Elizabeth Broad: Five nutrition tips for powerlifters

The author of ‘Sports Nutrition for Paralympic Athletes’ explains how para-powerlifters can get the most out of their nutrition. 21 Mar 2014
 Tzu-Hui Lin wins gold at London 2012

Chinese powerlifter Tzu-Hui Lin wins gold at London 2012

By Elizabeth Broad

While athletes do not expend a lot of energy in competition, executing the lift skillfully and smoothly is of paramount importance and still requires a nutrition plan to be in place.

In preparation for the IPC Powerlifting World Championships in Dubai, it is important to have a good plan in place on how to make weight and recover effectively in time for competition. While athletes do not expend a lot of energy in competition, executing the lift skillfully and smoothly is of paramount importance and still requires a nutrition plan to be in place.

Here are my top five tips for powerlifters:

1. Make sure you are within 2-3 per cent of your competition weight a week before your competition. The more weight you have to drop to make weight, the more stress you place on your body and the harder it is to effectively recover before you compete. Those who have to travel to Dubai need to remain vigilant with their diet to prevent unnecessary weight gain during the flight and on arrival if they are eating ‘buffet style’.

2. Practice your weight-making strategies during training so you know how much weight you can lose ‘easily’. Have a few different strategies you can use, including:

o Small food restriction (especially if your training is reduced coming into competition) - Reduce the volume of food you eat at main meals, and avoid high energy foods such as fried foods, creamy sauces, chocolate, crisps etc. This should start about five to seven days out from competition.

o Fluid restriction – Cut back on the amount of fluid you drink starting 24 hours before you are due to weigh in. Try to avoid cutting out fluid totally – just drop back to about ½ what you would normally drink.

o Sweat it out - If you still have a bit to lose the morning of your weigh in, try sweating out a bit – such as a hot bath or a short time in a sauna the day of weigh in (less than 10-20 minutes). Lifters with a spinal cord injury need to be careful as they tend to sweat less (so losing weight this way is less effective), and are more likely to increase their core body temperature which can impact on health, well-being and performance.

o Don’t overdo it - Limit being dehydrated to the final 24 hours before weigh in, rather than doing this for several days. Being chronically dehydrated increases your risk of getting sick (which you will be more at risk of if you are travelling and in a new country anyway because of a new range of germs you will be exposed to) and also increases the risk of developing a urinary tract infection (particularly those with spinal cord injuries).

3. Recover effectively between your weigh in and your competition. Start by rehydrating – fluids that contain electrolytes (i.e. salt, such as a sports drink or milk) are a good option, and you can also add a bit of salt to foods so that the fluid hydrates you more effectively. A meal should be consumed soon after weigh in.

4. Your final snack should be one to two hours before your first lift, and should be carbohydrate-based to make sure your blood glucose levels are stable for competition. It does not need to be a large meal – whatever is comfortable and familiar for you, and you have had prior to training sessions so you know it ‘sits’ well on your stomach when you lift.

5. Between lifts, sip on small quantities of a sports drink OR water with small amounts of carbohydrate-based food (such as a bite of a banana or a cereal bar) to keep blood glucose levels up and prevent hunger over the duration of the competition. This will depend on the number of participants, and how long the whole competition will last.

Elizabeth Broad is the author of ‘Sports Nutrition for Paralympic Athletes´.