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Nutrition Fundamentals For Strength/Power Athletes


A #strength or #power athlete would be considered as an athlete who competes in a sport that requires a significant level of strength or power. Realistically, almost every sport require an underlying level of strength and the ability to produce power, even if interspersed with aerobic activity. Complete strength and power sports or sporting events might include:

However almost all intermittent sports will require bursts of strength and power, including:

For any athlete who includes physical training in the gym as part of preparation for their sport, as well as actual competition itself, this article is relevant. So what are some of the fundamental principles of nutrition for strength and power athletes?


  1. The main goal for strength & power athletes should be to build, maintain and repair lean body mass in order to maintain optimum health and enhance performance.

  2. As with the general public the athlete should first aim to eat a clean and well balanced diet consisting of natural and organic foods, steering clear of any processed foods.

  3. A well designed nutrition plan and healthy diet is often overlooked but is just as important as the training program itself.

"Build, Maintain & Repair"

In order for the athlete to train and compete at their optimum they must understand the role of different foods in the healthy functioning of the body, a general idea of weight management and how to lose, maintain or gain weight where necessary. Whilst all macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients are essential, in terms of recovering after an intense session or competition, carbohydrates and protein are key.

Post workout is prime time for glycogen refuelling due to hypersensitivity to insulin. Research suggests the best way to induce post-exercise anabolism is to combine high GI carbohydrates, whey protein hydrolysate and leucine.

Aim for:

•0.8g/kg bodyweight high GI carbs

•20g fast digesting protein (high in leucine)

•As quick as possible post-exercise

However in terms of maintaining lean muscle tissue it is also critical that an athlete is meeting their energy expenditure through food intake. Unless the athlete is specifically aiming to cut or lose weight, they must ensure their high caloric needs are met through good quality foods. If an athlete isn't meeting their energy needs the body will most likely start using protein as a fuel for energy and thus it will not be readily available for muscle repair and recovery.

How many calories?

Understanding our energy requirements is important so that we can ensure we are re-fuelling the body suitably. What a lot of people don't realise is that our basal metabolic rate is the key determinant of many calories we need to consume. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the energy expenditure of the human body in calories through daily human processes, not taking into account physical activity. We can get an approximation of our BMR by using equation below:

Harris Benedict Equation

  • For men: (13.75*Wt in kg) + (5*Ht in cm) – (6.76*Age) + 66

  • For women: (9.56*Wt) + (1.85*Ht) – (4.68*Age) +655

The table below can then be used to calculate Total energy requirements


100kg man who is 180cm and 50 years old, participating in moderate exercise

(13.75*100) + (5*180) - (6.76*50) + 66 =

1375 + 900 - 338 + 66 = 2003 (BASAL METABOLIC RATE)

2003 * 1.55 = 3104kcal (TOTAL ENERGY EXPENDITURE)

  • If we are an athlete trying to lose weight then we should be aiming for less than 500 calories below our TEE on a daily basis.

  • If we are an athlete try to gain weight then we should be aiming for approximately 500 calories in excess of TEE on a daily basis.

It is important to note that 1 pound in weight is = 3500 calories, thus if we want to lose or gain 1lb in weight a week it is the equivalent of 500 calories a day over the course of 7 days.

Obviously that is averaged across the week and it doesn't have to be 500 calories exactly each day, one day you might only be in a 300 calorie deficit, but the following day you make it up by reaching a 700 calorie deficit. However, for health and human homeostasis purposes it is recommended that the strategies we use are safe and balanced rather than extreme, thus making it better to try and stick closer to a calorie deficit or gain consistently.

As a strength and power athlete we must also consider that if we are in a calorie deficit then it is likely we will need to further increase our protein intake to ensure that we are maintaining lean muscle mass.

"Achieving adequate amounts of high quality macro & micro nutrients"

Nutrition plays an absolutely critical role in the overall health and performance of an athlete. You wouldn't fill up a Ferrari with the wrong fuel, and the human body is exactly the same. If you want to recover and perform at your peak you must be providing the human mind and body with the correct fuel. At its most basic level nutrition is the same across all humans - eat a well balanced diet containing all 3 macro-nutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) from good quality unprocessed food sources as well as at the very minimum meeting micro-nutrient (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) minimum intakes. Despite this, for athletes wishing to recover, repair and perform nutrition can become highly specialised based on a number of factors:

  • Gender

  • Mass of the individual

  • Age of the individual

  • Environmental factors (heat, wind, humidity.)

  • Type of physical training engaged in

  • Type of sport competing in

  • Goals of the athlete

  • Individual Genetics

As a strength/power athlete, naturally the balance of macro-nutrient intake is going to higher than the general population when it comes to protein intake, with fat remaining either the same or slightly lower and carbohydrate intake remaining the same or higher depending on nature of the sport. As a general idea macro-nutrient intake for the S/P athlete should follow the following breakdown:

  • 20-30% from Fats (no transurated fat, and no more than 10% saturated)

  • 25-35% from Protein (approximately 1.6-2.4g per kg bodyweight)

  • 45-55% from Carbohydrates

However the type, duration, frequency and intensity of training and competition will influence the above percentages. For example, a footballer is likely to have a greater percentage of the calories from carbohydrate in comparison to a Power-lifter, due to the greater duration of the sport and requirement for longer sustained efforts.

Yet, no matter what the type of sport we are competing in all athletes should aim to consume the following foods in such an order:

  • Wide variety of vegetables (as fresh as possible) including: greens (spinach, broccoli, peas, kale, spring onions), oranges (carrot, peppers, butternut squash, tomatoes), whites (mushrooms, onions, garlic, cauliflower)

  • Nuts, seeds, grains and legumes: focus on what is fresh and in season and soak nuts and seeds where possible overnight. These foods provide high quality source of energy with a balanced macro-nutrient make up. Vegetable intake should always be higher than fruit due to the higher sugar density.

  • Fish & lean meats: oily fish is an excellent source of protein, omega 3 fatty acids (numerous health benefits) and antioxidants. Try to get protein from lean meats and poultry such as chicken and turkey breasts, turkey mince, lean red meat.

  • Eggs & Dairy Products: These foods can be high in protein and fat providing lots of energy. Aim to consume natural greek yoghurt, rather than that which is highly processed and contains extra high sugar levels. With eggs, try and have them boiled or if making scrambled/fried use minimal oil.

Supplementation should always be secondary to a full and healthy balanced nutritional intake from whole foods. Supplementation definitely has a place in both health and performance but pills and powders should never replace real food. Supplementation requirements will depend on individual circumstances.

In the following article we will be covering the macro-nutrient needs of the S/P athlete in a little more detail, allowing you to understand the role of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in improving health and performance.

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