This is part of Athlete Daily’s series highlighting high-level athletes across the world of strength training and functional fitness, and how they approach diet and nutrition. Learn what some of the best athletes in the world eat, how they fuel themselves and lessons learned along the way.
Anthony Pomponio, 28, competed at the 2016 Olympic Trials and was the 2015 USA National Champion as a 85 kg. lifter. Pomponio played football overseas before finding competitive bodybuilding. Once he was introduced to weightlifting Pomponio gave that up and has been a full-time lifter for the past five years.
Pomponio, who will compete at the 2017 USA Weightlifting National Championships this weekend, has been working with Renaissance Periodization for his nutrition for about a year.
Athlete Daily: What improvements have you seen since you dialed in your nutrition?
Pomponio: “I would say the biggest difference from what I was doing before is timing-wise. I’m just a lot more strict than I’ve ever been and as a direct result of that I’m seeing a lot of increases in my recovery. Being a clean athlete, it’s really difficult to find the modalities to be able to recover. [That’s why you see other people in the sport] take Human Growth Hormone (HGH) because that helps with recovery.
As I’ve gotten older, my ability to recover has slowed down a lot, so I really had to focus on that, even more so than training. Training is the easy part. We’re athletes, that’s what we do, we just train our butts off. The hard part and the real gains are made in the kitchen as far as eating and just nutritional timing alone. How much to eat, when to eat.
I’ve actually put on about 8-10 lb. since I started working with [nutrition coach Nick Shaw], because I feel like my recovery is better when I’m around 87-88 kg. Whereas before, I was at the Olympic Training Center in the spring, and it was really hard to kind of count macros and stuff like that.
Just with the amount of work you’re doing, I think I was at 85kg at my heaviest, I felt as though my body couldn’t recover as well.”
Athlete Daily: So adding that extra few pounds of lean muscle, is that why you initially decided to dial in your nutrition?
Pomponio: “My biggest thing is recovery. As a weightlifter, you typically want to train a few kilos above your weight category, so that you can recover faster from your workouts. It sounds crazy, but even 2-5 lb. can make a big difference in recovery. I needed to pack on muscle and that’s always been hard.
So, [getting down] the timing of nutrition has really helped me add on that extra amount of bodyweight and keep it consistent.
Sometimes my weight used to be a like a rollercoaster, where I’d wake up heavy and the next day early in the morning I’d be 5 lb. lighter. And [at that time] I think I was eating a little too much sugar—cinnamon rolls for carbs, stuff like that, and my body would just shred right through it no problem.”
Athlete Daily: You had a bodybuilding background (Pomponio took up bodybuilding to stay in shape for football)- but I’m assuming your nutrition now is less about body image?
Pomponio: “When you talk about body image in our sport, it does play a role. The more fat you have, the less explosive you’ll be. Little things like that.
However, our sport isn’t about body image, it’s not aesthetic. Having a six pack or having big biceps, that’s not going to make you lift maximal loads. I didn’t really care so much about body image, because my body is fine. My sport is not aesthetic, my sport is performance so I needed to figure out how to perform better and recover better.
Being in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) testing pool, we’re very limited in what supplements we can take so we have to kind of start from square one and say, ‘OK, this is what’s allowed’ and we really focus on nutrition because that’s something we can control.”
Athlete Daily: Do you tweak your nutrition leading up to a meet?
Pomponio: “I don’t really stress too much about cutting weight. Just with the nerves alone I usually drop 1-2 kg.
What I Eat in a Day: Anthony Pomponio
(Pomponio uses Trifecta System meal service.)
Wake up— 7:00-8:00am
Breakfast— oatmeal and ½ avocado. I’m not a huge morning eater.
Training Session #1— 10:00am-12:00pm. On my drive to the gym I’ll drink a whey protein shake mixed with water. I use GRIND Diesel, it has a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.
Post workout— If I’m doing two training sessions I’ll have a meal of chicken and white rice with some veggies and no fat. If this is my only session today I’ll have another GRIND Diesel protein shake.
Lunch (3pm) — 4 oz. of either chicken or turkey, with brown rice, either broccoli or green beans as my veggie and olive oil
Training Session #2 — 5:00pm
Post workout— GRIND Diesel protein shake
Dinner (6:30pm)— chicken or turkey, brown rice, broccoli or green beans and olive oil
Meal (8:30pm)– Spinach salad with 4 oz. of chicken or Ahi with an olive oil vinaigrette
Bedtime— GRIND Casein (25-35g) protein shake mixed with water
Athlete Daily Nutrition Series
Week 1 — CrossFit Games athlete Emily Bridgers
Week 2 — CrossFit athlete Christian Lucero
Week 3 — CrossFit Games Masters athlete Cheryl Brost
Week 4 — U.S. Olympic Team Weightlifter Morgan King
Week 5 — Human Improvement Project’s Gabe Subry
Week 6 — Weightlifter, GRID CrossFit athlete Marco Coppola
Week 7 — CrossFit Games athlete Lindy Barber
Week 8 — GRID and CrossFit athlete Jamie Hagiya
Week 9 — GRID athlete Andrew Rape
Week 10 — National Champion Weightlifter Anthony Pomponio
Week 11 —CrossFit athlete Andrea Ager
Week 12 —Powerlifter Ewa Januszkiewicz
Week 13 — Weightlifter and Powerlifter Kris Pope
Week 14 — Weightlifter Travis Cooper
Week 15 — Weightlifter Cortney Batchelor
All images courtesy of Anthony Pomponio