Female powerlifting: Muscle building, meal plans, & mindset.

October 11, 2021

Female powerlifting: Muscle building, meal plans, & mindset.

In this article:

  • What inspired you to get into powerlifting?
  • What did you learn from competing in powerlifting?
  • What did your powerlifting nutrition look like?
  • What supplements did you use?
  • Any advice for someone just getting into the sport of powerlifting?

Considering the sport of powerlifting or bodybuilding and wanna know if it’s right for you? Though images of Arnold Schwarzenegger, protein powder, peanut butter by the spoon, and obsessing over macronutrients come to mind, you might find some wisdom in getting the inside scoop.

Today we interview former female powerlifter, Abbie Seek about her daily diet, training regimen, and muscle gains throughout her career and victories. Get ready for some insider tips and dive into the mindset of what it takes to get you there. Is powerlifting right for you? Keep reading.

How did you become involved in Powerlifting? What inspiration or role model drew you into the sport?

As a child, even as young as 8, I remember going to the gym with my parents. At that age I would walk around the track, play basketball, and run on the treadmill because those were the only things I was allowed to do at that facility. I would always watch my Dad and Mom lift weights and to me it looked so fun. I could not wait until I was old enough to do it with them. Occasionally I was able to try out a machine or two with my Dad when the staff was not looking, ha!. Around the age of 12, I found my parent’s p90x DVDs upstairs and decided I wanted to try them out. That was my first introduction to using dumbbells and weights on my own and I was HOOKED. Soon after, I told my Dad I wanted to go to the local YMCA with him so he could show me how to lift weights. We would go several times a week, every time doing different machines and learning new exercises.

I immediately began getting online, reading books, and doing as much research as I could on the proper way to workout and what was most effective for building muscle. I loved seeing women with muscular physiques who could lift more than the guys. I knew I wanted that to be me. I have always been a tomboy and tried to outdo the boys my age. So, seeing as lifting weights tended to be thought of as more of a guy thing, I knew I wanted to get good at it!

During my research I found Layne Norton on YouTube and Instagram. Layne has his PHD in nutritional science and is a competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter. He puts out a plethora of science-based information about powerlifting and weight lifting, all for free. I learned SO much and became obsessed with finding other women who were strong and lifted weights. I began seeing more and more women like this on social media. At age 14, I came across a competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter named Katie Rutherford. She quickly became my inspiration, I wanted to be strong and jacked just like her. She squatted and deadlifted over 400lb and benched close to, if not more than 200lb as a natural lifter. In 2015 I signed up for my first powerlifting competition and my more serious training began.

How long did you compete for and what did you learn from your experience? What did it give you that you've taken with you and applied to your life today?

I competed for five years, with my first competition in 2015 and my last at the end of 2019. However, I was training consistently several years before my first meet.

I learned that I could set my mind to a goal and make it happen. The training was very physically and mentally draining. It’s hard to truly understand how taxing it is to lift a maximal amount of weight, until you do it competitively. My workouts were nothing less than an hour and a half and some days over two hours. I was obsessed. I did not miss a training day.

At my first competition, my nerves were at an all-time high, not knowing what to expect. But, I set several state records for my age and weight class at that initial meet. Sadly, I was never satisfied with my performance. Every meet I completed I felt frustrated that I did not do better. For me, one big takeaway from competing in powerlifting was that when you work hard to achieve something, you need to celebrate those victories. Looking back I realize that my desire to be better, and my dissatisfaction with my performance took my enjoyment out of the sport. I learned to keep my expectations high, but to appreciate and be proud of the things I accomplished. I began to slow down enough to recognize all the hard work and time that I dedicated to my goal. Life is not about the destination or end product, it is about the journey and the character shaping that accompanies it. I learned to truly be present in the moment and to be grateful for each experience in my life.

On a less serious note, I absolutely loved the feeling of lifting heavy weight. It was a great way for me to channel my intensity in an area where being aggressive was totally okay and encouraged.

We understand that fueling & recovery are key to performing at your best. What did your daily nutrition look like on a typical training day? What was your competition day nutrition? Do you have any secret weapons you want to share with us that really made a difference?

I tracked my macros to make sure I was getting enough calories to fuel my training. I ate about 1g/lb of bodyweight of protein or a little less, anywhere from 200-300g carbs depending on my energy expenditure that day, and at least 70g of fat. My calorie intake was always over 2,000 calories. I was mostly vegetarian for the first two years that I competed. This definitely did not affect my performance, and my decision to eat more meat later on, had more to do with the convenience.

A typical day for me when I wasn’t eating much meat looked like,

Breakfast: protein shake with peanut butter, banana, almond milk.

Lunch: tofu, rice, broccoli

Snack: nuts, granola bar

Dinner: eggs and toast

Pre-workout: Some type of quick-absorbing carb source, usually a PopTart or Rice Krispie. Simple sugar breaks down fast, which is what is needed to provide your body with immediate fuel for training.

1 gallon of water a day.

The day before and the day of the competition it is very important to take in a lot of carbs! I would bring all kinds of carb-heavy snacks and foods to keep fueled up between lifts on competition day. This is extremely important because if your glycogen stores are depleted, you will not perform to your full potential.

Getting enough sleep at night and prioritizing stretching and mobility is ESSENTIAL to staying healthy and injury-free during training. Lifting heavy loads for prolonged periods of time takes a toll on your body and you must be diligent to counteract that.

Which supplements were staples in your pantry for pre-workout fuel and post-workout recovery?

My use of supplements for training were carefully chosen and minimal. I focused first and foremost on making sure I consumed a healthy, well-rounded diet. Eating the right foods and getting proper nutrition is the biggest staple when trying to build and maintain strength. But I did use some supplements that made a marked difference. Caffeine was my go-to performance aid for a pre-workout boost. However, I was moderate in terms of how much I consumed.

I also experimented with protein powders and found creatine to be helpful in a couple of meet preps. It is a beneficial aid in building strength and muscle bulk. I will say that a good quality protein powder is very helpful and a convenient way to keep your protein intake high day after day. Many of my fellow training buddies also used collagen powder to help their post-workout recovery. If I had to pick one supplement that worked for me, I would say that creatine was my go-to. I think that finding supplements for better rest and recovery, like collagen, however, would be helpful in repairing strained muscles, joints, and bones. If you don’t have sufficient protein, your muscles will not recover or grow. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. This is what is used in your body to repair and rebuild muscle damage from exercise.

BCAA’s were used by many of my powerlifting friends as a way to build skeletal muscle and recover during intense training periods. They continue to be popular with both bodybuilders and powerlifters alike.

Any advice for someone just getting into the sport of powerlifting? (books, mindset, podcasts, nutrition, or otherwise?)

RESEARCH! I strongly encourage you to do as much research as possible on the subject. Science is always changing and evolving. Even from the time I was competing to now things have changed and new research has come out about the most effective forms of training and nutrition.

Make sure to find CREDIBLE sources. There are thousands of fitness “gurus” on social media who will sell you whatever you want to hear. Fact check their information and sources. Don’t attach yourself to just one ideology. Become well versed in different perspectives and do not take someone’s opinion as fact. We have access to an incredible amount of information now, thanks to the internet.

I recommend following and reading content from

  • Layne Norton (Instagram - @biolayne)
  • Brad Schoenfeld (Instagram - @bradschoenfeldphd)
  • Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy, Brad Schoenfeld

(This book will, hands down, teach you everything you need to know about exercise science, and how to program weight lifting for maximal effectiveness. Be ready, it is a heavy, science packed read.)

My best advice to new lifters is to find a mentor and be consistent. It doesn’t have to be someone you know, it can be someone you find on social media, like I did. Listen to or read their content and try to soak up all the information you can. Consistency is key for muscle and strength building. You must be consistent with training and nutrition. Perfection isn’t necessary and most likely will not happen, BUT consistency will always win out.

Overall, if you are just getting started, HAVE FUN! Enjoy the process and realize that if you put in the work, you will be rewarded.

Hope this helps!

Summary Points

  • For me, one big takeaway from competing in powerlifting was that when you work hard to achieve something, you need to celebrate those victories
  • I ate about 1g/lb of bodyweight of protein or a little less, anywhere from 200-300g carbs depending on my energy expenditure that day, and at least 70g of fat
  • Getting enough sleep at night and prioritizing stretching and mobility is ESSENTIAL to staying healthy and injury-free during training
  • I think that finding supplements for better rest and recovery, like collagen, however, would be helpful in repairing strained muscles, joints, and bones
  • I strongly encourage you to do as much research as possible on the subject




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