The champion powerlifter shares his protein-rich vegan diet and workout routine

  • Powerlifter Nick Squires has been eating a vegan diet for almost a decade.
  • Meanwhile, he has earned several championship awards and state records in the sport.
  • She said plants provide plenty of protein and energy and shared her typical diet and exercise regimen.

When Nick Squires started trying to get fit almost a decade ago, he never expected to break records, let alone do it on a completely plant-based diet.

Now 37 years old, the California native has multiple championships to his name, in addition to holding class state records in the massive 550-pound squat, 617-pound deadlift and 1,515-pound deadlift.

But originally, she just wanted to get a little more fit after her daughter was born, and trained in obstacle races before ever walking into a weightlifting gym.

“I decided I didn’t like running, but I liked weights,” Squires told Business Insider.

Around the same time, Squires was involved in a dog rescue and said the process led him to cut meat from his diet for ethical reasons.

“I had this cognitive dissonance of spending time, money and energy helping these animals and eating other animals. It weighed on me,” she said.

Over a year, he gradually transitioned to an all-plant diet that provides plenty of fuel for the big lifts: Squires has since set all-time personal bests of 374 pounds in the bench press, 611 pounds squat and 666 pounds deadlift.

Here is his daily routine for moving big weights.

His typical diet contains more than 220 grams of plant protein

Like most vegan athletes, Squires is used to being asked how he gets enough food and enough protein to build muscle and strength on a plant-based diet.

A typical meal day for him includes:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal, vegan protein powder and banana

  • Lunch: A stereotypical bodybuilder-style meal with broccoli and rice, but with vegan “chicken” instead of traditional poultry.

  • Snack before training: peanut butter and banana sandwich

  • Supper: protein pasta and vegan sausage

Overall, in this example, Squires is aiming for about 220 grams of protein per day (about one gram per pound of body weight), he said, so it’s closer to 240 grams.

Recent research suggests that 0.7 grams per pound of body weight per day is the optimal amount of protein for building muscle, which is in line with what nutritionists typically recommend.

While not all vegan proteins are considered “complete” proteins, combining different plant-based protein sources can provide all the essential amino acids. Vegan sources of protein include brown rice, peas, soy, other legumes, seeds, and even grains like oats and quinoa.

Plant-based foods are also nutrient-dense, rich in vitamins, minerals and compounds called phytochemicals, which offer health benefits such as reduced inflammation and a healthier heart, brain and digestive system.

Squires said she recently suffered a serious injury that kept her out of the gym, but she was able to recover in about half the time the doctor expected, though she cautioned that she has no way of knowing whether it was related to her diet or not. However, other high-profile athletes have credited plant-based diets with faster recovery and better endurance.

He lifts heavy and prioritizes active recovery

Squires competed in his first powerlifting event in Huntington Beach in 2016 and placed second in his class, despite primarily wanting to gain experience.

“It wasn’t about winning, it was about seeing what I could achieve. I learned more in six hours than I did in two years of training,” he said.

Since then, he has played in several state and world championships. Squires competes in “raw” powerlifting, which does not use compression equipment, such as special suits that can help move more weight (although some equipment, such as wrist wraps for bench presses, is allowed).

With the help of his powerlifting coaches, his training routine includes three to four days in the gym a week for about 90-120 minutes in each workout.

Squires said the key is rest, both between sets and between exercises, so you can move thousands of pounds in a workout.

“When you take 500 pounds off the rack and move it, it takes a lot out of your body, so don’t want to rush to the next set,” he said.

He added that rest days are key to allow muscles to rebuild stronger and prevent overtraining, which can slow progress.

“People think you have to be in the gym every day. Half the work is recovering the body,” he said.

Squires said he spends time at Peloton doing active recovery, periods of light movement that can improve circulation to speed up muscle recovery, for the rest of the week.

Near competition, his training cycle eases the volume, so he does fewer reps, giving his muscles time to be in peak condition for the match.

Squires said what he loves about powerlifting is the focus on performance over aesthetics.

“All my life I would sign up for gyms and do bodybuilding and stuff. The expectations of the fitness industry make you think that your body is going to change quickly, and if it doesn’t, it’s depressing,” he said. “With powerlifting, you get concrete feedback that you’re getting better because it’s about numbers going up. What you’ve achieved is much more important than how you look.”

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