I often get asked about meet day nutrition and typically give people the same advice. I recommend sticking with light foods you’re used to eating, focusing on carbohydrates, and drinking a ton.
And honestly, for 99% of lifters, that’s plenty.
However, I have found that you can slightly improve performance with a careful meet day nutrition plan.
If that’s something you’re interested in, keep reading.
Goals for Meet Day Nutrition
We’re trying to accomplish three things on meet day:
You don’t want to feel run down by the time deadlifts come around, but you also don’t want to be sleepy from eating a ton of carbs.
High levels of intramuscular glycogen (and, to some extent, glycogen stored in the liver) will directly improve performance, although not as much as just plain feeling good will.
Note that I didn’t write “minimize.”
Bloat is beneficial for the squat and bench but usually detrimental for the deadlift. Being able to manipulate water retention throughout the day is tricky but can be beneficial.
To accomplish those goals, we need:
- Foods high in carbohydrates, low in fats and proteins, and easily digestible.
- Fluids with the appropriate balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes.
The Shopping List
- LMNT or another electrolyte powder with lots of sodium
- Rice Krispie Treats
- Fat-Free Fig Newtons
- Rice cakes
- Peanut butter
- Low-sodium beef jerky
- Energy drink of your choice
Just a heads up: This strategy is based on an athlete who did not cut weight for his or her meet.
If you plan on cutting weight, there are some additional factors to consider that I’m not going to cover here because this article is complicated enough. If you need help with your nutrition, you can always contact me for a consult.
Meet day nutrition starts as soon as you wake up. Drink 16 ounces of water, go for a ten-minute walk, and then have a cup of black coffee.
The goal here is to help you and your bowels wake up. Trust me; you don’t want to have to take a dump in the porta-potty as soon as you get to the meet venue.
Let the coffee sit for 20 minutes or so before you eat breakfast. Hopefully, you’ve been following a decent meal plan the entire prep because you don’t want to change things now. You don’t want to go into a meet with a stomachache from the eggs, bacon, and pancakes you ate an hour ago.
I recommend something with:
- Protein equal to 20% of your body weight in pounds. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, try to get down about 40 grams of protein.
- One or two servings of fats, depending again on size. If you’re a lightweight lifter, that’s about 14 grams of fat; heavyweights can shoot for twice that. There’s obviously a bit of a gray area in-between.
- Carbs equal to about 40% of your body weight in pounds.
- 1000mg of sodium.
So our 200-pound lifter is eating a breakfast with about 40 grams of protein, 80 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of fat. My favorite option is a bowl of Cream of Rice with protein powder and peanut butter, but again, stick to food that sits comfortably with you.
Wait another twenty minutes after breakfast and drink another 16 ounces of water.
Between the time you get to the venue and when squats start, have at least 32 ounces of full-sugar Gatorade, and add a pack of the electrolyte powder. If you are hungry, go ahead and snack on a mix of the foods from the shopping list. The goal here is to keep you feeling full and hydrated until you get through squats without feeling sick.
The bench is the tricky part of meet day nutrition. The more bloated you are for bench, the better the weights will move. But you’ll want to drop as much of that bloat as possible before deadlifts. So, the plan is to increase fluid intake, decrease salt intake, and stick to low-fat, low-protein foods.
As soon as squats are finished, have 32 ounces of Pedialyte and eat bagels, Rice Krispie Treats, or Fig Newtons. You don’t have to slam the food and fluid down, but the goal now is to get enough sustenance so that you feel slightly overfull and urinate pretty frequently, so don’t hold back, either.
Right before bench, have an energy drink and take 1000 milligrams of dandelion root.
We want to get some bloat off as soon as the bench is over. Have a serving of the low-sodium jerky and a tablespoon or two of peanut butter.
You should cut back on the fluid intake at this point, so stick to plain water and only drink if you’re thirsty.
The energy drink and dandelion root you had before bench should have a mild diuretic effect, and if you’ve been sweating anyway, you shouldn’t feel overly full any longer.
I want to reiterate that this is a generic approach to meet day nutrition. It doesn’t account for personal preferences, water cuts, or PED use. Realize that whatever you eat during the meet will only make a small difference (unless you mess up your digestion by eating something that doesn’t agree with you or go overboard on the stimulants).
All disclaimers aside, it’s impossible to know exactly what will happen on meet day, so use some common sense. If the meet is flying, don’t try to force down so much food and water between squat and bench that you feel sick. If it drags on all day long, don’t limit yourself to a tablespoon of peanut butter between bench and deadlift.
Hopefully, this article serves as a good reference and helps you get that platform PR!
Header image credit: Moments in Power
Ben Pollack is a professional physical culturist. In 2017, he won the world's largest powerlifting meet and became the strongest powerlifter in history in the 198-pound class with a 2039 raw total. He earned his Ph.D. studying the history of strength from the University of Texas in 2018. In 2019, Ben qualified to compete for his pro card in bodybuilding and became an IFBB pro in 2021.