and call.
Ok, back to reality here for a minute. The fact is if you try to stick to the guidelines that I have layed out for you in the past three articles of this series, it is unrealistic to think that you are going to prepare all of your foods on a daily basis every morning before going into the office. It's simply too much work to keep it up day after day. This is one of the reasons why many people fall off their diets, and fail to stick with their plan. I suggest that you prepare your foods for 2-3 days in advance. A Sunday evening would be perfect for this. Prepare your different foods and put them into Tupperware containers in the fridge. Now have a separate set of Tupperware containers that you will bring to work in your cooler bag every day.
Just bring them to work and nuke them for a few minutes and voila, you have a ready to go nutritious high protein, carbohydrate rich meal that will keep you fueled all day long. Do the same with your protein drinks. Pick up a few protein shaker bottles which you can get at any Bodybuilding.com store. Put your protein powder in each bottle and throw them in your bag. At work, having a shake will be as simple as adding some water, shaking and drinking. All which can be done in under a minute's time.
You have to make eating healthy convenient or you will turn into one of those individuals that tells everyone that you would like to eat healthy but it's just too time consuming. Yet these are the same individuals that spend 3 hours every night in front of the television to watch their favorite shows. You have to prioritize what is most important, and if you consider yourself a serious powerlifter than there is no way that you shouldn't be bringing your cooler bag to work with pre planned nutritious meals. If athletes of other sports can do this then there is no reason why powerlifters can't do it!
Watch Your Alcohol Intake
I know that you didn't want to hear this one. One of the things that seem to increase with a lot of powerlifters when they are trying to put on weight is that they jack up their alcohol intake. I have heard several lifters say things like the following. "Hey it will provide me with some extra calories to help pack the weight on." Yeah, extra weight on your waist and glutes! You will get extra calories, but they will be empty calories with absolutely no nutritional value. From a nutritional point of view we have to take a look at the macronutrient breakdown of different foods and from here we can choose whether they are a good or a bad choice.
From here we can decide to include or avoid them in our nutritional plan. Let's take a look at the caloric intake of our macronutrients for a minute. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. Fat has 9 calories per gram. Alcohol on the other hand has 7 calories per gram! Isn't that crazy? Considering alcohol has almost as many calories per gram as pure fat, doesn't it make you wonder what it's going to do to not only the look of your physique but your powerlifting performance as well? Now here is another problem that most of you may not be thinking of. Protein and carbohydrates have a lot of performance benefits for the powerlifter.
Protein will help increase lean muscle tissue, increase your metabolic rate, helps in the recovery process, and increases protein synthesis. Carbohydrates provide your body with an excellent energy source, replace muscle glycogen stores after tough workouts, helps in the recovery process, plays a major role in cell volumization, and keeps our thyroid hormones in check. Now, how does alcohol play a role in this picture? It doesn't play any nutritional role and this goes to show you that it shouldn't be a major staple in our diet.
Now you might be saying that you saw a study that showed alcohol actually helped lower cholesterol levels in some individuals. This is when it is used in moderate amounts, not in the way that some lifters consume alcohol. This doesn't give you a valid excuse to go out on the weekend and get loaded on a Friday and Saturday. Don't get me wrong, if you consume alcohol in moderation it can have health benefits but the key word here is MODERATION!
Increase Your Calories Gradually
When looking to increase your calories don't just jack them up like a maniac after reading this article. Don't go from your 3200 calorie diet and plan on attacking a 5500 calorie plan right off the bat. If you do you will be setting yourself up for disaster.
Each week try to increase your daily caloric intake by 250-750 calories depending on your weight, energy expenditure, metabolic rate, and level of insulin sensitivity. You have to slowly increase your calories as your digestive system will just get overloaded and will not be able to process and absorb the nutrients from the massive increase in food volume. Take things in steps and you will eventually be where you need to be in no time.
Take Extra Vitamin C
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last half century, than you probably already know that Vitamin C has a positive effect on our immune system. There always seems to be mainstream media coverage on how this wonder vitamin can help you fight off the dreaded cold. Yes, the immune system boosting properties of Vitamin C are one of the reason's why I recommend its use but there is a lot more to this vitamin than what they tell you on TV. One very important benefit to Vitamin C is the effects that it has on cortisol levels. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone and is one that you want to minimize in your body.
Its job is to breakdown valuable muscle tissue and increase fat storage. Sounds good if you want to be fat and weak! Vitamin C has been shown to reduce cortisol production. If that's not enough it has also been shown to increase the powerlifter's favorite hormone…TESTOSTERONE! Now I have your attention don't I? Yes, Vitamin C has shown to not only keep the "Cortisol Monster" at bay but at the same time it has a positive effect on testosterone levels as well. One important function of vitamin C is in the formation and maintenance of collagen.
This is the basis of connective tissue, which is found in skin, ligaments, cartilage, vertebral discs, joint linings, capillary walls, and your bones and teeth. Taking extra Vitamin C when going through a pre contest powerlifting cycle is an excellent idea to help your body repair and recover from all the stress you put upon it. These are just a few of the many reasons why powerlifters need to supplement with extra Vitamin C.
Without dedication to not only your training but your nutritional and supplementation program, you will never see the results that you deserve. With powerlifters I have noticed that many will stick to the training program that they have laid out for their upcoming competition, but yet many get lazy when it is time to put the same effort forth for their nutritional program. Now you might be thinking that all this nutritional stuff is just for those bodybuilders and it really has nothing to do with the sport of Powerlifting.
Well, I'll let you in on something. I believe that nutrition is even more important for the powerlifter than the bodybuilder. The main problem in our sport is that since we don't have to have a ripped midsection when we step on stage that gives us the green light to go and eat what ever we like. This is not the case and if you are of this mentality then I can guarantee that no matter how hard you train, no matter who your coach is, no matter how fine tuned your bench shirt is, you will never reach your optimal potential in this sport. I am currently working with close to 25 of the best powerlifters on this planet both men and women.
They include world and national champion lifters, as well as World record holders from the United States, Canada, and Europe. I am working with strength athletes at such an elite level you would think that they have basically reached their limit in terms of their potential. Well guess what, many of them are just scratching the surface in what they can accomplish in this sport. Many of them didn't have an optimal nutritional program when they came to me for counseling and program design.
The fact that I have seen many of my world class powerlifters make unbelievable gains in such a short time is due to the fact that once your nutritional plan is customized to your individual needs, the results will be very surprising! If customizing the plan of World class powerlifters is causing them to have exceptional gains and helping them over come plateaus, just think of what optimizing your nutritional plan could do for you!