Johnnie Jackson's Super Strength Foods

Forget spinach. Eating for Popeye-like strength is a far meatier matter. IFBB Pro Johnnie Jackson reveals his top strength foods and eating strategies!

March 26, 2013

By Johnnie Jackson, IFBB Pro

[Q] Johnnie, I know some bodybuilders like to avoid red meat. What’s your take on eating red meat for strength?

[A] Some people avoid it because it’s so high in fat and therefore high in calories, but for strength I think it’s very important. Anybody who stays away from red meat when trying to gain strength is nuts. It’s rich in protein and creatine, which help with building muscle and strength, and the fat, which has more calories per gram than protein or carbs, boosts your calorie count while you’re bulking up. Lean ground beef and steak are great choices for those trying to move more weight.

[Q] What’s your typical breakfast when you’re training for a powerlifting meet?

[A] My breakfasts don’t change a whole lot. I love breakfast. The amount of food changes, but the types of food don’t really change. Usually I eat about eight eggs and about three cups of grits with two pieces of wheat toast and an eight-ounce steak. When I’m getting ready for a bodybuilding show, I eat the same foods but a little less of them to limit calories. At breakfast I know I’ll be hitting the gym in two hours and I need to maximize the amount of calories I eat. I also want to keep my diet as clean as possible. I need food my body can break down and use for energy and to recover after.

[Q] When training specifically for strength, what do you eat pre-workout and when?

[A] I usually finish a second meal in the morning about 90 minutes before my first rep. It varies, but usually it’s 10 ounces of chicken and 2 ½ cups of white rice. I want straight-up protein with minimal fat and a simple carb that my body can burn quickly. The chicken gives a slower-digesting source of protein to give me a head start on recovery, and the rice digests quickly. I don’t want it in my system too long. With this meal I make sure I don’t go into the gym too full or bloated.

[Q] What’s the best kind of post-workout meal to have on a strength cycle?

[A] Right after you work out I recommend having a Meso-Tech shake. It’s a meal replacement that contains everything you need to refuel and grow. Within 30 minutes after that there’s nothing better than a 10-ounce steak and 12 ounces of yams or sweet potatoes, which will stay with you a little longer to help replenish glycogen.

Strength Foods

What are the top foods for gaining strength? The world’s strongest bodybuilder weighs in.


Johnnie loves potatoes when training for strength. He eats slower-digesting tubers like yams and sweet potatoes post-workout for a slower method of replenishment, but he likes faster-digesting white potatoes for quick energy.

Red Meat

Johnnie believes in a diet rich in red meat, that’s full of creatine and calorie-dense fat. He prefers well-marbled cuts like ribeye and porterhouse steaks.


Although grits get top breakfast billing, oatmeal may be more familiar and similarly beneficial. This slow-digesting food provides all the energy you need to push through a heavy training session.