T Nation

Nutrition for Strength Athletes

Questions about how to utilize nutrition for strength, training, efficiency, or how get the most out of your performance? Want to know more about nutrition and meal timing, what to eat for certain goals, what to avoid, or about pre/intra/post workout specifics? This is the place to ask anything pertaining to what’s going in to your body to get the most out of what your trying to get out of it. - Amit Sapir


Why does hot curry put you to sleep.

Resveratrol in chocolate does that too, but preferably eat both.

What would you say is the perfect pre-squat workout meal, and how long before training would you eat it? Also, would you follow it up with anything during the workout? Thanks, Lee.

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How important is meal timing and spreading out calorie intake during the day? E.g. Would 3 meals a day be noticeably less optimal than 5-6 a day if what you eat is exactly the same?

Amit, how should people (inspired by you) who want to look like a bodybuilder and lift like a powerlifter set up their macros and eating to maximize the performance? How big a role nutrient timing and proper supplementation has in it?

And those trainees who are on a little chubby side, should they focus first on powerlifting performance or getting body fat down? Personally, I have found that my bench and squat performance is impossible to maintain on a calorie deficit, and at slightly above maintenance I progress well but the fat loss just halts.

lol not sure if you’re being serious or not here but if those things put you to sleep - maybe avoid them prior to big lifting sessions :wink: haha

My ideal would be 90 minutes prior to your workout (120 at the max) have 6-8oz of a protein such as white fish (solid food but digests easily with a decent absorption rate), 1 cup white rice or 8oz white potato, and 1/2-1tbsp of mct oil. For me this is the base and then 15 minutes pre-workout I start slowly drinking Plazma (usually I also add creatine) and continue to drink this in small amounts throughout my entire workout. Then I have Mag10 30-45 minutes post workout. This is my personal routine and what I give, successfully, to almost all my clients. If you have questions about why I choose these specific supplements or foods, feel free to ask.

VERY important. This is as important as what you’re eating - I’m a huge believer in meal timing. I have found that intra workout nutrition and planning meals around my workouts improved my ability to train longer, with significantly more intensity, and was life changing as far as recovery goes. I believe your pre, intra, and post workout meals can dictate your level of success.
The rest of your meals there’s more wiggle room but optimally spacing of 2-3 hours between meals throughout your day is ideal for digestion and metabolism. You also need to consider blood sugar levels (the main idea behind eating many times during the day) - the more stable your blood sugar is, the less chance you have to gain fat…you want to be smart about when you are spiking your insulin (around workouts) and keep it stable otherwise by eating frequently.

I can answer the last part of your question by answering the first part :slight_smile: - a possibility as to why your strength declined during calorie deficit is because your meal timing was off? As I answered earlier today - meal timing is almost as important as what you eat. Not to mention, if you do it right you will look way better haha.
Have you used Plazma consistently during a dieting phase? It alone can make a huge difference. Add perfect supplementation and diet and your strength loss should be minimized.
I honestly don’t think that anyone who is a serious athlete should walk around over 10% (max 12%) body fat…over this and your body is more inclined to gain fat than muscle. At the end of the day your goal is to get stronger and not add fat, so a good base is key. If you’re not a serious athlete, it is still a great benefit to you to get to a low body fat and give your body a new set point there …after a few months at that new weight, your body recognizes that new point as normal and begins to strive to stay there. It is then easier to build muscle and strength from that point rather than adding fat.
As for your question about setting macros up - its a super individual answer depending on many factors including training intensity, current weight and body fat, body type, past dieting, past and current use of supersupplements (or lack of), activity level, stress level, sleep quality…I’m sorry it’s so hard to give a general answer. A VERY general place to begin is (for an average 200lb male in decent shape) 1.2-1.4g of protein per lb of body weight, 0.2-0.3g of fat per lb, and 1.5-3.0g of carbs per lb (carbs are the trickiest and varies the most depending on the person). I generally believe in higher carb, lower fat, medium protein distribution if the meal timing is on point and supports it. If you intelligently add carbs over time (weekly) as the body can support them, you can get to very high numbers that the body uses efficiently (I have 7-10 clients that all eat anywhere from 500-1000 carbs per day and continue to get leaner…timing and distribution is huge).

Thank you for the quick reply Amit. I agree with the explanation of your set point theory, and I can attest to it with my personal experience. After every diet phase when I focus fully on performance for an extended period of time, I end up with nearly the same body weight but slightly leaner and much stronger. I’m a natural non-competitive lifter so I never mind anything else much unless my performance is not improving. But now what I was looking for is significant improvements in body composition while preserving my performance for a local powerlifting meet. My individual physiology doesn’t enable me to lose fat/weight unless I lower my carb intake significantly and it affects my lifting negatively.
Currently, Plazma is not an option due to my distant location, but I had one bag of MAG10 which I was saving for the end of my diet prep. I take whey and oats as my pre workout meal an hour before workout, which is my only starchy carb meal of the day. Rest of the day is just protein, fats and veggies. Fat is coming off but bench and squat are both down by about 15 lbs. Should I try to spread my carbs, like half at morning and a half pre workout?

I can use about 250 to 300 gms of carbs without getting overly fat when I’m not dieting, but during diet I can’t tolerate carbs.

Its so hard for me to answer since I honestly do believe that anyone can alter things to adjust to higher carbs than what you’re eating. Your fat consumption may be too high, the macros or meal timing is off…its hard to give you some direction without more detail. It’s always possible that you may be an unusual case and if that’s the situation - you may want to work with a coach for a short time to get on track and then bounce back into your own program after you have figured out why it seems to be such a challenge to add the carbs in? Have you had blood work to check thyroid, glucose, hormones (full panel) etc? That may give you some helpful info?
I can see why your numbers are a challenge - no matter how you turn it, carbs are a superior energy source and the body can’t perform the same without. I would love to see you find a way to eat them even dieting!

A hormonal problem could quite likely be the issue, as in the past I had issues with the low T which got sorted out with the help of my endo and KSman by attempting an HPTA restart protocol. My recovery log is in the T replacement forums. I think it’s time to get a full panel check up to get any issues sorted if any.
I greatly appreciate you to take time and provide valuable feedback and suggestions.

One more question if you don’t mind me asking is that what’s the purpose of mct oil in the preworkout period? Won’t it affect nutrient delivery and timing?

Amit, I’m trying to gain some weight while training for a meet. Problem is, I’m on a college meal plan and my dining hall is only open 11-2 and 5-8 on weekdays, and with classes I can only get in two large meals a day. Is there a huge problem with consuming ~1500 calories for two meals and trying to fit in snacks when I can?
BTW I lift at about 9 pm

Hey man it really depends on your budget. If you have a budget your situation is really easy - you can have Mag 10 and finibars throughout the day to meet your basic carbs and protein requirements. Plazma is also a really easy way to get calories inside and outside of your workout.
Do you have a blender and fridge? Egg white, oat, and almond butter shakes are an easy way to get a full meal in. Lot’s of options outside your meals…then you don’t have to try and cram in as much in the two meals.
Let me know the details of what you’re able to do outside of the 2 meals and I will try to help with more specifics!

No problem at all - ask as many questions as you’d like - that’s why I’m here.
MCT oil - it’s a very small amount (7-14 grams of fat). If you take this 60-90 minutes before with your pre workout meal, by the time you get into the heavy phase of your workout, the fat has already done the job it’s supposed to do which is basically slow down the absorption of the solid meal (to keep insulin levels stable until right up to the point you start drinking your Plazma and want the insulin to spike). I like a mild insulin spike, as it helps keep your energy during the workout steady and the MCT oil in the pre workout meal helps a little to stabilize.
Even if the above wasn’t the case, in this small amount it wouldn’t really be an impact on nutrient delivery and timing.
MCT oil is also the fastest and most efficient form of fat as far as absorption goes…slower absorbing fat would have a lot more impact.

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My budget is probably about $30 per week on top of the meal plan, as I don’t really have time to work much this semester. I could swing $50 some weeks. I do have a blender and fridge as well. These shakes, would they include milk or just the three stated ingredients? I usually eat a couple of clif bars, and a couple of glasses of milk throughout the day between meals, but I’m thinking it probably isn’t enough calories.
Another question, how fast do you think it’s okay for me to gain this weight? I’m 180 at the moment (13% ish bf, was 155 lbs two years ago), but I’m 6’ tall, so that weight still makes me pretty skinny. My lifts are okay, but I think I’d probably benefit from putting at least 20 lbs on my frame. I wanna do this by August, but I’m not exactly sure if that is the right play, there’s a lot of conflicting advice on the internet.

Hey Amit,

What is your opinion on pre-workout caffeine?

Hey @Amit_Sapir

Thanks for yet another great thread!

My current goal is to reduce body fat. I’m sitting at about 210 (down 7 pounds since Jan 1) at 20+% bf and I’m shooting for 185 or 10%ish bf by the middle of the year. The number doesn’t concern me so much as how I look by the end so I’m more or less just guessing at the 185 goal. That said, I’d also like to maintain or even improve my overall strength especially in the squat (my worst lift) for no other reason than I simply like trying to be as strong as possible.

Long story long, can you offer any general guidelines on carb intake recommendations on both training and non-training days as well as their timing? I am currently lifting 5 days a week on my lunch break 11:00-13:00 Mon - Fri.

Thank you,

Hey Amit,

My current supplements are BCAAs during workout and then whey isolate, taurine and creatine post workout.

I’m about to start a training program for a meet in 15 weeks, what additions/ changes would you suggest on my supplementation? Was thinking of getting some Plazma but other than that not sure.

If it makes any difference to your answer I’m c15% BF but not looking to drop any weight for the meet.


No milk in the shakes - just egg whites and the ingredients I mentioned.
I would try to get Plazma for intraworkout if you can swing it - it will really help.
Other than that - I’d spend your budget on as many shakes as you can rather than cliff bars (Finibars are a better choice by the way) and milk - you’ll get so much more out of them and can stretch your budget a bit by buying bulk oats and almond butter etc (and honey). Baby rice in the shakes instead of oats can also work.
I am happy to help with your other question also but ideally I need to see pictures. It’s really hard to answer you without a little more information, as it changes so much from person to person. Can you post a couple?