A lot of people think that building the kind of strength needed to hoist a 500-pound Atlas stone or press a 242-pound dumbbell overhead means eating thousands upon thousands of extra calories—any way you can get them. It’s the stigma of powerlifting and strongman and it’s one earned over time; some of the best athletes in both sports might also make great competitive eaters.

But it’s my firm belief that you don’t have to pack away a bacon cheeseburger and a chocolate shake every night to be competitive in these sports. It’s true that strength athletes need to consume more calories than other pro athletes, but I’ve learned that you can eat clean without sacrificing strength.

Look at the way bodybuilders eat: skinless chicken breasts, whole grains, lots of vegetables, all portioned out into meticulously timed meals. That clean-eating trend has reached through all levels of sport as the importance of balanced nutrition is becoming more pervasive.

The biggest problem in the diets of most strongmen and powerlifters is an intake of excess calories without balance, meaning a huge amount of animal protein paired with too few vegetables, foods that really give us the micronutrients and can help positively affect the PH of the body.

It’s all a balancing act between getting the amount of protein and calories needed and trying to make it healthy by getting more bang for your caloric “buck.”

We can all learn from the mistakes commonly made by strength athletes. With a little discipline and planning, it’s possible to throw up some huge numbers in the gym without blowing up your waistline.

How to Eat Clean

■ Broaden Your Color Palate

Try to incorporate more foods in your diet that are colorful—this means things like peppers, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. These vegetables are your body’s best way to get micronutrients such as anthocyanins, carotenoids (including lycopene), chlorophyll and anthoxanthins, which are all proven to promote health.

■ Add Soy Protein

To offset the high amount of animal-based protein in my diet, I make sure my protein contains soy. Studies have shown that 25 grams of soy protein a day can help lower cholesterol. Muscles like these are made with vegetables as well as protein.

DEREK POUNDSTONE is a two-time Arnold Strongman Classic champion and the host of Poundstone Power Radio, which airs live on Sirius channel 125 and XM channel 241 Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Ask him a question via his site, poundstonepower.com