Proper nutrition is important for resistance sports like weight and strength training. Maintaining good eating habits can improve overall performance and increase muscle strength. This is true whether you lift weights once a week or multiple times a day.
Resistance athletes need a diet that provides carbohydrates for energy and moderate amounts of fat and protein. You can easily meet these needs with a nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet. A sports dietitian can assist you in developing personalized eating plans to meet the needs of your sport.
Your energy needs change based on how often and how hard you train, as well as your overall goals. Diets that are low in calories can lead to loss of body weight and loss of muscle, while diets high in energy intake can result in gains in body mass, including muscle and fat. Gaining muscle mass requires adequate energy and protein intake, resistance training, and appropriate hormone levels.
When training in resistance exercise, take care to consume a diet that contains high-quality protein and adequate carbohydrate and heart-healthy fat sources. While eating enough protein is critical to building and repairing muscle, protein is used only as a minor energy source during exercise.
Carbohydrates provide energy so your body does not have to use protein as a fuel source. Getting enough carbohydrates can prevent early fatigue and injury. If you follow a well-balanced diet, a carbohydrate intake of 2.3 to 3.6 grams per pound (5 to 8 grams per kilogram) is likely enough. Even if your focus is on body image and weight, your daily intake should not be less than 2.3 grams per pound.
Good sources include:
- Whole grains like whole-wheat breads and pastas, brown rice and quinoa
- Sports bars
- Sports drinks.
When performing a high intensity, high power resistance exercise, fat is not used as a fuel source. Even so, fat is an essential macronutrient. It aids your body in many ways, including providing energy for low- to moderate intensity exercise and insulating your organs. Aim for a diet containing 20 percent to 35 percent of energy from fat. Very low-fat diets are not recommended because they can lead to a shortage of some nutrients and can hurt your performance.
Healthy sources include:
- Nut oils
- Vegetable oils and spreads made from a vegetable-oil base.
Limit your intake of saturated fat, which comes from full-fat dairy foods such as whole milk, butter, and high-fat cheese, and animal fats such as lard and highly-marbled cuts of meat. However, since dairy and meat contribute energy and nutrients to your diet, opt for leaner choices, such as low-fat or fat-free milk, low-fat cheeses and lean, trimmed meats. These options provide protein and other nutrients with much less saturated fat. Minimize consumption of foods that contain trans fats such as hydrogenated oils.
Resistance training requires muscle strength and power. Protein plays an important role in building and maintaining muscle. It also promotes healthy immune function. While the protein needs of athletes are highly debated, most researchers agree resistance-trained athletes need more protein than the general population.
The amount of protein needed depends upon where you are in your training. As training becomes regular, your protein needs may decrease. Recommended amounts of protein:
Phase of Training
Needs per Kilogram
Needs per Pound
||(per kg body weight)
||(per lb body weight)
|Weight and body-focused sports
||1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram
||0.54 to 0.77 grams per pound
||1.4 to 1.7 grams per kilogram
||0.63 to 0.77 grams per pound
Good sources of protein include:
- Lean meat, poultry and fish
- Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese
- Legumes (lentils, black beans, pinto beans, dried peas)
- Soy products.
Reviewed January 2013