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Eat for Strength

Give your body the fuel it needs when it comes time to max out.

By C.J. Murphy, C.S.N.

Dear M&F,

I’ve been training hard, and I want to go for new personal records on the bench press, squat, and deadlift over the course of a week. How should I eat to give myself the best chance of beating my old numbers?

—Mike S., Long Branch, NJ

I’ve been writing lifters’ diets for years, but to make sure you get the best information possible, I consulted some of the strongest men in the world to answer this question. Jo Jordan, Vincent Dizenzo, and Brian Carroll are elite powerlifters who all bench around 800 pounds and squat 1,200, so they know how to eat when it comes time to max out.

Their basic strategy: increase their carb intake the night before testing a big lift, and use supplementation. Increasing your carbs is essential for hitting huge personal records. Your body uses carbs for energy. If you don’t have enough stored, you can’t hoist the heaviest possible weights. However, you don’t need to carb load for days like some athletes do. Your body will use what it consumed a few hours earlier for fuel.

Eat a carb-heavy meal the night before training, along with some protein and healthy fat. The day of, eat most of your carbs shortly before the workout, during, and right afterward. Aim for 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight that day, and one gram of protein per pound. Eating any more carbs than this may cause you to feel “carb drunk” and sluggish during the workout. If you feel that isn’t enough carbs, you can increase the load by 0.5 grams per pound. (On off days between max-out sessions, reduce your carb intake by 15% to 20%.) During training, start drinking a shake containing carbs, protein, BCAAs, and glutamine, and finish it afterward.

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