Diet of a Strength Athlete: The Mechanics of Dieting

tilapia-fillet-ck-xAs Dave has always been beyond generous with his willingness to share his knowledge with the
bodybuilding world and his passion for the sport, I hope to take his precedent and share my thoughts
with the strongman and powerlifting world. It is my hope that having additional resources available
to current and aspiring athletes will help the continued growth of these amazing sports well into the

In today’s strongman and powerlifting world, when it comes to training/supplementation and all things
relevant, the key to maximizing performance enhancement lies within 2 areas.


Whether a client is attempting to bulk or cut, the consistent line I always walk with my clients is that I
don’t follow the traditional school of thought in strength circles of “Mass moves Mass”. My view is not
the concept is wrong, but rather the concept can be “refined”.

The approach I take with my clients is that when my 250 pound strength athlete is attempting a 650
pound squat, that’s 900 pounds moving up from the bottom of the lift. I can diet that 250 pound client
to a solid 220 and the 650 pound squat still comes up....30 pounds less bodyweight, also equals 30
pounds less total weight, thus 870 pounds coming up from the bottom. The goal then becomes to put
those 30 pounds back where it’s relevant....on the bar!

The iron goes in the record books, not the body fat %.

I know what you’re thinking...people tend to think they can’t lose weight and maintain or gain strength
simultaneously. With strength athletes, that would be incorrect, and only applies if you lose the wrong
kind of weight, due to the wrong kind of diet for the demands of your sport. It’s not all about diet
though; the golden ticket to getting the results you want also lies within your attention to detail in the
gym. The mistake often made is strength athletes don’t let their bodies get used to their new “suit of
armor”. You have to live with the new you for a while....let your body get accustomed to any differences
to your stroke and groove of the lift, give the cns time to adapt, note any changes and perfect your form
as it applies to the “new you”.

It’s this missed detail on the differences in lift mechanics that often mislead people to the notion they
have gotten weaker. As you’ve seen with my clients, records are set at much leaner bodyweights than
ever thought possible by the traditional school of thought.

In strongman, a clear example of adjusting and making refinements while changing physique goals
can be found with my contest prep for Travis Ortmayer for the 2009 Worlds Strongest Man in the fall
followed by the Arnold Classic the following March of 2010.

At WSM, Travis came in around 340.

For the Arnold, Travis was around 310, and LEAN.

We literally brought in two completely different versions of Travis over the course of around 6 months
as the photos from the Arnold clearly illustrate. This physique change dictated changes in mechanics and
form which Travis addressed. Without a doubt this was the leanest, strongest Travis Ortmayer up to that

Now, what people don’t know is that behind the scenes we literally were working to pull Travis up from
around 305 pounds just days before the Arnold, so that the grueling demands of competition wouldn’t
over tax his system. His body had literally become so efficient at using fat for fuel that his metabolism
was through the roof. DiGiorno pizza to the rescue with some planned cheat meals and the perfect

balance was initiated heading into the Arnold. Throughout the entire process, Travis literally was like
a machine with his diet and training, “focused” would be an understatement. You can almost hear the
enthusiasm in his online training journals during this time as he went from workout to workout.

You can see how the elements mentioned earlier regarding losing weight and dieting came into play for
strongman, and these same core elements can be illustrated with powerlifting.

Since the last article I have received countless emails asking that I include examples of diets for the
strength athlete. In deciding the best direction to get the ball rolling, I decided to start with an example
of a powerlifting client. Strongman and powerlifting diet designs both start with the same core element,
and initially I want to illustrate the basics. When applicable, I’ll add the biography behind the diet as is
the case here, so it’s not just food on paper, it’s an athlete with a story.

The diet below was designed for a powerlifting client.

1 pack Instant Oats (Any Flavor)
40 Gram Pro Shake

Breakfast 2:
40 Gram Pro Shake

4 ounces Chx Breast OR 1 Tilapia
1 cup White Rice
½ cup broccoli, spinach, or asparagus

Lunch 2:
6 ounces Chx Breast OR 1.5 Tilapia
½ cup White Rice 1 Fruit
1 cup broccoli, spinach, or asparagus

4 ounces Chx Breast OR 1 Tilapia
½ cup White Rice 1 Fruit
1 cup broccoli, spinach, asparagus, or green bean

Dinner 2:
6 ounces Chx Breast OR 2 Tilapia

40 Gram Pro Shake

The above diet is for illustration purposes on what I designed for a specific client, in this case powerlifter
Andy Baker.

In this case, we have a 242 pound strength athlete dropping into a lower weight class, and after a
baseline diet test, determined to be highly carb sensitive and not efficient with the use of body fat for
fuel. The catch? A competitive goal of the 198 weight class, and stronger than at 242.

I like to use midpoints as a testing ground for diet to strength progressions, in an attempt to really push
the envelope.

At 220 we began another phase of Andy’s Diet, and it’s this phase which is illustrated above. Keep in
mind this technically is the ramp UP phase of his diet, as he is literally gaining strength leading into the
competition on his way DOWN to the 198 weight class.

Andy completed his diet and weighed in at 192 (room for carb/fat load into the 198), the night before
the contest and went on to win his weight class while setting N.A.S.A. unequipped records (American
Squat and Texas State Bench). N.A.S.A. is a heavily tested and very strict drug free federation, and in

Andy’s case clearly shows what is possible through nutrition.

Andy’s training log noting the entire training process can be seen at:


Regarding Andy’s diet......

Where’s the carbs?

Andy thought that too. This process allowed him to shift fuel sources back and forth between glycogen
and fat stores seamlessly and was designed to match up to the demands of powerlifting training and
competition. This is big with me with all my athletes, and is at the core of every diet I create.

Where’s the post workout carbs?

Post workout carbs were dependent on what time of day he happened to workout. Whatever meal
was due next on his diet after the workout dictated his post workout nutrition. The way my diets are
designed, it’s this fluctuating intake that works with specific athletes to improve and preserve their
insulin sensitivity. Andy’s case dictated we go this route.

Andy’s background as a certified USA Weightlifting Coach and successful business owner in the fitness
industry made this a valuable experience for me as well. His observations were keen and attention to
detail very focused regarding the mechanics of his lifts, and thus ultimately enabled me to push the
envelope a bit further and expand upon my own designs.

What was the key to Andy’s results?

He observed.

He informed.

He did exactly as was requested of him, and most importantly, he paid attention to his lift mechanics,
and made the subtle adjustments to match his new “armor”.

Subscribe to RxMuscle on Youtube