Skip To Content

    This 21-Year-Old Gave Up Cardio For Lifting And Now She's Strong AF

    Here's how she got mega strong in less than two years.

    This profile is part of BuzzFeed Health’s health transformation series, where we share the stories of people who have made incredible overhauls to their health, fitness, and lifestyles. Just remember, you should always check in with a doctor before starting or changing your fitness routine.

    Check out previous stories here, here, here, and here. For this story, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community how they put on muscle.

    Want to share your own story or tell us about the health transformation of someone you love? Email

    Jenna Marcinkowski, 21, lives in Chicago where she works two part-time jobs, hangs with her dog (Leia), and eats delicious stuff like grilled PB&J.

    She's just like us!

    And we should also mention that she's super strong since taking up lifting.

    Marcinkowski has been into sports and exercise since she was in middle school, but she was always afraid of the free weight area.

    After she graduated high school, Marcinkowski started going to the gym with her brother.

    That's when she decided to teach herself.

    By January 2015 she was lifting seriously and following online programs for workouts.

    In December 2015 — less than a year since she started powerlifting — Marcinkowski entered her first competition.

    By the time she competed again in July 2016, she'd gotten even stronger.

    How does a relatively new lifter dominate? Mental toughness.

    And carbs. Carbs help, too.

    To fuel her four-days-a-week training, Marcinkowski eats a diet heavy in carbs (between 200 and 300 grams of carbs on a heavy lifting day) and protein.

    "My average day is about 2,600 calories... I'm convinced that that amount of food will help me train and recover for that day or for the week," she says. Steak, grilled chicken, vegetables, and protein shakes figure heavily, as do Pop-Tarts and Lenny and Larry's Complete Cookies when she needs a sugar boost before a workout.

    Next up for Marcinkowski: deciding what she wants to do career-wise and getting even stronger.

    She also wants women to know that lifting is awesome.

    You can keep up with Jenna's powerlifting on Instagram.

    Want to be featured in similar BuzzFeed posts? Follow the BuzzFeed Community on Facebook and Twitter!