Many people have asked me what I eat and drink to give me energy for my competitive sport, powerlifting, while leading a busy life. Before starting powerlifting, I typically would have muesli for breakfast, a sandwich or a salad for lunch and a range of pasta dishes, stews, or casseroles for dinner, whatever was easy to prepare after work. I also would have snacks during the day, for example biscuits in the afternoon. And yes, takeouts featured on my weekly dinner menu. In the last two years, since I started to compete in powerlifting I gradually changed what I ate on a daily basis. I learned for example that I had to eat more protein and fat, to give me energy, to change my body composition, to get stronger.
Over time, through trial and error, experimenting with different foods I learned that there are three principles that work for me: Nutrition for me has to make me strong, give me energy, be simple to prepare and the overall diet plan has to be sustainable.
When I started experimenting with my diet I used to call good nutrition “strong food”. That was before I heard the term “clean food.” But strong food means more to me, it is food that gives me energy for my sport and busy life, and does not make me feel sluggish and tired. I now see food as nutrition, as fuel for the day.
Once I get the so-called “macros” right i.e. protein, fats, carbohydrates and making sure the food is varied so all necessary minerals and vitamins are covered I don’t worry about a detailed nutrition plan.
I am getting protein from natural sources, for example from dairy, such as kefir, buttermilk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and from eggs, chicken, turkey beef or fish.
I don’t worry about the fat intake too much as I guess there is enough there in combination with the protein.
Changing my carbohydrate intake was the hardest. As I ate more protein and fats since taking up powerlifting, I had to limit my overall calorie intake from carbohydrates, to stay within my competition weight category.
Carbohydrates can come from three sources, sugar, starch and fibre. As sugars have a higher calorie density, I switched to more starch and fibre – complex carbohydrates – to more vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes. Nuts and legumes in particular had the added benefit of being also a source of protein.
For vegetables I now eat a lot of leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and cabbage, other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, avocado and asparagus.
Sustainable means for me that I can stick to a diet for a long time – for life! The food I eat needs to be easy and quick to prepare and available everywhere I might travel. For example, eggs, natural yogurt and cottage is available in all countries I travel to, and so is spinach, peppers and most other vegetables.
Of course there is temptation to eat sweets. My weaknesses are chocolate and ice cream. So I usually eat chocolate during competitions, as a quick source of energy. I also allow myself to divert from the usual diet after competitions, as a treat. I stick to good quality chocolate though, ice cream and other treats, and thoroughly and consciously enjoy them!