Strength and power are two terms that generally refer to short, explosive exercise efforts. They are essential components of many sports, and athletes often develop specialised training to maximise their efficiency. Many metabolic processes contribute to strength and power, and utilising relevant nutritional concepts can help to maximise force production.
What are strength and power?
Strength and power are important aspects of many sporting disciplines and are both products of force production.
Strength is the amount of force that an athlete can exert, regardless of the speed or rate that it occurs. Power, on the other hand, is the product of both force and velocity. Effectively, it is the rate at which work is performed, or energy is produced.
The ability to optimise these components is considered fundamental to increasing performance in several disciplines . They are especially important for any activity or sport where short bursts of high output are required. It is not uncommon for athletes to have specified strength and power training to optimise their performance. The output for strength and power is determined mainly by the effectiveness of neural conduction and muscular contractions .
Nutrition for strength and power.
Carbohydrates provide the majority of fuel for intense exercise and therefore are the most important macronutrient for optimising output. Your muscles have access to stored energy molecules called ATP for rapid energy production, however, these stores only last around 10 seconds. When stored ATP is exhausted during a bout of exercise, your body will begin to metabolise carbohydrate stores to produce energy for the muscles . The most important of these is called glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrate found in the muscle and liver .
Strength, power, and speed athletes rely largely on glycogen to maximise their force production over extended periods of time. Low glycogen concentrations lead to reduced high-intensity performance and less time to fatigue . It is therefore essential that these athletes consume enough carbohydrates throughout their day to maintain these energy stores. The daily recommendation for these athletes is to ingest at least 5-7 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight . It may also be optimal to consume 1-4 grams of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight, 1-4 hours before competition to ensure glycogen stores are full . Prolonged depletion of carbohydrates can impair immune function, reduce training output, and cause burnout .
Due to its immediate impact on energy and performance, glycogen stores must also be replenished with appropriate carbohydrate intake after intensive exercise. This allows the body to optimally recover and be ready for the next session. It is recommended that you ingest 1-1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight post-exercise in order to optimise muscle glycogen resynthesis .
As strength, power, and speed athletes are largely concerned with the production of force, their muscles are required to contract strongly and repeatedly. This leads to damage of the muscle fibres and surrounding tissue. Muscle damage is a good thing in the right conditions as it drives the underlying process for adaptation and therefore improvement . Additionally, this style of training can stimulate the duplication and growth of fast-twitch muscle fibres, increasing their capacity to produce force. However, it is essential that your body has adequate amino acid levels to maximise this response.
Consuming high levels of protein will provide the nutrients your body needs to build and repair muscle tissue . It is generally recommended that strength, power, and speed athletes consume 1.6-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day . As well as being sufficient in protein, a well-balanced diet should provide an adequate combination of amino acids to match the demand for metabolic pathways and protein synthesis. Rapidly digested proteins that contain high levels of essential amino acids and adequate leucine are most effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis . To maximise this response, it is also recommended that protein is consumed every 3-4 hours, with around 20g being ingested soon after exercise ,.
Although fats are predominantly used as an energy source during low-intensity exercise, they still have great importance in the diet of strength, power, and speed athletes. Fats can be stored in the muscle as triacylglyceride, which serves a similar purpose to glycogen. This is a viable fuel source for energy production that supplements carbohydrate metabolism up to a certain point .
Fatty acids are also important in these athletes’ diets due to their role in other cellular processes. They are required to aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, many of which play an important part in energy production. They also provide the raw material for the synthesis of hormones that drive the response to training (such as muscle growth and repair) . Additionally, fatty acids are required for the maintenance of nerve cells, as they make up a protective layer called the myelin sheath . This is vital for such athletes as the production of force relies heavily on repeated neural firing.
It is generally recommended that around 30% of an athlete’s daily energy intake comes from fat sources, whilst up to 50% may be appropriate under vigorous training conditions .
As a strength, power, or speed athlete, it is essential to provide your body with the micronutrients it needs to optimise metabolic function. Any deficiencies could result in the body prioritising short-term survival mechanisms and placing less priority on those that enhance long term health and performance . For this reason, it is important to address micronutrient intake across a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
There are also specific micronutrients that play more immediate roles in optimal power production. For example, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are all critical components of muscle contraction and nerve conduction, key mechanisms for rapid force production  . These minerals often act as chemical messengers that stimulate neuromuscular activity.
The growth, maintenance, and repair of bones are also reliant on micronutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D (vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium) . Strong bones are necessary for successful power output because of the forces being subjected to them under load.
All athletes, including those concerned with generating strength, power, and speed, will benefit from having a healthy gut microbiome. Having a diet high in prebiotic fibres will provide the nutrients that gut bacteria need to produce beneficial metabolic by-products, called postbiotics. These postbiotic substances help to modulate many aspects of the host metabolism and immune system .
Optimised metabolic function will result in greater energy production for power output, whilst a stronger immune system helps to prevent illness. The effects of a healthy gut microbiome on strength, power, and speed output can largely be attributed to the indirect maintenance of good health, and subsequently, the ability to optimally train and compete . Micronutrients have a range of unique and diverse functions within the body and are required for a vast number of metabolic pathways.
The Radix solution
At Radix, we strive to create the best quality products for the best possible performance. With the principles of athletic performance in mind, our Radix Nutrient Architecture (RNA) Index helps us to increase the density of 80+ nutrients, designed to support athletes’ bodies like yours. Sourced from all-natural, quality ingredients, our meals are made to provide the key elements of nutrition to ensure your body can perform at its absolute best