To answer this first we need to look at what energy system/s our sport requires, as then we can find out how to adequately supply this system with fuel.
For the most part our sport has us lifting from 1 – 15 reps, so generally speaking we are working below two minutes at a time, suggesting we are primarily working anaerobically. This means we are using energy systems that do not require oxygen to regenerate.
The two Anaerobic energy systems (in order of action):
1. ATP-CP system (used for maximum intensity): Potentially should be looked at as two sub-systems as once ATP is used up the body will rapidly break down Creatine Phosphate (CP) to make more Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). This all happens in under ten seconds, roughly speaking.
2. Glycolytic system (used for moderate/high intensity): Once ATP and CP have been expended, Glycolysis steps in and breaks down muscle glycogen and blood glucose into ATP. This can go on for up to approximately two minutes. Beyond this aerobic energy systems will take over.
So how do we fuel these systems adequately, so that when we call on them, they are ready to perform?
How to fuel the ATP system: As stated above, ATP is regenerated by the break down of Creatine Phosphate. So, keeping CP readily available, will keep ATP readily available.
How to fuel the CP system: Creatine is produced by our body naturally, but a primary dietary source of creatine is meat, creatine supplementation is also popular. Once creatine is in the muscle cell, it is turned into CP.
Basically, the ATP and CP systems will keep themselves fuelled naturally via good diet and adequate rest, but they could certainly be optimised via quality meat intake and supplementation.
How to fuel Glycolytic system: This is where it gets fun, remember this is where muscle glycogen and blood glucose is called upon to break down into ATP. Glycogen stores and blood glucose comes from carbohydrates. So, this means we need to make sure we have adequate carbohydrates in our diet to perform.
So that is a brief overview of the primary energy systems used in powerlifting.
In terms of answering the question What Is The Optimal Pre-Workout Meal For Powerlifting Performance, and now we know carbohydrates are going to be essential, let’s look at some considerations when choosing WHAT carbohydrates we should consume for performance.
Most people have heard of the Glycemic Index (GI) of foods. This relates to the rate of which carbohydrates are turned into blood glucose; low GI carbs are slowly metabolised, high GI are metabolised faster.
Consuming lower GI carbs throughout the day is likely a good idea in general, as they will give you a smooth and sustained energy release, more so than higher GI carbs will. Having a steady carbohydrate intake will keep our muscle glycogen stores adequate and our blood glucose levels steady.
Pre-Workout is another story though, as we are wanting to make sure that blood glucose levels stay normal to allow for our energy systems to draw from. So, the optimal pre-workout meal would likely be something containing moderate to high GI carbohydrates, or both.
For example, White rice is classed as a moderate GI grain, so combining it with glucose, which has a GI of 100, could give you an initial rise in blood glucose, as well as a more sustained release.
When you consider convenience and palatability, this makes it quite obvious that the answer to our question is Creamed Rice is The Optimal Pre-Workout Meal For Powerlifting Performance. Anecdotally speaking, Aunt Bettie’s has been found to be roughly 75% more anabolic than any other brand of creamed rice.
To very quickly tie all of this into a decent nutrition strategy, base all meals around a quality protein source. Through the day consume low-moderate GI carbohydrates, pre-workout (even during if necessary) consume moderate-high GI carbohydrates and Hydrate yourself properly. Remember nutrition should be looked at as a normal part of your day, it should not be too hard, so develop strategies to satisfy your personal needs to sustain proper nutrition long-term.
Be Vicious, Be Deliberate, Be Ruthless.