Nutrition, Supplementation and Conditioning for Powerlifters


For many years, “nutrition” was a four-letter word in powerlifting circles. The diets followed by many lifters would make most people cringe – super-high in carbs and fat, with surprisingly little protein and predominantly centred on the consumption of junk. While admittedly powerlifters aren’t concerned with body composition to the same extent as bodybuilders, the lack of concern for overall health was shocking. “Mass moves mass,” was the slogan of the day, which gave many an implied carte blanche to get as fat, bloated and out of shape as they could in the name of pushing their totals higher. Thankfully, many powerlifters have seen the light and are starting to clean up their diets.

Powerlifting diets these days tend to resemble the typical diet of an off-season bodybuilder, though they’re admittedly less strict. The calorie count is higher and protein intake is high, with moderate carbohydrate and healthy fat intake. Many powerlifters, including myself, have taken to diets where the intake of carbohydrates is cycled on daily basis; higher intake on training days to help get through demanding training sessions, and lower on rest days. In lieu of providing a full diet plan, here are a few general diet guidelines to follow.

Basic Diet Guidelines

  1. High protein is essential.

    Most powerlifters nowadays aim to take in one gram per pound of bodyweight, divided up into several meals eaten throughout the day (sound familiar?). Obviously this can be more difficult for lifters in the higher weight classes, so eating more protein at each meal or eating more meals per day will be required.

  2. Avoid processed foods.

    Stick with the basics (i.e., eggs, milk, lean meats, complex carb sources).

  3. Lifters shouldn’t diet.

    Low carb diets (for those looking to drop weight, either for health reasons or to make a lower weight class) are not conductive with lifting maximal weights. To properly fuel the body to lift maximal weights, you will need plenty of good carbohydrates.

  4. Eat.

    This is the number one way that powerlifting nutrition will differ from bodybuilding. If you have a choice between eating nothing or eating less than ideal foods, choose the latter. Focus on getting calories in, then worry about what you’ve eaten. Especially on training days, there is no excuse to skip a meal.

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