Evidence-Based Nutrition Advice for Strength Athletes
Getting you stronger faster
Powerlifting is an incredibly demanding sport that requires a lot of physical and mental energy. When you push your body to its limits, it's crucial to prioritize muscle recovery to prevent injuries and ensure optimal performance in the long run. Proper nutrition is one of the most effective ways to aid muscle recovery. Setting up a powerlifting muscle recovery nutrition plan can be difficult, especially if you're new to it.
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However, with proper guidance, you can do it on your own quite comfortably. This article will walk you through tips for setting up and monitoring your recovery nutrition. You will also learn how to adjust your diet if your recovery phase declines. So, let's dig further!
How to Set Up Your Nutrition for Good Recovery?
Powerlifters and other strength athletes put their bodies under much physical stress throughout the training. Therefore, as a powerlifter, you need good recovery nutrition to ensure an energetic training session and to strengthen your immune system.
Moreover, being charged up for the next training session keeps your muscle proteins from breakdown, supports the immune system, and helps you recover better. So, you must follow proper ways to improve your strength and take good recovery nutrition. Let's discuss a few common nutrition you should consider during your post-training session:
Protein is a crucial macronutrient that your body needs for muscle repair and recovery. When you exercise, you cause micro-tears in your muscles, which must be repaired. This repairing process will utilize a lot of protein throughout the day, so you should take enough protein to have a positive protein balance and gain muscle. However, the quantity of protein you need depends on your body weight, activity level, and fitness goals.
For powerlifters, taking 1.4 to 2.0 g of protein/ kg of body weight is ideal for building and maintaining muscles. Additionally, the timing of protein intake is also critical as women recover differently from men. So, women should ensure the recovery process starts quickly; taking protein within 30 minutes of post-training is best, and men should aim to intake protein within 60 minutes post-training
2. Eat Sufficient Calories
Inadequate caloric intake can slow muscle repair and even lead to muscle loss. Powerlifters should calculate their daily caloric requirement based on their activity level and consume enough calories to support workouts and recovery. You can also use the Katch Mcardle formula to determine the total amount of calories you need in a day, this formula is ideal for lifters as it takes into account lean body mass.
The Katch-McArdle formula is as below:
BMR = 370 + (21.6 * Lean Body Mass [kg])
If you were supposed to eat around 2400 calories, but you are maintaining your weight at 1800 calories, you can gradually add calories into your diet without gaining weight. A good way to do it is by adding 100 to 200 calories daily. This will allow your body to utilize the calories in a good way without affecting your muscle strength and body weight.
Carbohydrates are another nutrient from the muscle recovery nutrition list and a primary energy source for the body during exercise. Consuming carbohydrates after exercise replenishes glycogen stores, which helps with muscle recovery. However, you must be very careful about the pre/post-training carbs quantity.
You should consume 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight for good muscle recovery. A few good carbohydrate foods for muscle recovery include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and sports drinks.
How to Monitor Your Recovery?
Now that you are aware of the nutrition for improved recovery program and its importance let's discuss how you can monitor your recovery!
1. Use Recovery Metrics
There are several recovery metrics that powerlifters can use to monitor muscle recovery. These metrics include heart rate variability (HRV), mood, daily energy, and muscle soreness ratings. HRV is the variability in the time between heartbeats, which can indicate your body's readiness to handle stress. Monitoring mood and energy can be a useful way to understand your level of recovery, as both have a tendency to decline as recovery dips.
If you find any of these metrics abnormal, such as low HRV, increased irritability, decreased energy for training or life’s demands, or an increase in soreness despite a few changes to your training program, this indicates stress and poor recovery. However, high HRV, stable moods, plenty of energy for the day, and low levels of soreness indicate your recovery phase is going well.
2. Monitor Your Sleep Quality
Getting proper sleep is crucial for muscle recovery. Poor sleep quality can lead to fatigue, irritability, and decreased performance. To monitor your sleep quality, consider using a fitness tracker or smartwatch that tracks sleep metrics such as duration, quality, and REM sleep. If you consistently notice poor sleep quality or difficulty sleeping, it may be a sign that you need to adjust your recovery strategies. It’s also important to note that under-recovery can be a cause of poor sleep.
3. Track Soreness
Muscle soreness is a common symptom of muscle damage that occurs during exercise. While some soreness is normal, excessive soreness can signify muscle fatigue or injury. Assessing your muscle soreness can help determine if you need to take a break or adjust your muscle recovery nutrition.
Additionally, you can assess your muscle soreness by performing a simple self-evaluation. Rate your muscle soreness on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being no soreness and 5 being severe soreness. If your soreness level is consistently above a 2, it may be a sign that you need to focus on your nutrients for muscle recovery.
How to Make Change in Your Muscle Recovery Nutrition If you See a Decline in Recovery?
If you are seeing a decline in your recovery, you can easily manage it by adjusting your muscle recovery nutrition. For instance, you can add 100 grams of carbohydrates to your diet for one day. Carbs improve your sleep quality, and you feel more energetic, but they also provide the needed energy for the repair processes inside your body. If you see no change, then add additional carbohydrates to your daily muscle recovery nutrition for athletes again until recovery metrics improve.
If the issue arises several times over the course of one to two months, then this is a sign you need to increase your caloric intake. For instance, you can add some 50 to 100 calories extra to your daily recovery nutrition. If there's no change, you should consult a professional nutritionist or coach to identify the issue.
Setting up proper muscle recovery nutrition for strength athletes, like powerlifters, is very important as it dictates your recovery period. You should go with good protein, caloric, and carbohydrate sources during the recovery phase to strengthen your muscles.
Also, monitor your recovery, such as watching your sleeping quality, soreness level, and much more. Lastly, if your recovery is declining, turn towards high caloric or carbs content. If you still see poor recovery, it's best to contact a nutritionist or coach before making any further changes in your diet.
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By Dr. Kristin Lander, DC, CISSN
Grab our Free pre/post-training meals guide to quickly improve your training outcomes.
Powerlifters require a lot of physical strength and endurance to achieve their goals. However, it is not just about training hard and lifting heavy weights. It is also about caring for your body and providing it with the necessary nutrients and rest. One of the critical aspects of powerlifting is understanding the difference between rest day vs training day caloric needs.
This article will discuss the importance of rest days in powerlifting and how they affect your caloric needs. We will also explore the caloric needs for training days and how you can adjust your diet accordingly.
Why are Rest Days Important?
Rest days are a critical part of any fitness routine, especially powerlifting, as they allow your lean tissues to grow. When you lift weights, your body undergoes a catabolic activity in which molecules break down to produce energy, along with inducing tiny tears in your muscles. These tears need time to heal and rebuild, known as the anabolic state, where rest days come in.
During rest days, your body repairs and strengthens your muscles, allowing them to grow and adapt to the stress of powerlifting. Moreover, you also experience new cell growth and increased bone density, which helps you in your next workout session. The recovery procedure lasts between 48 hours to 72 hours, and without proper rest, you are at risk of an injury, which can set you back in your progress.
Why are Training Days Important?
Training days are equally crucial in powerlifting because lifting weights creates a stimulus that encourages your body to adapt and grow. The stress of powerlifting breaks down your muscle fibers; when they rebuild, they come back more robust and substantial. You become physically more strong and healthy, along with being confident.
Caloric Needs for Rest Day vs Training Day
Now that we understand the importance of rest and training days, let's explore how to adjust your rest day vs training day caloric needs to maximize your progress.
On Rest Days
While considering rest day vs training day caloric needs, many people assume that our body requires fewer calories on rest days than on training days since we are not using as much energy. However, it's not entirely true, as you need substantial caloric content on rest days to ensure proper and quick muscle recovery.
In fact, we have worked with many athletes who, just by increasing their calories on rest days, saw substantial improvements in training performance and strength. For this purpose, you should find the right balance of caloric intake to give your body the nutrients it needs to recover. This will give your body the fuel to continue building muscle and recovering.
On Training Days
Your body requires calories on training days to fuel and optimize training. So, consume enough calories to support your body's demands without overeating and sabotaging your progress. You can easily do this by finding the right balance of macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats that cater to your body's energy needs.
As a general rule of thumb, while considering rest day vs training day caloric requirements, you should go with high carbohydrates and potentially lower fats on your training days. Moreover, you can also eat more calories on workout days if you are engaging in intense activities. You can add 50 to 100 grams of carbs per hour of intense activity!
How Many Calories to Take on Rest Days While Bulking and Cutting?
How many calories on rest days when bulking? The answer depends on how fast your metabolism works. According to the NHS, the average caloric intake for women is 2000, and for men, it's 2500.
Typically, the caloric surplus on the rest day when cutting can be anywhere from 300 kcal to 500 kcal. However, this also depends upon the type of bulking, whether you are doing lean bulking and cutting or going dirty bulking.
Typically, bulking refers to gaining body muscles or mass through the excess caloric intake. It's quite popular among powerlifters and other competitive athletes who want to strengthen their bodies before their competition. However, bulking doesn't mean you have to indulge in a speedy weight-gain process.
The faster you go towards weight gain, the more body fat you'll have, which can impact your game. So, you should gain weight slowly and focus on strengthening your body muscles. On average, most athletes gain around 0.2% to 0.3% of body weight every week. The suitable duration for bulking is around 3 to 6 months, as short bulking sessions will not let you gain the desired muscular strength.
Cutting refers to the practice of reducing your body fat while maintaining muscle mass. Powerlifters and competitive athletes usually implement cutting followed by a good bulking session to get some health benefits. These include preventing knee collapse, enhancing muscular strength, and reducing the load on your knees. However, as an athlete, you need to be very careful while practicing cutting on rest days, as faster body loss may not help you achieve the desired athletic muscle shape. So, it's suggested to practice slow weight loss as it not only aids you in losing body mass but also improves your overall athletic performance.
On average, athletes who lose 0.4% to 0.6% weight weekly see better results from cutting. Going above 0.7% weight loss per week will not allow you to preserve your muscle mass, negatively affecting the gaming session.
The ideal weight loss time ranges from 12 to 16 weeks, followed by four to eight weeks of maintenance before another weight loss session. Don't forget to get help from a qualified nutritionist to ensure you have a healthy and passive cutting routine.
Whether you are a powerlifter or someone who usually engages in fun, intense activities, your rest day vs training day caloric needs remain almost the same.
As your muscles need calories, aka energy, for proper recovery, you should take a substantial quantity of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to ensure quick healing. Moreover, if body weight changes are your goal, make sure you follow healthy bulking (0.2% to 0.3% weight gain per week) and cutting (0.4% to 0.6% weight loss per week). This will help you stay on track and improve your overall performance!
You can get the same exact framework we use with some of the world's top lifters to improve their training performance and recovery with pre and post-training meals.
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Using the most current nutrition research and years of experience as athletes ourselves, FFN coaches will give you the tools you need to succeed and never feel held back by your nutrition or recovery again.
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