Thursday 15 March 2012

Keeping it real

I will begin my latest blockbuster post with a barnstormer of an interview I had with Cathal " I have massive calves" Byrd. This is as real as it gets. It is really important to keep it real...

Here is what it takes to keep it real with Irish weightlifting:

With this interview and the resultant surge in popularity and success, I think Cathal is going to turn into this type of person:

In my own training, I finished my first cycle in training. My aims were to hit 110/140 again after three weeks back training with four months off the classical lifts. There was an Irish squad session at the end of the third week and I had only hit 100/126 in my training cycle up to that point and had not gone near weights higher than that in four and a half months. I got them both and it felt so good being back with the squad and hitting 90%+ numbers again. Satisfying and sweet.

I was healthier at the end of my training cycle than I was at the beginning which is my favourite part. I am doing the same cycle again and will hit 115/145 in training by the end if it.

To finish off this post, here is a funny sketch. Wayne Brady is a housewives' favourite that is the equivalent of Ryan Turbridy except less annoying. He is also percieved as being as boring and embarrassingly smug. Like my interview with Cathal above, this sketch was designed to dissipate those ideas of him:

Monday 27 February 2012

I am determined not to have a Marlon Brando moment

Sticking to my recent rash of Rocky references, have a look at Rocky's face. This was what my body was like up until a month ago:

In relative terms, this is what I feel like now:

I am obviously not like this superhero, but the comparison is notewrothy. I am able to lift weights again and it does not hurt. Oh, the joys of weightlifting and life in general. I missed lifting so badly. The legend Tommy Hayden is also coaching me and this has proven to be a winner so far. Tommy knows an awful lot about weightlifting and I know he will help me. I am just starting my third week of my first cycle and it is as basic as it comes. This is where the genius lies. It is basically progressive and it tells me exactly what to lift and how many times to do it. No silliness on my part and it takes me out of the equation.

My program is delightfully basic: There are four sessions and I alternate them each week:

Day 1/3

Snatch: 2X3@70%
6x2@80% Week one
1x1@85% + 5x2@ 80% Week two
1x1@90% +4x2 @80% Week three
95%+ with no back off sets Week four

Power Clean and Power Jerk: follows the same progression as above.

Day 2/4 are the same progressions but with the Clean and Jerk coming first and the power Snatch coming after. I cannot squat because my ankle is still in jiblets, so I am doing 6x3 in the barbell split squat at the moment. I love this movement very much. it opens up my hips at the end of my sessions when I get really tight and I get some excellent squating movements done uniaterally which is a winner when you cannot squat bilaterally.

I train three times a week weightlifting and once a week doing an upper body strength session. Tommy wanted me to train four times a week, but in my first cycle back, I don't want to do this in case I aggravate me lower back. In my first week, I definitely could only have done three sessions because I was pretty sore at the third despite getting a massage and two soft tissue trreatments that week. I had to actually leave the final bit of my workout because my lower back started hurting again,

In my second week of training, I was able to get all three sessions in fully and also step up to 85% weights. I actually felt healthier at the end of the week than I did at the beginning of the third week. My hips are the most flexible they have ever been and are still improving slowly but surely. My hip flexors, quads and hamstrings are still relatively tight, but they are getting better also. I was lifting better in the second week and starting to get my feel back for the weights.

I am now two sessions into my third week and with the weights going up to 90%, I can definitely feel it in the body as a whole. It has been so long since I have lifted anything of note that it will take me a while to get used to the heavier weights again. I have faith in myself though. I have an Irish squad session this weekend and it is a week short in my program, but I will see what I can lift on the day anyway. I am basing this program off a conservative 110/140 so they will be my obvious targets.

It is really nice to be back in the weightlifting world again. I missed not being a participant in the sport and I can't wait to train with and hang around with the lads again.

One thing I know is that in my weightlifting and athletic career, I don't want to have one of these moments because I gave up:

It would be too easy to give up. A lot of people have told me to give up becuse of my hip, but that is not what I am about. I will find a way to lift the weights that I want to lift and I am very happy I am going about it the right way so far. I am getting more flexible and mobile in my joints and I will continue to get healthier and stronger. I will just have to go about it in a different way to most people! If i have not reached this guy's standard of movement in the next few months, I can officially be called a loser by Murph while he wears this guy's awesome pants:

Thursday 16 February 2012

We all need our moment of belief. Win,

So, moving on from the last post, I got to the stage where I could not pull the bar at all, even to do skill work. Something had to change and for the first time in my sporting career, I was thinking of my long term health and basic lifestyle in the following ten years.

I decided to try something different and I went to a chiropractor. He told me that my SI joint was out of place and that this explained my back pain and the subsequent issues. He urged me to take ten days off training completely and I actually did it. I had not taken off ten days from training since I was 18 years old and even though I was very restless and even more annoying than usual, I enjoyed the time off training. My back felt great and I decided to go back and try again. I kept things very light the first two sessions and I pushed it a bit a few days later. It was fine at the time but I was in bits the following few days; I tightened up badly and I was back to square one again. I had around 6 sessions or so and they gave me some relief without sorting me out.

By this stage, I was very frustrated and had not been able to train properly for around three or four weeks. After some careful deliberating, I decided to give my back a break and leave off weightlifting for a few months. I had played a few games of social rugby for fun but my ankle got worse and I had to stop that also. My shoulder was still bandied and the soft tissue work I was getting was only giving me comfort for a few days, rather than sorting out the underlying issues.

Around this time, I had entered an arrangement with John Connor, the co-owner of the Irish Strength Institute alongside Eoin Lacey. I would coach him weightlifting and he would give me soft tissue treatments and help me recover from my injuries. We only had three sessions together before he left for 9 weeks teaching and travelling. John gives me ART treatments or he uses other soft tissue protocols and I found these very helpful. While John was gone, I also went to a physical therapist called Paul Hevey who made a good bit of ground with my shoulder and ankle, giving me the first major signs of progress I had seen in a long, long time.

In December, I asked Eoin Lacey if he would hook me up with a strength program while John was away. They have different kinds of strength and conditioning protocols than I would be used to and would be heavily influenced by Charles Poliquin, a Candian strength coach. I knew it would be good for me to experience a different mode of training while taking a break from weightlifting and Eoin was gracious enough to help. After giving me a basic testing protocol, he said my trunk strength and erector strength were both appalling in relative terms. I did the program he gave me for five weeks with 3 or 4 sessions a week. I was not used to the higher reps, the short rest periods or the super-setted programming, but it was really nice to do something different. He put in some Clean grip pulls from pins into the program to keep up my strength. I enjoyed doing them but when I tried to do it again a few days later, even pulling the bar and 60kg hurt. I kept going hoping it was just stiffness, but just before the working sets, I decided to leave it. Once again, it was a few days after pulling that really hurt my back. It also seemed like it was changing in nature also, going from the musculature to the actual joints and spine. Not good.

I obviously left out any pulling whatsoever from the rest of my programming for the next two months aside from very light weightlifting movements that I would do when coaching some of the other lads in ISI. I kept in touch with weightlifting by doing the skill drills with the bar and 30/40kg. Doing some of these drills from the hang felt great while it kept me in touch with basic technique and the positions.

In the second week of January, I started coaching John again and he changed my general strength program. Once again, we used dumbell split squats except this time the back foot was elevated by 4 inches and I did one a quarter reps where I would go to the bottom, back up a quarter of the way, back down and up fully; that was one rep. These opened up my hip flexors while the unilateral work was great for strengthening my legs while not loading my back. A win win situation for all. I was also doing single arm work when pressing and using a neutral grip which took pressure off my shoulder. It felt really nice to able to press again. I had decided that I would begin weightlifting in the middle of February after I finished my second program as well as one of my busiest work periods. I had gotten stronger in the program I was given and I had continued to get healthier. I worked up to being able to lift twice a week in the classical lifts and each session, I would keep the weights really light and gradually increase the volume. I even did a 5x5 in the Clean and Jerk with 50kg! 5 Cleans and 2 Jerks were very tiring even though the weight was light. None of this hurt and I knew it would stand to me when I started training the lifts again.

I had asked the legend that is Tommy Hayden to coach me when I returned lifting again. He wrote me a program based off conservative numbers of 110/140. The next post focuses on my return to the platform. I think I need an Adrian in my life to give me a moment like this. If you don't understand the context of the scene, I hope you are suitably embarrassed and humbled.

This is an ever so slight exaggeration of how I felt, but you get the message:

Saturday 11 February 2012

What I learned from a disappointing sixth installment in an awesomely primal franchise.

Well, I thought I would make a blogging and weightlifting comeback; if I enjoy writing it, I will stick with the blog. Weightlifting: always! My last few months of blogging was a chore though, so I am glad I stopped.

For the last three months I have not been able to squat or do the classical lifts. This was immensely frustrating, but like all things in life, reflection leads to learning. So, in this comeback post, I will give a brief rendition of where I am now and what I have been doing since September. Here is the soundtrack to listen to while you read this post:

On Monday, I had my first proper weightlifting training session in three months. I loved being able to do the classical lifts again and it kicks several shades of fecal matter out of regular strength and conditioning work. Today's post shall be about what I was doing from July up to mid November.

When I came back from California Strength in the end of June ( you read the posts below and also watch the amazing interviews ), the back problem I had continued to get worse and I modified my lifting so that I could continue. In August, I found out that I had a labral tear in my right hip and an osteophyte in my right hip and a smaller one in my left hip also. This is where a bony growth forms to protect the damaged joint and is essentially osteo-arthiritis. This worsening condition was obviously causing havoc on the right hand side of my body and led to me getting a lower back injury that I could not shake from April to mid February. My old rugby shoulder injury prevented me pressing at all and my right ankle had also taken a beating and had a debilitating wear and tear injury. To put it bluntly, I was a shambles.

I finally understood why every time I trained hard, my hips and back would get stiffer and tighter so that I could not really train at all. My hip function was basically non existant in my lifting and I could never fathom how to get them to extend properly. When I worked on my flexibility, it never improved and my hips seemed to get more painful. With the results of the scan it finally dawned on me what was happening and it was more a blessing than a curse. Ignorance was most certainly not bliss in this case. I did not understand why I was not improving. Now I do.

In order to help my back injury recover and to protect my hip from getting worse, I changed how I trained. Instead of lifting from the floor, I lifted off either two thick plates or blocks that went between my shin and the bottom of my knee. I got a load of work done on my back, shoulder ( an old rugby injury that would not go away) and my hip. So, I trained from the low blocks from mid July to the end of September and I got stronger in these positions. I also started doing more pulling exercises and did some push presses also for general strength. I still couldn't press in the bottom range and all the work I had done on it did not seem to help my back or my shoulder at all. I also started squatting to a bench and when I started, I was really weak in these positions. In the beginning, I struggled with 180 and then two months later I hit 200 for a triple. Weak, yes, less weak then before. I was also still able to Front Squat and I hit 167kg which was a 2kg pb. Embarrassing, yes, but I got stronger in most things while my injuries continued to worsen.

Eventually, I got to the stage where I had to stop pulling off any kind because my back was quite inflamed and it hurt lifting with the bar. In the next post I will take you on my journey from November to mid February. I will address the things that I have learned of course, and over the next few weeks, I will write up a post about the biggest things I have learned since my lifting debacle that has been my last 9 months. But, this is a happy post because I know I will be a better lifter because of all this!

Power Snatch from blocks, then above knee and then below knee with 100kg:

Power Clean with 120 from block, then above knee, below knee and followed by Jerk:

Bench Squat single with 210kg:

This is a complete cliche of a speech, but cliches can be awesome. This is the message of my post and it shall be explained soon.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Essential Somatics: A review

I have been researching the world of Somatics and I got my hands on a copy of Martha Peterson's DVD 'Essential Somatics.' The basic premise of Somatics is lifted from Martha's website directly:

Sensory Motor Amnesia is the condition of chronically tight muscles that develops due to accidents, injuries, surgeries, and on-going stress. These muscles have learned to stay so contracted, that no matter what you do - stretching, massaging, or drugging the muscles - they won't relax for the long term. Muscles that have learned to stay contracted must learn to relax. HSE goes to the root of the problem: your brain and nervous system, and its control of muscles and movement. Your brain has simply forgotten how to relax these muscles, so you must retrain the brain to retrain your muscles in order to reverse pain and regain mobility.

While most pain relief methods focus on the one specific area of pain (e.g. the neck, hip, shoulder), Hanna Somatics understands that pain in one part of the body is part of a larger pattern of muscular dysfunction:

So, I got Martha's DVD and I definitely learned a lot from it. You know something is good when it leads to you buying the source work ' Somatics' by Thomas Hanna. Martha's DVD was easy to follow and had solid, basic instructions. The premise is simple: learn to release chronically tight muscles and activate muscles that have forgotten how to work. The movements themselves are very basic and one of the keys is to avoid straining, pushing or pulling of any kind. Martha is effectively trying to get you to re-educate certain parts of your body and that is really what Somatics is all about. i had spent a good time reading her site that is linked above, and also her blog. I quickly realised that some of the exercises I was reading about I was doing plain wrong. the DVD massively helps clear up any gray areas and is a necessity in my view. The blog helps deepen your understanding of the ideas, but the DVD gives you the visual and aural cues needed.

Here is an example:

Can Somatics help a weightliter or strength athlete? Yes it can. When you learn more about why your body moves in a certain way and how to identify and correct faulty movement patterns, you should be able to do the following:

1 Improve your positioning and therefore your power. Learning greater proprioception is vital to any athlete.
2. Improve your flexibility and joint mobility
3. Learn to release chronically tight muscles which will aid recovery and also help avoid overuse injuries.
4. The more your body relaxes, the more your mind will relax and this should improve your sleep and therefore recovery.

These are just some of the benefits that I have gotten from Somatics and I know there are lifters out there who can also benefit in the same way. The practice is simple: do ten minutes every day and your body will learn. If you have the discipline for ten minutes a day, then I think purchasing this DVD will help you. Martha is also bringing out a DVD specifically on releasing the Hips and lower body; I will also review this when it comes out; one thing I know for sure is that weightlifters get tight hips and this is my Achilles' Heel so bring this one on! Dan John has also reviewed this product and is actually using Martha's advice to help recover from a hip operation. Dan John is a strength training legend, so if he likes it and you don't, you should be embarressed. Here is a link to his review.

I am currently organising a private Somatics session with an instructor in Dublin and I feel that this will help. Any product that inspires you to get the source material, get a DVD and organise an actual session with an Irish instructor is definitely one to check out for yourself. Here is a link to Matha's site where you can buy the DVD.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Food facts for weightlifters

David Rogerson has kindly agreed to write a guest article for weightlifting epiphanies and I think you will agree that it will drop an awful lot of knowledge bombs on an awful lot of people. David is the lead sport nutritionist at Podium Performance as well as a member of the academic teaching team at Sheffield Hallam University. David currently delivers nutrition consultancy services through the athlete support programme, conducts interactive seminars and workshops as part of the SHU Wellness service and assists the Podium Performance strength and conditioning programme; he is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Thanks again to David, and here it is:

The sports nutrition world can seem a little daunting to the uninitiated, with contradictory information, pseudoscience, real science and heavy links with industry making it a bit of a melting pot of useful and misinformation. Lots of popular internet sources and lay press articles are clearly influenced by bodybuilding culture where high protein diets and (potentially heavy) supplement use seems norm, and on the flip-side, it seems like much academic writing is written for full time and / or endurance athletes and can be typified by (sometimes) very high carbohydrate intakes and lower protein diets; it’s no wonder that people get confused about what information is useful and what’s probably bunk. The weightlifter, or coach, is probably wondering where the sport fits into the sports' nutrition world and what the necessary nutritional requirements for the athletes are. Well the goal of this article, really, is to hopefully shed some light and provide a little context, and hopefully, allow the reader to form some reasonable judgement and opinions about how plan and construct a reasonable diet for a weightlifting.

When looking at a sport, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, physiologists, therapists, etc, will most likely perform some form of ‘needs analysis’, which provides useful background information about the physical peculiarities of a sport and an individual and his / her situation as it relates to performance. This is important, and the above staff would likely use this info to form their respective programs and support systems. When asked by folks what is the best diet, I will often be a little cagey and say, ‘that depends’, and clearly it depends on the information provided by such analyses. Let’s have a brief look at weightlifting as a sport, considering the demands of training and the demands of competition separately, which are often a little different. This also depends on your training philosophy and is something that I cover a little later, and map out some general ideas about how to create a basic dietary template. Perhaps in a future article or two I can go into a little more detail about a few specifics such as supplements, weight loss, weight gain, etc, but to get the ball rolling I will cover the major macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats to begin, anyway onto our ‘needs analysis’.


We all know that weight lifting is a brief, maximal intensity sport requiring masses of strength-speed, maximal strength, mobility, coordination, etc, etc. From an energy perspective, most lifts tax the immediate energy systems mostly, the ATP-PC system being most notable. The fuel for this comes from the immediate provision and recycling of stored ATP, which we have stored in very, very small amounts. Contrast this to another sport or activity, such as the marathon or even a 400m sprint where energy is obtained from a variety of systems and fuel sources throughout the duration of the event(s); fats, carbohydrates and proteins are all probably utilised to a noticeable degree from most if not all of the available systems, particularly for the marathon. The fuels required for effective performance in these activities are different and really the diet needs to reflect this. Weightlifting poses an interesting challenge to the body structurally, we see muscle, soft tissue and bone adaptations and consistent heavy loading places tensile stresses on our bodies’ structures, which can damage them. Intense training also leads to inflammation, which is important for the structural adaptations that we want to occur, but can also make us feel sore, tired and quite stiff. With higher frequency training, typical of some weightlifting systems, we have to deal with this most of the time. Each of these factors, and many more, can (and perhaps should) be addressed with the athlete’s habitual diet.


This is where things can be a little tricky. Consider the effect that your training methods are likely to have on your dietary requirements: with higher volume training it’s likely that more overall energy is being used, and perhaps more overall calories and carbohydrates specifically are needed. Lower volume training requires less of each. We know that pre and post-training meals are important from a recovery perspective, and if you train multiple times per day, then perhaps you need to eat more frequently to reflect this. Maybe you periodise your training such that you have higher volume phases, lower volume phases, higher frequency phases or days and at certain points you may need to gain or lose weight depending on a few things. Again, I would suggest that your diet would need to reflect this.

However, my goal isn’t to baffle you with possibilities or to make my job seem that more complicated and scientific than it needs to be. Rather, my preference with most things in general is when in doubt, simplify. So, let’s explore some basic and easy ideas that we can all incorporate into our training.


So most folks are aware that carbohydrates and fats provide energy and protein is used to repair damaged tissues primarily, along with a few other important functions. Let’s start with protein intake, as that seems to be the nutrient most associated with strength and power sports. A topic of much academic debate, it seems pretty straightforward that strength and power sports require a good chunk of protein in their diet; most bodybuilding sources recommend values ranging from 1.0g to 1.5g x lb of bodyweight, or around 2.2g to 3.3g/kg. So using these values, a 70kg / 154 lb lifter would require around 154g to 231g or so (no need to be too specific) per day. That is a lot of protein. Certainly the academic / scientific literature suggests that are clear benefits for athletes to eat lots of protein, with values up to 2.2g /kg being beneficial; there doesn’t appear to be any additional benefits (that are measurable at this time) with values beyond that, but eating more probably isn’t all that harmful either, as long as the lifter doesn’t have any pre-existing kidney problems. This is where things get interesting. Some of the academic research suggests that people need more protein when they start new training programs, as the training represents a new stress on the body, but that over time, as people become accustomed to the training, they need less. I suppose if we look at it anecdotally, when we start a new training program we tend to get pretty sore and beat up for a period of time ( 5 x 5 anyone?), but that as the weeks progress we tend to adapt. The scientific press also suggests that more advanced trainees require less protein than beginners too, as they have become pretty effective at adapting to training loads. Well, if you periodise your training into distinct blocks then I suppose we could argue that due to the fluctuation and variation of training stresses, chances are, you may need more protein at certain times. If however, your training is much more stable, akin to a higher intensity, specific model like the ‘Bulgarian – style’ then perhaps you need less overall protein due to the comparative stability of the training. Now to keep things simple, perhaps then for those systems that segregate training into distinct training phases, we could suggest that they need an overall higher protein intake throughout the training calendar (no need to vary the protein amount because, chances are, the training phases change somewhat frequently anyway). Let’s say for these athletes, something like 2.0 – 2.4g / kg per day perhaps equating to 140 – 168g per day if my maths is correct for the 70kg chap, and for those with more stable training systems, something like 1.8 – 2.2g / kg would probably be fine, working out to be around 126 – 154g per day this time. In the real world, the values don’t differ drastically for either system, probably the equivalent of an extra protein shake or so per day, but it provides interesting food for thought (sorry). I would also add (I thought I was keeping things simple – sorry!) that when trying to lose weight / cut for a competition the relative importance of protein as a nutrient increases, to help prevent the loss of muscle mass. So if you need to lose weight, perhaps keep your protein intake consistent as you cut kcalories from fats and carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates, the energy currency

Well we know that carbs provide easily usable energy and we mentioned earlier that because weightlifting is a maximal intensity strength/power sport, we rely on the immediate energy systems for energy provision mostly. Well, during training we use up the immediate energy supply pretty quickly and tap into other energy stores as time goes on, we also use energy obtained from foods to replenish these depleted reserves when we rest and recover. The academic writing has paid a lot of lip-service to carbohydrate intakes, and we can find some pretty massive amounts being recommended to some athletes. I would argue that for a weightlifter, these values (sometimes up to 60 – 70% of your total energy), are probably a little too high. If we consider that other sports spend much more training time using energy systems that rely on stored carbohydrates and fats, like team sports, most running and cycling activities and even bodybuilding, then perhaps we can see that a weightlifter’s requirements are probably a little less given that weightlifters don’t perform so many cyclic / repetitive activities. Generally I don’t really like advising specific ratios for nutrients, as these don’t tend to factor in body-size, overall kcalorie intakes, etc, but I think that a more balanced approach is probably better where the three major macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) are eaten in fairly equal amounts, give or take a few here and there, for most weightlifters most of the time depending on some stuff I will detail below. An interesting caveat is that the more carbohydrate you eat, the less your requirement for protein (and fat) is likely to be: carbohydrates ‘spare’ other nutrients being used for energy when the diet contains sufficient amounts of total energy / kcalories. As a (very) general guide then, I recommend that values somewhere around 2 to 3g / kg per day are a good starting point if training volume is fairly low or about 140 to 210g for our 70kg lifter and perhaps up to around 3 to 5g per day if training volume is higher, which would work out to be 210 to 350g per day. If you want to work these recommendations into your current program, specifically if you have some sort of periodised plan, then perhaps the higher values could be used for the higher volume training phases and the lower values used for lower volume phases leading up to competition. Inadvertently, this can help lifters lose a little weight if the values above helps to put them in an energy deficit (where and individual burns more energy / kcalories than they ingest). For some folks carbohydrates can be tricky, so I suggest that you play around a little with your intakes to find what seems to work for you. As a guide, for most people I personally like them to eat as much food (and carbohydrate) as they can before they gain weight, the larger intake can infer some metabolic advantages and the more wiggle room you have to play with, the easier it can be to cut weight.
A quick note about nutrient timings, I like to use the sponge analogy when talking about pre/post training nutrition: after training your body is incredibly receptive to the food that you eat and will soak up nutrients and absorb them like a dry sponge does when submerged in water. Consider that the overall effect of training is to take away your body’s energy reserves and to damage the tissues that contribute to the training, and then when in this position your body is essentially crying out for nutrients to ameliorate the damage and depleted reserves. So, a big chunk of the sports nutrition research looks into the effects of ingesting protein and carbohydrate meals or supplements before, during and after training and certainly. This drip-feeding of nutrients seems to assist recovery. Perhaps I can cover this later, but let’s say for now though that eating or drinking something with protein and carbohydrates before and after your training is a good idea, and maybe having a little something during your longer sessions could help as well. This doesn’t have to be an expensive supplement, whole food is awesome, but I will say that if you are training multiple times per day ingesting a liquid meal after training could help you recover a little quicker between sessions.


Fats are awesome and traditionally undervalued in mainstream nutrition media. Most likely, this was based on research the links intakes of saturated fats with poor health. This is not something I want to discuss here as it opens a proverbial can of worms but I will say that fats serve some very important functions and that habitually low fat intakes could be detrimental to health and performance. Fats help us to absorb fat soluble vitamins as well as assist the production of important hormones and help form cellular structures amongst other things. It seems as well that certain types of fats posses’ metabolic and anti-inflammatory functions as well as helps us to feel full and improve the taste and sensory qualities of our food. As a guide, values of around 0.8 - 1g per kg of bodyweight will probably be about right, so the 70kg lifter will probably ingest around 58 – 70g per day. Personally, I would opt for the higher value, but that’s just my preference. What types? Well don’t be afraid of the animal-based saturated fats, so please do eat red meat, dairy products, butter and whole eggs but try to balance this out by being sure to ingest other sources of fats too, particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. We can get these from things like olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, flax seeds, etc. Probably one of the easiest ways to make this stuff work is to use some olive oil each day, eat good quality sources of meat and eggs, and have some fatty fish regularly. I would also recommend a fish oil supplement too and anecdotally, they do seem to aide recovery and help some folks with joint problems when taken daily due to their inherent anti-inflammatory properties, something to the tune of 6g or so depending on the strength of the product you buy.


Simply, the more you sweat the more you need to drink. Maintaining a hydrated state will help an abundance of physiologic and thermoregulatory processes, and remember, the body likes to maintain homeostasis, or essentially an even keel, like anything, if a little is good more is not necessarily better. You can drink too many fluids which can dilute the concentration of important minerals in your body. Outside of training times I would say drink when you feel the need to but be sure to maintain a clear urine colour; you should urinate every couple of hours or so too. During training, just be sure to drink something and if you want to get a little more technical, perhaps weigh yourself before and after training and be sure to replace any weight loss with fluids. Roughly 1kg or weight loss will equate to 1 – 1.3L of fluids.


Let’s discuss some of the competitive demands and how this relates to food. Firstly, the lifter needs to weigh in, and so for everyone but the superheavyweights, this is probably your first concern on competition day. For most, this means dropping bodyweight be it through fat loss, water loss or a combination of the two. Clearly diet is hugely important for these to be achieved without detriment to a lifter’s performance and is something that we can manipulate to good effect. This is perhaps a topic in detail for another day, but a strategic reduction in overall energy and carbohydrate intake in the days / weeks leading up to a competition, plus a little water manipulation through strategic over consumption and restriction in the days leading up as well (if needed), will get the job done as long as the lifter isn’t a million miles away from their target weight. After the weigh in it is important that the lifter re-hydrates and fuels up for the competition with appropriate fluids and foodstuffs. The goal of this is to get back into you what you took out with your cutting procedures, so, hypotonic sports drinks are handy here to get some fluids and minerals back in quickly (those drinks without all of the added sugars and carbohydrates, such as Powerade zero, Lucozade hydroactive, etc – read the labels carefully). If not, dairy products, milkshakes and coconut water will also provide the necessary minerals too, as well as plenty of other nutrients as well, but you may have to drink additional water with these. In addition to the fluids, you want to eat a mixture of proteins and carbohydrates immediately after the weigh in, something easily digestible and something that agrees with your gut tolerance. Probably little need to get overly concerned with stuff like Glycemic Index or Glycemic load at this point and go for something that you enjoy, can eat manageably and gets into the blood stream fairly quickly; sugary foods are fine for this purpose if you want to eat / drink them but remember to have some protein in here too. I generally recommend that if you haven’t eaten yet, have a piece of fruit, fruit contains fructose (and other carbohydrates and fibre) which can help replenish liver glycogen, which is generally lower in the morning or when we are fasted and is important for maintaining blood glucose. An added benefit is that some research also suggests that combining glucose and fructose carbohydrates helps to replenish muscle glycogen faster, which is important if you are depleted and have finite time before you compete. So get some fruit in you as well as anything else you eat. I’d generally recommend that you make all this food, and the other stuff you may eat during competition, to be things that you have eaten habitually for a while though. The last thing you need to be worrying about during a lift is if the worrisome gurgling of your gut and potential gassiness as you catch a heavy snatch or clean. As a rule, I say to folks that you probably want to eat little and often during a competition and snack, rather than eat meals. Eating larger portions of food can make you feel a little sluggish, full and lethargic for a while thereafter, and it seems that eating little and often tends to keep you more on an even keel in this regard. If you like to feel fuller as you lift (as I do personally), I would recommend a larger meal / snack immediately after you weigh in and then snack and drink fluids after that to maintain that satiety, rather than go for an all out binge before you lift. If you have time, eat / drink something small after you snatch, before you clean and jerk. The goal of these frequent feedings is to keep overall blood glucose fairly consistent within reason. If your blood glucose drops too much feelings of fatigue and exertion can creep up on you that aren’t just due to the exertion of the competition, low blood glucose can increase effort perception, so, if you do opt for sugary carbohydrate foods beware that blood glucose can drop rapidly (for some people) after eating them. A small amount of carbohydrate, something to the tune of as little as 10g can help ameliorate this, and some research also suggests that a simple carbohydrate mouth rinse could potentially do something similar. So, to recap, after weigh ins drink and eat and get your weight back up, get the fluids, minerals and carbohydrates back into your body and then graze thereafter. If you simply cannot eat due to nerves, go for liquid meals: protein supplements, meal replacements and flavoured milk shakes will get the job done. After the competition, well, I will leave that up to you. What I will say though,is if weight is a concern for you and you have another competition coming up, consider the overall amount of lifts that you perform during a competition and warm ups; chances are, even with all the nervous energy, you probably aren’t burning too many total kcalories and probably not as much as you would during a normal training session, and when eating little and often, it is easy to overeat if you are not careful, especially if you decide to inhale your bodyweight in food / drink after the competition too.


So there we have it, a basic introductory guide to some nutritional recommendation for a weightlifter. None of this is revolutionary stuff I would argue, but I would hope that it at least makes you consider how the amount and type of training you do could impact your dietary requirements and how things don’t always have to be static. One of the tenets of this article is that we alter our training volumes and training stressors to coincide with our objectives and goals; I think that it is generally a wise idea to do the same with our diet as well, to at least match the demands of the training with the dietary tools that enable and assist your adaptation to the training. Because really, training is a stimulus for adaptation and diet and recovery are some of the tools that enable to it happen effectively. I will get off my soapbox for a moment and say that for most people most of the time, counting every kcalorie or nutrient you eat is not necessary to simply getting better as a lifter, but I think that having a systematic approach to your diet is useful, especially when it comes to gaining and losing weight. If we step back for a minute and assess what I have written as a whole and simplify the information, in sum:
• Eat a good amount of protein, eat more / less based on your training objectives,
• Eat carbohydrates to coincide with your training volume,
• Eat / drink protein and carbohydrates before and after training, especially if you train multiple times per day, maybe even have some as well during your longer sessions,
• Fats need to be eaten in reasonable amounts and be sure to eat a range of foods that contain all of the important fatty acids.
• Drink to sustain hydration, measured by urine colour,
• During competition, replace any fluids and energy sources that you have depleted and drip-feed foods throughout the day.

But most of all, and something that sometimes gets omitted from nutrition articles, just enjoy your food. The best diet / nutrition program is one that you can stick to long term.

Monday 25 July 2011

Abadjiev's attitudes

Here is the final part to the interview. He was a very nice man and by the end of my visit, had warmed to me and the other Cal Strength guys. When he found out that the interview would be done by interview, he even tidied his hair in the mirror!