A few weeks ago a friend of mine said that we should interview this amazing lifter and she said when we did to let her know because she has some things in common and had a few questions of her own. Little did she know, we had already planned on chatting with Mel. That's the funny thing about powerlifting- it's a community made up of mostly regular people, with regular lives, regular jobs and regular families- they just happen to be extraordinary individuals who amaze everyone with their strength. We sat down with Melissa Zupec to see how she became the amazing lifter that she is today.
Introduce yourself to the GWPL community
Hi, I'm Mel! I've only been powerlifting for about 2 years now but I fell in love with the sport after my first competition and I've been hooked on it ever since.
When did you get into lifting and why?
I originally started lifting my senior year of college with my track team. Once I graduated I continued lifting at a local gym to stay in shape and keep my strength up and that's when Brandon (now my boyfriend) approached me and wanted to see if I would be interested in training with him. He said he saw the potential for me to become very strong, I just needed the right training and guidance. So I officially started training for powerlifting in December of 2013 and Brandon ended up convincing me to try a meet the following March and I loved every minute of it!
How does it feel to hold so many records!? (Which we think is awesome!)
Thank you! I honestly don't think it has all sunk in yet that I'm considered top 20 in the world in squat and total for two different weight classes. It's hard to believe sometimes when I sit back and think about it considering I've only been in the sport for 2 years. Brandon has to keep reminding me that we train this hard for a reason and that's to be the absolute strongest version of ourselves every time we hit the platform.
What are your best meet totals to date?
My best meet total is 1,096 at 165lbs which I just accomplished December 12th. If I realized how close I was to an 1100 total during the meet I probably would have made a smarter 3rd attempt on my deadlift. Now 1100 has become my goal total for my next meet!
In the world of power lifting, there's a growing debate on using enhancements. What's your opinion?
I think that's truly up to the individual whether they use them or not. One thing I will say is that I'm against those who take enhancements and try to compete in tested federations to see if they can get away with it. That's just annoying and unfair.
What's your approach to nutrition?
My nutrition truly depends on how close I am to a competition and how much weight I have to cut for it. I applaud those who can eat healthy as a lifestyle because that's something I could never do as I'm a fat kid at heart. In the off-season I basically eat what I want but I check my weight frequently to make sure I'm not going above 170. While training for a meet I always make sure I have plenty of carbs on squat and deadlift days, a medium amount of carbs on bench days, and low carbs on my off days. Luckily moving up a weight class to 165 has really helped since that's where I normally am year round and dieting is my worst enemy.
Favorite go to meal on a non-training day?
Chicken cooked some type of way, (normally shredded buffalo chicken in the crock pot or cut up and sauted on the stove) along with some garlic green beans cooked in the oven and two cups of white rice with lemon juice and a little garlic and herb butter mixed in.
Favorite cheat meal
Moe's. Hands down. If you've never tried it you're truly missing out. I get a chicken stack with queso and veggies (it resembles a crunch wrap supreme from Taco Bell but not made with dog [crap] meat and toppings).
You're a nurse and work nights, what do you do for recovery?
Sleep, and lots of it. I could easily sleep 12 hours, wake up and eat breakfast and then 2 hours later be ready for a nap, especially if I've worked a few 12 hour night shifts in a row.
3 tips for newbie lifters
Have someone train you that actually knows what they're doing and has proven results with people that have trained under them. There are too many "trainers" out there who are only in it for the money and popularity but really have no idea how to help someone become stronger.
For your first few meets cut as little weight as possible or none at all until you figure out what weight class will work best for you. When I started powerlifting I was 130lbs so I thought I belonged in the 132lb class. After gaining some real muscle I sat around 150ish in my off-season and decided to cut almost 20 lbs for two meets in one year and only had 3 weeks off in between dieting. I developed an eating disorder and felt terrible about myself and how much I was binge eating from not being able to eat the sweets I was craving for so long. So not worth it. I ended up having to take a few months off from lifting completely and didn't compete for an entire year just to get a break from it mentally and physically.
You have to compete for yourself and no one else. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many Instagram followers you have, how many likes you have on your facebook videos, or how many internet critics there are that will try to tear you down the second you are successful in the sport. None of that matters. What matters is how lifting/competing makes you feel and how confident you become, not only in lifting but in life in general. You develop courage, determination and find a new self-worth you didn't know existed.
What get's you through the tough training sessions?
Brandon, he's always there for my workouts and is the one giving me pep talks and pushing me to be the best that I can be. I also think about how there's another girl out there, training to be the best and if I don't finish my workout she'll finish hers and will be one step ahead of me. I'm extremely competitive so that type of mindset really helps me to push my body farther than what my mind thinks I can do.