In the last issue of Powerlifting USA I started off with some very commonly seen nutritional mistakes that a large majority of powerlifters make with their nutritional plan. In this second installment of this series I will be going over some more mistakes that even you may be guilty of.
Not Keeping a Nutrition Log
I know that I will be getting a lot of funny stares for this one but its true. If you are serious about your progress you have to keep a nutrition log. Just about every powerlifter on this planet religiously keeps a training journal. Heck many of you probably even bring it to the gym with you writing in it even between sets. On the other hand there are very few powerlifters that keep a nutrition and supplementation log. Why is that? Yes we do know that bodybuilders keep nutrition logs, but what you may not know is that a large majority of athletes from all sports keep a nutrition log as well. So what are the benefits of keeping this log you ask? There are many! This will allow you to keep track of everything that you put in your mouth. You may be wondering why you want to do that. The answer is simple. When you keep a training log, you can go through and see where you peaked, what program worked well, what lead up to that PR or what lead to an over trained state and injury. The same thing goes for your nutrition. Maybe you have tried different training programs throughout your powerlifting career and no doubt some have worked better for you than others. This is the same thing with your nutrition program. Keeping a journal will allow you to look back to see what kind of macronutrient balance gave you the most energy or produced the best gains in strength. You can also use this to see when you have hit a wall or became over trained. This will allow you to understand how your changed nutrition program has caused this. Keeping a nutrition and supplementation journal is essential to your progress so start keeping one as you will be glad you did.
Not Using Supplements Properly or at All
The natural supplements that are available to us today are much more advanced then they were 20 years ago. Gone are the days of having to suck back protein drinks that were as thick as cement and tasted like your old pair of sweat socks that you still have from your high school football glory days. I even remember to a time which was before I was born when ads for protein supplements made from fish was popular. Can you imagine trying to suck down a protein shake made from dried fish powder? Before I gag myself into a gyrating frenzy thinking about this, we should all be thankful for the advances in nutritional and food sciences that has made this possible. Also gone are the days of losing all your money on a snake oil supplement that would do nothing but drain your wallet. We are in a time when supplementation advances is at its all time high. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to think that I am saying that every product on the market is some miracle cure, but we do now have more products that do provide results. Best of all many of them are backed by science and have studies to prove that they are beneficial to increasing performance. We now have available to us a wide variety of very useful supplements that can definitely give us an advantage over our competition if they are not using them. Here are the two main problems; people that don’t use them and those who use them incorrectly. If you decide not to use them then it would be like going into a regular powerlifting contest as a raw lifter. You won’t be in the same league. Now for the people that do use them, a large majority use them incorrectly. Using supplements the wrong way can have you feeling like you just wasted your money even though you may have bought a product that could give you that little extra edge that you need. Another big mistake with supplements is using them when your nutritional plan is a mess. I have people asking me how to use this supplement or that powder, yet their nutritional plan couldn’t keep a hamster in an anabolic state let alone a 250 pound powerlifter. Supplements won’t do your performance any good if your nutrition program is a disaster. Another thing that you have to remember is that supplements are still supplements. They are there to give you that extra advantage, not do everything for you. The core of your program has to be your nutrition plan and from this we can build another platform which will be your supplement program. If your foundation is weak then there is no reason to build upon this with supplementation. If your current nutritional plan is made from a house of cards then there is no use dropping in all types of advanced supplements hoping that you found your miracle in a bottle. Once your nutrition program is solid now adding in the right supplementation can make a huge difference in your performance.
Following Someone Else’s Nutrition Program
This is a big mistake that I see with a lot of lifters trying to get introduced to a proper nutritional program. They think, “Hey if Garry Frank is eating 12,000 calories a day this is what I have to do to get the same results.” This is completely the wrong mindset. Every person is an individual and each has specific needs and considerations that must be met. I get this a lot with lifters that come and visit me at my office for a nutritional consultation and assessment. Many times as I am trying to conduct the analysis, the lifter doesn’t understand that from the assessment only from here can their nutritional and supplementation program be designed for them. Many think that they are going to get a diet right there and then. What I explain to them is that yes I could make a generic diet plan, photocopy it and hand it out to each of my clients. Would this be fair? No of course not. Would this get them optimal results? Most definitely not, and this is why a proper analysis must be done so that your program is customized to suit your individual needs and will get you to reach your goals. Just following someone else’s diet is like trying to copy Chuck Vogelpuhl’s training program even though you just started out in the sport a couple of years ago. Through the analysis and nutritional follow up consultations, here is where the plan can be fine tuned and tweaked to each individual to get them to where they want to be. Sports nutrition is a vast field and blindly trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together will only set you up for failure.
Not Preparing Your Competition Day Nutrition Plan
Now how many of you really plan out your competition day nutrition plan? I know that a large majority of you don’t. The nutritional practices that I see lifters do at their competitions blows my mind. I remember one World Championships that I attended in the mid 90’s. As usual many lifters go down to the local restaurant at the convention site or hotel and start off their meet day with a big breakfast. Now supplying yourself with the right nutrients first thing on the morning of your competition is definitely the right thing to do. Eating the wrong things like a large majority of lifters do can set you up for disaster. I recall sitting at the table with my lifters when another super heavyweight lifter asked if he could join us for breakfast. I had my lifters breakfast all laid out and they knew what they were going to eat days in advance. Well when this gentlemen sat down, he thought he just got invited to an all you can eat buffet. Now I know that the appetite of a super heavyweight is going to be more that a 132 pounder but the word moderation was no where in this guy’s vocabulary. Now I know you must be wondering what this guy ate. He started off with 6 large pancakes. I think he used half a bottle of maple syrup on them and at least half a stick of butter. Now if that wasn’t enough to cause an array of digestive disorders, he then ordered some sausage and bacon to go with his nutritious breakfast. Here he inhaled no less than 12 strips of greasy bacon along with at least 8 sausage links. What was worse is this guys table manners would definitely not impress Martha Stewart. Keeping his elbows off the table or out of his dish for that matter is something his parents never taught him that’s for sure. As he inhaled, (note I said inhaled his food) he made all these weird sounds coming from his lungs. As I sat there just about to lose my breakfast from the vulgar display of food gorging, he leans over with maple syrup dripping off his arm, informing me that his asthma was acting up a little and that is why he was making those death rattle sounds. Ok, no problem if it’s a legitimate medical condition than I can respect that…or can I? Here I was thinking that maybe one of those pancakes went down his windpipe sideways instead and was causing an obstruction. I wanted to leave the table but I couldn’t pull myself away. It was like being a kid at a circus; this guy was no doubt a side show act. Now he had to wash this down with a beverage, so what would his choice be. Would it be water, fruit juice, or milk? Nope, his choice was a 2 liter bottle of cola. He must have drank at least three quarters of the entire bottle right there. As he finished his last chug of his “Energy Elixir” he let out a offensively loud foul smelling belch that could be smelt across the table. That was the last straw as I could feel my own breakfast being regurgitated from the horrendous act that I just witnessed. As I left the table with my athletes I couldn’t believe to what I just saw. Now just because he inhaled half of the country’s live stock and consumed enough sugar to induce a diabetic coma for an entire village, that’s not what shocked me the most. What did is he performed this disgusting gluttonous Roman style feat 20 minutes before he had to start his warm ups for his squats. This is what blew my mind, and this is at a world championships! The real fun began in the warm up room as he was trying to get his squat suit on. Putting his suit on with three helpers was a show in itself. He should have saved that extra half stick of butter from his pancakes and used it to grease up his hips. Watching him warm up was even funnier. He was having a hard time buckling his belt because as he informed his crew he was feeling bloated. Do ya think? He ate enough grease at one sitting to clog the arteries of a brontosaurus let alone a human being. Now the best is yet to come. During his first attempt he missed it on depth as he was a mile high. I heard him complaining to his handlers that he just didn’t feel right under the weight as if something was pulling him forward. If anything was pulling him forward it was the sausage and pancakes in his stomach that was rebelling against his tight belt and suit. The climax of this story is even better. He took his second attempt, set up, dunked it to proper depth and drove it up. Three white lights… a good lift. It’s not over yet fans. As he went over to the side judge to shake his hand after his display of greatness, he hurled a stream of bacon, sausage, cola and pancakes all over the pants of the official. Sweeeet!!!! It was so appalling that I was just waiting for his head to spin around. He apologized to the official and blamed it on his severe case of stomach flu that he was plagued with for the last week. That was a nice line to save face but I knew the real reason why he left the official covered in an array of breakfast foods. He had eaten way too much of the wrong things way to soon before his warm ups and this left him with not only a poor performance but an embarrassing moment like no other. Bottom line, plan out your meals properly in advance for your competition. Don’t just go with the flow, eat what you want, and expect the restaurant at the meet to take care of your nutritional needs. I know that this is a funny story but it’s definitely something that gets the point across. Plan out your meals properly and stick to the plan. Your meet day success is dependant upon it!
Eating Too Much Fast Food and Junk
This one here is self explanatory. There are too many lifters that rely on a large majority of their meals from fast food restaurants. Now you may be thinking that there are now a lot of healthier choices at many of these chains. Yes, there is now a healthy menu at many but the fact is I don’t see any powerlifters ordering from this menu, do you? Many lifters that come to me for nutritional design eat fast food at least once a day. Some eat it even twice per day. I know life can be hectic when you are working, trying to get your training in, and taking care of the family, but you can’t just feed yourself an array of junk and expect your performance to be its best. Remember the old saying,”You are what you eat.” This is very true and if you eat garbage your performance and health will be the same way. Fast food should be eaten no more that once a week on your cheat day. It should not be a regular staple or a pillar in your diet like some lifters. Junk food and snacks are another problem area we have to address. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect you to eat like a pre contest bodybuilder day in and day out but we have to find a happy medium here. I give my clients a cheat day in which they can enjoy themselves for 1 or more meals depending on what their goals are and the timeline that we are working with. The key word here is moderation. Cookies, potato chips, snacks, ice cream, chocolate tacos, hot dogs, French fries, fried dishes, candy, and chocolate should not be a main staple in your meal plans. If you are eating the above on a daily basis, it is now the time to rethink your meal plan and clean up your act. Not only your health, but your powerlifting success depends on it!
In this installment I tried not only to educate you, but humor you as well with some of the antics that I have experienced with my time in the powerlifting nutrition trenches. In the next issue I will be going over some more specific nutritional mistakes and what you can do to avoid them in the future. So until next month, eat clean and make sure you aren’t the one leaving a powerlifting official with more than a handshake and a smile!
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