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I’m getting into powerlifting but still want to stay lean. Is high carb intake essential for strength athletes?
Strength athletes typically require fewer carbohydrates than endurance athletes because the carb requirements are mainly determined by the time, or duration, spent training and the intensity of training. For a strength athlete working out for about an hour a day, I’d recommend an intake of roughly 2.25 to 3 grams per pound. For a 180-pound athlete, that’s 405 to 540 grams a day; that comes out to 1,620 to 2,160 calories a day, or 30 to 50% of your daily intake. If that seems too high and you’re focusing on body composition and leaning out, you can alter those ranges— go with a range of 1.5 to 2.25 grams per pound.
Load up on these types of carbs when fueling up: fruits, vegetables, grains, pastas, and oats.
For example, good breakfast carbohydrate options might be whole-grain pancakes or bagels. Add berries or bananas, and avoid processed syrup, which
is loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. Fruit smoothies are also a good option—stick to 2- or 31⁄2-cup servings of fruit, and blend with protein powders, dairy, or nondairy sources of protein. For dinner or lunch, go for nontraditional pasta choices like quinoa-based pastas, vegetable-blended pastas, whole-wheat pastas, and pastas with added protein.
Carbs to avoid are sodas, candy, pastries, cookies, and pretty much anything that’s going to provide a quick spike in blood sugar and insulin release and has no performance value to it. But in rare cases, carb choices like these are needed if blood sugars are dangerously low and you need a quick response.
Gabe Staub, R.D., C.S.S.D., C.S.C.S., is a performance nutritionist and specialist; nevergoempty.com.