When you look into a typical weightlifter’s grocery shopping cart, you’ll usually see the standard run-of-the-mill items—chicken, rice, eggs, and oatmeal—in large quantities because they need to fuel themselves for their daily activities. More food equals more fuel. Athletes whose training revolve around their physical appearance take particular care with food selection, which is probably why most bodybuilders’ diets end up looking the same.
Powerlifters, on the other hand, take a different approach to their nutrition. Powerlifters eat for pure function and strength. They select food that provides the most energy in order to move the maximum weight from Point A to Point B. Quite often, prioritizing calorie-dense fuel leads to food choices higher in fats and carbohydrates. Take a look into a powerlifter’s cart and you may see sugary products, fattier cuts of meats, flavored drinks, and even junk food.
Elite professional powerlifter Pete Rubish may not look like a stereotypical burly powerlifter, but he certainly eats like one. “I like eating,” he says. The world record holder doesn’t stress about food sources like a physique model would, so his personality and chosen sport complement one another. He is still interested in eating for performance, though, and there is a method behind his shopping madness.
Pete makes it clear that he has no intention of having six pack abs and by design, his diet is not conducive to that. He wants to eat things that he enjoys that also provide sustained energy so he can complete his training sessions. His first stop at Marrazzo’s Market in Trenton, NJ was the bakery. He picked three donuts because he always buys donuts when grocery shopping. Wouldn’t you buy donuts if you’re not restricting yourself? Next up was Pete’s favorite section—the juices. After grabbing all of the different fresh berries, he took his time picking just the right juice to make his signature “Summer Slam” Animal Whey shake.
Powerlifters eat big but, unlike most bodybuilders, usually don’t weigh out their food. For example, if they are going to eat a chicken meal, they just eyeball a portion and cook it up. A bodybuilder would specifically weigh out the chicken to ensure that he was not over consuming his macronutrient. Pete found some thinly sliced steak to make one of his regular meals, a gyro sandwich. He quickly found the rest of the ingredients he would need to complete the meal: pita bread, pico de gallo, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce.
Not concerned with carbohydrate sources, another one of Pete’s go-to meals is spaghetti with ground beef and marinara sauce. He always chooses the protein-fortified spaghetti; at 17 grams of protein per serving, it is a quick and easy way to bump up the protein. Later, he grabbed his favorite oat bran cereal to serve as a snack, some almond milk to wash down the cereal, and a rarely seen guava juice. Pete—not one to pass up tasty looking pastries—picked up one last sweet treat on the way out. We’re not judging.
If you look at Pete Rubish’s food selection, powerlifters eat very differently than bodybuilders. Bodybuilders eat first and foremost for cosmetic reasons, whereas a powerlifter can be more relaxed and eat for taste and performance. The two sports may overlap with similarities in the gym, but couldn’t be more different when it comes to the fork.