Nutrition Advice to Turn You Into a Strength Training Animal
How had I gained 23lb in just a little over a year?
“There must be a mistake. Are you sure this scale is correct?” I stammered.
“Doesn’t your weight class go up to 140?” asked the gentleman recording my weight.
“Well, yes. But I’ve never weighed 135 in my life!” I replied.
“I’m sure it’s just water weight,” my new friend politely suggested.
This was my weigh-in experience at my last NAS Strongman competition in August. Just fourteen months prior, I had weighed in at an NPC Bodybuilding show at 112lb.
Left: Me at 112lb on 6/21/14 at my first NPC bikini competition.
Right: Me at 135lb on 8/28/15, 10 days out from Maryland’s Strongest Man.
I’m pretty sure I went outside and cried, then proceeded to order a salad while all of my friends got pizza for dinner. I knew I wasn’t fat, and I was happy with how I looked in the mirror. But for some reason, hearing one hundred and thirty five pounds out loud crushed me.
Focus on Goals, Not Numbers
When you see (or hear) the number on the scale and it’s not what you thought it would be, consider the many other factors at play, including:
- Water Consumption: A healthy, hydrated individual holds several pounds of water weight at all times.
- Timing: Your weight will vary throughout the course of a day. Ever notice your abs look better in the morning? That’s because you didn’t eat or drink all night.
- Elimination: Did you poop today? If not, you’re probably a bit heavier than usual.
However, more than any of these factors, consider your own personal goals. I’ve slowly come to terms with the fact that if my goal is to get stronger, I’m going to have to be comfortable with a few extra pounds. Here’s what I’ve discovered since I accepted that reality:
- All of my lifts have increased in the past year.
- I have more energy and strength to get me through the day.
- I can move my own furniture and lift cars off of babies, if necessary.
- I have attracted a mate with the enormousness of my glutes.
- He cooks me bacon and pancakes every weekend, and I eat them without guilt.
- Fitting in pants is hard when you have giant quads and a small waist.
- According to my BMI, I am just shy of being classified as overweight.
- Can’t really think of anything else.
Personally, I’m happy with how I look now. I don’t feel like I look 20lb heavier than a year ago. I am excited by my increased strength and am focusing on becoming a better athlete, not just my appearance.
Nutrition Advice to Become a Strength Training Animal
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or dietician. I am a certified personal trainer and self-proclaimed fitness fanatic. This is what works for me, but it may not work for you. Take what you can from this and make it work for your needs.
- Eat. You’re going to take in more calories than non-athletes in order to sustain your performance in the gym and meet your goals. I eat 4-6 meals daily, which includes pre- and post-workout meals.
- Protein is your friend. Protein is the main focus of every meal/snack that I eat. As a female, I shoot for 1g protein per pound of body weight each day. I typically shoot for 20-25g of protein per meal. Good quality animal protein is best - chicken, beef, salmon, eggs - but don’t discount other protein options such as Greek yogurt or protein powder.
- Carbohydrates give you energy, so eat them. I eat carbohydrates before and after my workouts. My favorites include sweet potato, oatmeal, rice, and of course pancakes after Strongman Saturdays.
- Gluten and dairy are not so scary, if your body can tolerate them. I can tolerate both, so I eat them both. If you have a legitimate intolerance, you know what to avoid. But if you are buying gluten-free cookies just because they’re sold at Whole Foods, save your cash and buy the regular ones.
- Fats keep you full between meals. If your goal is to gain muscle, fats will help because they increase testosterone levels (and no, you won’t turn into a dude). I get my fats from butter, oils, bacon, and avocado. Nuts are another great option, but sadly I’m allergic.
- Carb cycling is a great option if you are trying to cut/maintain weight for a competition. Typically I would do this by increasing carbs on heavy lifting days (deadlift day or strongman event training) and decrease carbs plus increase fats on a recovery and rest day.
Sample Training Day Meal Plan
- Breakfast (7am): 3-egg omelet with veggies cooked in olive oil with half an avocado, water and tea
- Morning Snack (10am): 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt with berries, water
- Lunch (1pm): 1 5oz piece chicken breast with asparagus and half of a sweet potato, seltzer
- Pre-workout (4pm): Apple/some sort of fruit or carb (some days I have granola) and tea
- Post-workout Dinner (7pm): Beef stew with potatoes and root veggies, water
- Evening Snack (9pm): Protein mug cake
Additional Tips on Your Journey to Swole-ness
- Use before/after photos, measurements, or your clothes to measure your progress, not the scale.
- Do exercise that makes you happy. Most days I really love strongman training. Sometimes I want to focus on Olympic weightlifting. Some days I do yoga - and that’s okay! Listen to your body and do what makes it happy. If you are training for a competition or event, obviously keep your training on task, but if you need a rest day, take it. Your body will let you know when it’s had too much.
- Be nice to yourself. Be forgiving when you eat a donut at work or skip the gym for happy hour one night. You only get one life. There’s no reason to beat yourself up over the occasional cheat meal/day/weekend. Personally, I will never give up Doritos.
Embrace your beefy thighs, sun-eclipsing booty, or any other body part that makes you feel a bit self-conscious. Appreciate the strength your muscles give you and the personal records you’ve set. Strength is beauty!
You'll Also Enjoy:
- I Am Not My Deadlift, and Other Ways I Don't Measure My Fitness
- The Intelligent Athlete's Guide to Fueling Performance
- The Real "Ideal" Body Type Is Up to You
- New on Breaking Muscle Today
Photo 1 courtesy of Nicole DeMicco.
Photo 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Teaser photo courtesy of Strength Education.