T Nation

Healthier Food Really Matter for Strength?


I think this would go here rather than the nutrition area. What’s everyones opinion on diet for strength? Does a cleaner diet make a noticeable difference? I’ve always eaten whatever I felt like, usually take out twice a day. Something from wawa snd a weight gainer on the way to work and either pizza, wendys, mc donalds for lunch then something at home for dinner. I got very strong and still stay pretty lean. So from a powerlifting stand point what’s your thoughts on eating right. I’m just wondering if eating like complete crap is hurting my lifts that bad or not.


I feel as though it depends on the person and lifestyle. While working on a farm (very physical) I found I almost needed to eat “dirty” just to keep calories high enough so my lifts could keep increasing. Yet when in school I found that a cleaner diet allowed me to feel better and therefore have better workouts.


Eating well does not directly improve strength, of course; however I think there is a reasonable argument that eating a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables, quality protein sources, and a healthy dose of quality fats will lead to a generally better-functioning body that recovers better and/or is less prone to injury and illness. Eating shitty food probably makes you more likely to sleep poorly and/or get sick, which can lead to loss of quality training time or poorer workouts as you deal with the fallout from the illness.

In the big picture, I try to eat well because (for me) lifting weights is just one piece of living well; I want to be healthy, too, and remain physically capable well into my 60’s and 70’s if possible; that will likely be facilitated by decent nutrition.


What they said.


Excellent response ha ha.

But yea if I tried to eat clean I’d probably waste away to nothing. So guess I’ll keep eating whatever.


My experience is pretty similar to yours. I feel deep in my loins that a Paleo type diet probably healthiest, but in reality, as long as I get enough water, calories, and sleep, my lifts consistently improve. I have definitely taken dieting too far a few times only to watch my lifts suffer and get injured. That said, you are stronger than I am, so take it as my personal testimony, not advice.


The main problem with fast food is that it is high in calorie and generally low in vitamins and minerals. If you eat some fruits and vegetables with your other meals or at least take vitamins, etc. you should be fine in that regard. If you were trying to lose weight then a diet high in burgers and fries will make it more difficult for sure, but in your case it shouldn’t be an issue. Also, if you are trying to lose weight then eating less fat and more carbs should give you more energy as well, but otherwise it probably makes no difference. I feel good as long as I eat enough, whether it’s fast food, greasy, or “clean” makes no noticeable difference.


I think this depends on age. When you’re in your 20’s, you can go out and eat loaded nachos for dinner with a pitcher of beer, get up the next morning and crush it in the gym and stay lean. As you get older, for most in their 30’s but it depends on the individual, you need to eat better and take better care of yourself to stay lean.

As for the strength, I’d say indirectly it does matter for those over 30. If you eat better, you will feel better, and be able to stick with a consistent workout program. You rarely meet a 40 year old who is lean and strong and eats McDonalds regularly and orders pizza three times a week, but I’ve met plenty of 20-somethings that can pull this off.


Funny you mentioned nachos. Just had some like 2 hours ago


For strength alone calories above all else as long as you stay reasonably healthy. If you want to be even relatively lean, food choice is key (duh) and you can still get stronger doing it but it takes much more thought and planning.


I’ve personally made much better strength and size gains when I give my body what it needs instead of what I want. Went your body is healthiest it will perform the best.


Just for the sake of argument, since a few comments are talking about getting or staying lean I will quote a couple of experts in this field, Mike Israetel (Renaissance Diet) and Eric Helms (Muscle and Strength Pyramid: Nutrition)

According to Israetel, the most important factors in terms of nutrition for body composition are (from most to least important): calorie balance, macronutrients, nutrient timing, food composition, and supplements. By food composition he is talking specifically about protein bioavailability, glycemic index, and fat type (saturated vs. unsaturated).

Helms: energy balance, macronutrients, micronutrients, nutrient timing, supplements

Helms goes on to say: "Now this is something that is very prevalent throughout the entire fitness community as a whole� Many people advocate it and have done so for years� These believers in the “good food vs� bad food” mindset include some very smart people, people with great physiques, and a lot of people that have had quite a lot of success with their own goals� However, despite the fact that you can achieve success with this approach I don’t see it as a long-term solution and I think that it can lead to developing unhealthy relationships with food� We shouldn’t have to maintain borderline eating disorders just to keep a lean physique� As opposed to trying to avoid the consumption of “bad foods”, I think a better mindset to adopt is approaching nutrition with the goal of being inclusive instead of exclusive�

Remember that you don’t get extra credit for eating only healthy foods� Once you’ve met your basic requirements you don’t get gold stars for consuming additional micronutrients� There’s no food critic in your throat who tells you “this is good, this is bad, this is good, etc�,” there’s just your body getting its nutrient needs, and once it gets more than enough, it doesn’t continue to benefit from more� It’s not a question of whether a bowl of oatmeal is better than a candy bar� Rather than assessing which food is good or bad, you need to assess if your entire diet is good or bad� Believe it or not, a rigid “clean vs� dirty” diet can actually result in a poorer nutrient profile than an approach that includes a broader spectrum of foods� "


So basically the most important things are that you consume sufficient calories, sufficient protein (since anyone reading this should be training hard and needs to recover) with enough carbs and moderate fat intake, plus enough micronutrients that you don’t have any sort of nutritional deficiencies. As far as strength goes, not being in a caloric deficit is definitely a big advantage and beyond that you just need a relatively balanced diet.


Nope, I highly doubt eating junk is going to hurt your strength…it will, over time hurt your health though.


Read up on what Eddie Hall eats, lol…


I thought the issue here was the impact diet has on strength, not being lean.


I thought so too, but people seem to get carried away easily.


In short no, dave tate’ early writings about his diet can be referenced they are quite funny.


I don’t think it matters that much as long as you get what your body needs to recover fully between workouts, otherwise - its all for nothing. Getting regular blood work done is a good way to find out what you’re body is deficient in especially if you aren’t making progress over the long haul.

I think its good to mix up eating clean and dirty so you don’t feel like crap all the time from eating dirty and don’t feel like you’re ready to kill someone if you don’t get a burger and fries from eating too clean all the time.


My body seems happy with the most unhealthy foods. But really wondered if I lived off say steak, vegetables, oatmeal vs what I listed in my first post if I’d see better strength gains regardless of leaness I still stay cut all the time just lucky I guess