Elite Powerlifter Jen Thompson Explains Her Diet

The multiple world record-holder explained everything you want to know.

The name Jen Thompson has become synonymous with a strong bench press.

Right now it’s her squat that graces the top of the IPF’s records page and this -132lb athlete is very talented at all of the big three: for a time she had the IPF’s -63kg total world record with 486 kilos, or 1,071.4 pounds. That’s weighing about 63 kilos (138 pounds) and she pulled it off in her mid-40s. 

But her bench press.

Her bench press is prodigious.

Here are some of the records she holds:

  • -63kg IPF World Record Bench Press: 142.5kg (314.1lb)
  • -63kg IPF Bench Press Only World Record Bench Press: 144kg (317.5lb)
  • -63kg U.S. Record and Unofficial World Record Bench Press: 145kg (319.7lb)

Not only that, but once she turned up to a meet a little heavy at 63.15 kilos, so she had to compete as a -72kg athlete — and then she broke the IPF world record in that weight class with 144kg (317.5lb). That was three years ago and it still hasn’t been broken. 

So it was a no brainer to try and find out what she eats. Here’s what happened in our interview.

Today we’re discussing all the questions she’s most commonly asked about:

Jen Thompson’s Calories

Here are the vital stats you should know:

  • Height: 5’8″
  • Weight: 132 to 140 pounds
  • Trains: Two days on, two days off, in eight-day cycle

And her calories? They depend on if and how much she’s training.

“I’ve got it down to a scientific precision,” she says. “Mostly it depends if it’s a leg day, upper body or if it’s a rest day.”

  • Leg day: 2,000 calories
  • Upper body day: 1,500 calories
  • Rest day: 1,200 calories

Leg days, as you might know, can be more metabolically taxing than upper body days, and apparently that’s even true when you’re a bench press world record holder.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Jen Thompson’s Macronutrients

So what about macronutrients?

In general I always get 160 grams of protein in a day, that never changes. The only thing that really  changes is my carbs. Like on leg day I get up near 180 and on a rest day I get under 100. And fat, usually 50 to 60 grams.

That winds up at a little over a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight: 160 grams at 135-ish pounds, so 1.2-ish grams per pound of bodyweight. That’s actually a little higher than the common practice of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, and Thompson actually aims for even more: her goal is 200 grams per day, she just seldom reaches it.

“That’s always sort of the goal, but I end up getting more realistically getting about 160 on average,” she says.

[Related: How Much Protein Should I Eat?]

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Now, these calories and macros naturally change depending on where Thompson is in her training cycle: she starts off heavier and gradually loses about seven pounds over twelve weeks.

“I try to do a twelve-week cycle. So at the beginning of the cycle I want to stay heavy and build some strength, but as I get closer to competition dates I’m trying to focus on my macros,” she says, noting that she doesn’t track her macros every day or even every week, because it’s an easy way to “go insane.” Instead…

“I start tracking about eight weeks out to see where I’m at, to see if I’m getting near my macros, and I’ll do it for a week straight.” she says. “Mostly it gets me motivated to get my diet dialed in correctly. So I’ll do that periodically for about a week, then I’ll do it once a week or so to make sure I am where I think I am.”

During the weight loss process, in addition to tapering her calories down, she’ll cut her carbs in half: at the start of her cycle she’ll be on around

  • 160 grams of protein
  • 200 grams of carbs
  • 55 grams of fat

And by competition time, she’ll be down to about 100 grams of carbs. 

[Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to the “If It Fits Your Macros” Diet

bison
Kenny Felt/Shutterstock

Jen Thompson’s Meals

So. What does she eat?

Well, Jen Thompson is a creature of habit and eats almost the same thing every day. Here’s what that looks like.

Breakfast: Vanilla whey with almond milk
Snatck: A Power Crunch® bar or an RXBAR®
Lunch: Omelette, maybe with whole grain toast
Pre Workout: Protein shake and pre workout with BCAAs
Post Workout: A post-workout shake (she uses products from SSP Nutrition)
Dinner: Grilled chicken salad, bison tacos, or bison spaghetti
Before Bed: A “Sleepytime” tea and a square of dark chocolate.

“That’s it for the day, it really doesn’t change a whole lot,” she says. “The only other thing I focus on are veggies, because I just think that’s the key, eating veggies. They’re just so good for you.”

She likes kale and broccoli, and another one of her favorite meals is a mesclun salad with pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and poppyseed dressing. (“I can eat that four meals a day, it’s so good.”)

Thompson will occasionally work wine into her calories but she’ll cut it out as competition approaches, as she feels it’s easy for it to interfere with her sleep.

When eating out, she says there’s always a macro-friendly option if you look for it. “It might not be the one you want, but there’s always a good option.”

[Compare this with the very different meal plan followed by IPF World Record holder Blaine Sumner]

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Jen Thompson’s Supplements

Besides the sports nutrition supplements mentioned above, which contain a lot of whey and antioxidants, she takes some supplements that she calls “old lady stuff.” 

“Iron, calcium, vitamin D, you just need more of that stuff as you get older,” she says. “I tried fish oil for a while but I didn’t like the way it made me feel. The way I’m doing things now, I don’t feel like I need to make any improvements with my nutrition. I go into my workouts with lots of energy and I’m able to be excited about my workout and then power through all the way to the end.”

[Related: Learn Thompson’s favorite tip for a stronger bench]

Wrapping Up

That’s about it: calories, macros, supplements, and how they all fit into smart periodization. She’s higher in protein than a lot of athletes, and it’s not super common to see calories adjusted depending on whether or not one is doing an upper body or lower body workout. But otherwise, this isn’t all that unusual as far as diets go: whole foods, low fat, plenty of carbs, and above all, be consistent and know how much you’re eating.

Featured image via @jenthompson132 on Instagram.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Jen Thompson?

Jen Thompson is a powerlifter. She holds multiple world records in the bench press, including two in the International Powerlifting Federation: 142.5kg (314lb) in a full meet and 144kg (317.5lb) in a bench press only competition.

What is Jen Thompson's diet?

Thompson adjusts her calories and macronutrients depending on her day: she’ll eat 2,000 calories on leg days, 1,500 calories on upper body days, and 1,200 calories on rest days. She’s eat about 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, 50 to 60 gams of fat, and fills the rest of her calories with carbs.

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. At BarBend his writing more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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