Best Food For Powerlifting

A plate of salmon and salad in the centre of the image, surrounded by other meals including pitta, fruit, chicken, and juice.
Credit: Shayda Torabi

A plate of salmon and salad in the centre of the image, surrounded by other meals including pitta, fruit, chicken, and juice.
Credit: Shayda Torabi

Crafting a well-balanced diet tailored for powerlifting can be pretty confusing, often requiring careful consideration right down to the micronutrient level. Fortunately, we've compiled a comprehensive list of the best food for powerlifting to aid you on your nutritional journey.

At the heart of any effective weightlifting diet, including one for powerlifting, lies protein. This crucial macronutrient plays a pivotal role in muscle development, maintenance, and growth, hence why it's so important for training. It's no surprise then that the best protein-rich foods are a heavy feature here.

However, powerlifting excellence doesn't end with protein alone. The optimisation of your energy levels and recovery hinges on the intake of both carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates, for instance, supply your body with glucose, a vital source of energy supporting various bodily functions and physical performance. Therefore, without an adequate supply of carbs, you simply won't have the energy needed to push, pull, or squat that next PB.

We've made sure to select foods that cover all the essential nutritional bases as a result, with a particular focus on complete proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy, unsaturated fats.

Moreover, we've addressed some of the most commonly asked questions concerning a powerlifting diet, such as what to consume before and after training to achieve outstanding results. Before delving into that though, it's time to take a closer look at some of the best foods for this style of training.

Best food for powerlifting

  1. Oats
  2. Eggs
  3. Beef Liver
  4. Chicken Thighs
  5. Edamame
  6. Salmon
  7. Avocado
White oats in a bowl.
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Credit: Jocelyn Morales

1. Oats

Nutrition from Nutritionix (per 100g):

  • Calories - 379
  • Protein - 13g
  • Fat - 6.5g
  • Carbs - 68g

We're kicking things off with a food you'll likely kick off your day with - oats. Oats are often the go-to breakfast in many powerlifting meal plans as they're packed full of calories and, crucially, complex carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates play a vital role in providing energy to your body over a long period of time as they're slow to absorb but, once broken down into glycogen, can be used to produce a fuel molecule known as ATP that provides energy.

Another benefit of starting your day with oats is that it contains 379 calories and 13g of protein per 100g serving. We've outlined the importance of protein already, but calories are also vital for powerlifting to help you increase your size and, in turn, be better prepared to hit record lifts.

Read More: Best protein powders

A collection of white and brown eggs.
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Credit: Jakub Kapusnak

2. Eggs

Nutrition from Nutritionix (per 100g):

  • Calories - 143
  • Protein - 13g
  • Fat - 9.5g
  • Carbs - 0.7g

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available for powerlifting and are often teamed up with oats as part of a protein-packed breakfast.

Alongside the 13g of protein per 100g serving, eggs also contain vitamin B12 which plays a part in the creation of new red blood cells according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Therefore, eggs may help your body deliver more oxygen to your muscles during a workout due to an increase in red blood cells.

Eggs also contain calcium which, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, has been linked to improving bone density and should, therefore, help your bones withstand the huge amount of stress they're placed under from muscles and tendons during heavy squats, deadlifts, and bench press.

Read More: Best vegan protein powders

A green packets with a graphic of a cow on the front containing beef liver bites.
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Credit: Epic Provisions

3. Beef Liver

Nutrition from Nutritionix (per 100g):

  • Calories - 191
  • Protein - 29g
  • Fat - 5.3g
  • Carbs - 5.1g

Beef liver is quickly becoming a popular food to consume due to its numerous potential health benefits. While its protein content is impressive, it's actually some of the more subtle nutrients within beef liver which we believe make it suitable for powerlifting.

For instance, it contains the aforementioned vitamin B12 plus vitamin K which activates the proteins that regulate blood clotting. Vitamin K is also said to play a role in the calcification of bones, helping them become stronger and possibly better prepared for lifting heavy weights.

As touched on in our list of the best beef liver supplements, it's also one of the rare foods to contain vitamin D which the NHS describes as being key to the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels in your body, two minerals commonly associated with healthy, strong bones as well.

Read More: Best multivitamins

Cooked chicken thighs next to peppers.
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Credit: Kostiantyn Li

4. Chicken Thighs

Nutrition from Nutritionix (per 100g):

  • Calories - 214
  • Protein - 23g
  • Fat - 14g
  • Carbs - 0.1g

Although chicken breast may seem like the obvious pick for powerlifting, we're actually going with chicken thighs as they contain slightly more calories by comparison.

As touched on earlier, calories are important for putting on weight which, in powerlifting, is vital. Research by Plasqui et al. found a significant correlation between weight and muscle strength.

Therefore, a good combination of size and athleticism needs to be achieved in order to maximise your chances of breaking records in the three core lifts - squats, deadlifts, and bench press.

That said, the fat content is fairly high. So, if you're looking to cut, then opting for chicken breasts instead might be a better solution.

Read More: Best BCAA supplements

Edamame in a white bowl.
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Credit: Fudio

5. Edamame

Nutrition from Nutritionix (per 100g):

  • Calories - 121
  • Protein - 12g
  • Fat - 5.2g
  • Carbs - 8.9g

Edamame is one of the most protein-dense vegetables available, containing an impressive 12g per 100g serving to support protein synthesis in your muscles.

However, edamame is also rich in a ton of other nutrients including folate, vitamin K, and fibre.

Folate, aka the water-soluble version of vitamin B9, is of particular interest as some studies, including one of note by Asbaghi et al., have found a connection between folate and reducing inflammation. This, in turn, may help your recovery post-powerlifting session.

Read More: Best pre-workout supplements

Image of two raw salmon fillets wrapped in paper.
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Credit: CA Creative

6. Salmon

Nutrition from Nutritionix (per 100g):

  • Calories - 206
  • Protein - 22g
  • Fat - 12g
  • Carbs - 0g

Per 100g, salmon contains an impressive 22g of protein. However, perhaps salmon's greatest advantage is that it's an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to a ton of potential health benefits, with their impact on heart health being one of the most common. One meta-analysis by Montori et al. supports this as they found a statistically significant effect of omega-3 supplementation on lowering triglycerides.

Omega-3 is also associated with anti-inflammatory properties which, in turn, may enhance your muscles’ sensitivity to protein and resistance training. A study by Lalia et al. supports this, with the findings showing a significant increase in muscle growth after exercise following daily supplementation of omega-3 over a 16-week period.

Read More: Best EAA supplements

Picture of three avocados, one of which is cut in half.
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Credit: Gil Ndjouwou

7. Avocado

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Nutrition from Nutritionix (per 100g):

  • Calories - 160
  • Protein - 2g
  • Fat - 15g
  • Carbs - 8.5g

We're rounding off our list with avocado which is commonly associated with being a good source of unsaturated fat. More specifically, avocados contain monounsaturated fats which, according to, can reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and, therefore, may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Dietary fat is also key for powerlifting as it's more calorie-dense than protein and carbs, so should suit those looking to increase their size ahead of a competition. In fact, a study by Oliver et al. found around 30% of your total calories should come from dietary fat as part of a powerlifting diet.

Avocados are also rich in nutrients that are sometimes hard to come by in a typical diet. These nutrients include magnesium plus vitamins B6, C, E, and folate. Magnesium is especially important as it's involved in over 600 reactions in your body including the conversion of food into energy and turning amino acids into new proteins.

Read More: Best taurine supplements

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Selecting the right food to fuel your powerlifting diet can be tricky at times, which is why we've also answered some of the most commonly asked questions to help you out.

How much protein do you need for powerlifting?

This is a tricky one to answer as the amount of protein you should consume on a daily basis is still up for debate.

For instance, Havard Health Publishing recommends around 0.8 – 1.3g of protein a day per kg of body weight. For powerlifting, we'd argue that you'll want to be hitting close to the top end of this range in order to help your body repair and build muscle after each session.

However, the British Nutrition Foundation has a slightly more conservative view on protein as it recommends just 0.75g protein per kg of body weight per day.

With the amount of protein you should consume not overly clear, it might be more beneficial to work out how much is too much protein.

Research by Guoyao Wu suggests that you can consume up to 2g of protein per kg of body weight before you may start to encounter long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease and blood vessel disorders.

Therefore, while it's vital to consume protein as part of a powerlifting diet, it's also important to not over-consume to avoid damaging your body in the long run.

What should you eat before a powerlifting session?

The answer to this question will vary from person to person; however, a typical pre-workout meal will be something that's going to provide energy during your training session rather than leave you lacking.

Therefore, a go-to choice would be something high in carbs as your muscles will use the glucose to fuel your body. A study by Tarnopolsky et al. supports this as they found carbohydrate depletion had an adverse effect on training performance.

The key is to consume the right kind of carbs. We'd recommend complex carbs, also known as slow-release carbohydrates, as your body should absorb the glucose slower to avoid a rapid spike in insulin before you begin training.

In terms of when to eat, recommends fueling up around two hours before training in order to maximise your energy during your workout.

What should you eat after a powerlifting session?

While it's important to replenish glycogen stores post-workout, the key to a good post-powerlifting meal is something packed with protein to aid the repair and rebuild of your broken-down muscle fibres.

As a result, it's recommended you consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after training to refuel your body with the nutrients it needs to recover.

That said, you also need to consider replenishing your electrolytes after powerlifting to stay hydrated as electrolytes maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside your cells.

Sports drinks are often used to restore electrolytes; however, we'd recommend also taking high-potassium fruits such as bananas and leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale into consideration as well.

Are fats important for powerlifting?

Yes, fats are important for powerlifting. While protein and carbohydrates are often the macronutrients that receive more attention in the fitness world, dietary fats also play a crucial role in supporting optimal performance and overall health for powerlifters.

This is because fats are a concentrated source of energy, providing around twice the number of calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates in some instances. During intense powerlifting workouts, your body may tap into its fat stores for energy, especially during longer training sessions or when carbohydrates are limited.

Moreover, certain fats are said to play essential for the production of hormones, including testosterone, which may contribute to muscle growth, strength development, and overall performance. Adequate fat intake helps maintain healthy hormone levels and optimal body composition.

What's more, powerlifting puts significant stress on your joints, and consuming healthy fats can help support joint health and reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, may have anti-inflammatory properties and can aid in joint recovery and overall mobility.

However, it's important to note that not all fats are created equal. Aim for a balanced intake of healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts), polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts), and limited amounts of saturated fats (found in animal products and some plant-based sources). Avoid or limit trans fats, as they are considered unhealthy and can negatively impact health.

Are there any specific foods to avoid for powerlifting?

While individual dietary needs can vary, there are generally no specific foods that powerlifters need to completely avoid. However, some foods are more advantageous for powerlifting than others, hence our list above, which is why there are certain considerations to keep in mind when it comes to food choices.

For example, highly processed foods typically provide little nutritional value and are often high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium. As a result, they can contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and reduced performance as you're missing out on key nutrients by eating them. Therefore, we'd advise limiting how many foods like sugary snacks, fast food, sodas, and heavily processed treats you consume.

Also, consuming large amounts of heavy, greasy foods before training sessions or competitions can lead to discomfort, sluggishness, and decreased performance. These meals can take longer to digest, potentially causing gastrointestinal issues. Opt for lighter, balanced meals before training or competition to maximise your performance when lifting.

The key at the end of the day though is to focus on overall dietary balance, nutrient-dense foods, taking your own preferences and dietary requirements into account. There are a ton of meal plans online that you can follow if you're unsure where to start.

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