There are a lot of lies being fed to consumers in order to sell crazy diets, so when it comes to nutrition, I have to admit that I get heated. While the science behind nutrition is complex, nutrition is also very simple. The need to overcomplicate it comes from “experts” wanting to make an extra buck, promising frustrated consumers the ‘end-all, be-all’ fix when in reality, the secret hides in plain sight.
So, while talking about powerlifting for fat loss, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the major role nutrition plays. What people fail to realize sometimes is that proper nutrition is essential to changing body composition in any way. Working out isn’t enough on its own.
You simply cannot out-train a bad diet.
It would be great if we could just put in the work in the gym and not care about what goes on our plate all the other hours of the week, but being mindful of nutrition is going to be what really helps you to accomplish your goals- especially fat loss.
So, if nutrition is so simple, how do we manage our nutrition for fat loss? In my opinion, it comes down to macros, calorie balance, and timing (not necessarily in that order, though).
Taking them one by one…
First, what are MACROS? Technically speaking, macros refer to proteins, fats, and carbs. But speaking in more in athlete’s terms, macros refer to a budgeting calories and macronutrients for the day.
What do I mean by that? Take your financial budget for example. You have $2000 to spend; you have to spend $1500 of that on things you need, but that leaves $500 for a little fun. Think of your calories and macros in this way.
When we incorporate powerlifting for fat loss, that kind of hard work requires a certain level of nutrients and calories to sustain it. Eating 1500 calories a day and attempting to lift heavy weights is just not a good idea.
This is why I love powerlifting, it forces you to refuel your body. It challenges us to change our relationship with not only food, but exercise as well. Food is not something to be feared or avoided or severely limited. Food is something to be enjoyed and used as fuel. This is a whole other tangent in itself (which I can totally rant about, too, but I’ll spare you for now). This is just a little *food for thought* (so punny).
I like tracking macros and I do feel that it is a good way to ensure that you’re getting enough grams of each nutrient per your bodyweight and body’s needs. Although, I do think this is easy to abuse. If you can make 3 slices of pizza fit your macros each day, (that’s actually really cool if you can do that, so congrats), that’s great, but your body is missing out on the micronutrients it needs. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Macros are great for not only ensuring you get enough nutrients, but also for making sure you don’t feel deprived and derail your success during moments of weakness; hence the term “flexible dieting”.
Carbs, fats, and proteins are all essential to your health. Don’t buy into the lies that tell you to cut out carbs or fats- your body needs these. Your fat loss will actually be improved by eating all these, in accordance with your needs, though.
Carbs are actually very important for health in general, unlike what every “fitness” magazine wants to tell you.
Carbs keep the hormone cortisol in balance. This is the ‘stress hormone’ and if you are lacking in carbs, your body won’t handle stress efficiently. More stress leads to more body fat. Yikes.
Your thyroid is also heavily influenced by carb intake. Low carb intake leads to low thyroid hormone, which leads to less fat burning.
I could keep going on here about the science behind macros and hormones, but my point of this is, you need carbs, you need fats, you need protein. If you’re trying to lose fat, it makes sense to fuel your body properly with both what it wants and needs, right? Right.
While everyone responds differently to different ratios of macros, the most important factor is calorie balance. What this means is if you’re trying to lose weight, you absolutely must be expending more calories than consuming.
This is where nutrition is simple.
Fat loss = calories in < calories out
Weight gain = calories in > calories out
Maintenance = calories in = calories out
This is a simple concept. Even if you’re eating 3000 calories of pure broccoli a day and only expending 2000, you will gain weight; even too much of the right food is a bad thing. Eat whole, unprocessed, natural foods and maintain the calorie balance desired for your goals. Very simple concept here.
Now onto how you’re going to fuel your body properly for powerlifting.
In regards to timing of nutrients, it’s also really important. Generally, you want to center your carbs around your training time (before and after) and space your fats away from training. The reason for this being that your body will be able to pull from the carbs for energy easier than the fats, as well as it being easier to digest carbs and proteins than it is fats, so the food you eat can be delivered to your bloodstream and energy system quicker than something very fat-dense.
That being said, 2-3 hours prior to your workout, you should consume a 5:1.6 ratio of carbs and protein, respectively. You don’t want to eat too much or too heavily prior to a workout, but enough to keep you energized.
Following your workout, you should consume 0.14- 0.23 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight; this helps to replenish your body’s lost stores and help with recovery. As far as carbs, 0.5- 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight shortly after training will help to replenish glycogen synthesis. Carbs and protein consumed together after training provide the ideal combination for recovery.
Say you have a heavy squat day. In order to get the fat-burning effects mentioned in last week’s post, you need to ensure that your body isn’t eating its own muscle- so fuel correctly before and after to keep this from happening.
There is so much to be said about nutrition and training and there are endless rabbit holes we could go down, so I wanted to keep this as brief yet as informational as possible. If there was something I mentioned here that piqued your interest and you want to know more, feel free to reach out to me and ask.
Additionally, if you are unsure how to calculate your personal macro needs and/or how to track them, email me below and we can get you started.