Ivan Zwick: #1 Kefir Fan

Ivan Zwick, of Marion, IL, has won national and international championships in bench press competitions. He is a former international gold medalist and decorated athlete.

But what’s even more impressive? He’s 79 years old and doesn’t plan to end his weightlifting career anytime soon.

This past May, Zwick competed at the World Bench Press Championships in Narita, Japan. He medaled in both the raw and equipped divisions.

What’s his secret? Kefir. Zwick attributes his strength to the glass he drinks every morning for breakfast.

“I’ve probably been drinking kefir for the last 25 years. For breakfast I’ll have about six ounces of kefir because it’s got about 11 grams of protein.”


A quarter of a century ago, Zwick discovered kefir thanks to a Lifeway Foods advertisement in the newspaper.

“I saw an ad either in Business Daily or The Wall Street Journal. I’ve always been into healthy eating and living and it really interested me. There was a phone number [on the ad] so I called the company and I got a hold of Mike Smolyansky,” Zwick says. “He gave me directions on how to get up there. I drove out there real early one Saturday morning and met him. I spent about three hours with him and that’s how I learned about kefir.”

Zwick makes it a priority to consume protein in every meal. Since discovering that kefir is an excellent source for protein, it has been a key part of his diet.

“Every meal I have protein, I always have and I always will,” Zwick says. “I mainly drink the plain low-fat one because it’s got 11 grams of protein [per serving] and it doesn’t have much sugar. Other than that, I like the low-fat blueberry and the whole milk one tastes very good too.”

Zwick’s wife, Wanda Zwick, drinks kefir as well. She attributes kefir as a key component in relieving a food-poisoning episode years ago.

“We both ate seafood at a nice restaurant. What she got was evidently bad and she got real sick. [The next morning] she said, ‘you’re going to have to take me to the hospital, my stomach, it just feels like I’m going to die,’” says Zwick.

But Zwick had a plan before they had to resort to a trip to the hospital.

“I always keep kefir in the fridge. I gave her about 12 ounces of kefir in a big glass for her to drink. It neutralized all the toxins and the bad feeling she had. She was fine; it was amazing,” said Zwick.

Since Zwick and his wife have had so much success with the product, Zwick recommends kefir to his friends as well.

“I’ve introduced a lot of people to the product. It’s got all those probiotics in it, which really bolsters your immune system. I know a few people who had acid reflux, now they drink kefir and they don’t have to take medication anymore,” said Zwick.

Zwick works out three days a week and supplements his exercise with plenty of protein to rebuild the muscle he breaks down during his training sessions.

“When you’re lifting, you’re tearing down muscle fibers and you’ve got to replenish the muscles [with protein]. I have about 30 grams of protein per meal,” said Zwick.

Eating a healthy diet has always been important to Zwick. He chooses nutrient-dense foods and steers clear of sugar and preservatives.

“I think you are what you eat. You’ve just got to put healthy things in your body. My motto is ‘I eat to live. I don’t live to eat,’” said Zwick.

In addition to Zwick’s weightlifting career, in January 2007, he and his wife founded ‘The Lighthouse Shelter,’ a homeless shelter in Marion, IL.

“We’ve housed about 6,500 people since opening the shelter. It’s made a huge difference in their lives,” Said Zwick.

Zwick leads an inspiring lifestyle. He trains for upcoming competitions three days a week and works at The Lighthouse Shelter on his off days. He travels around the world to compete in national and international weightlifting competitions and holds his own weight (pun intended) when competing with men who are in their early 70’s.

The USA 2019 Powerlifting Bench Press Nationals is at the end of August and Zwick will be competing.

Zwick’s age doesn’t get in the way of his drive to compete. Consistent training and a healthy diet fuel his passion for the sport. At the end of the day, age is just a number. It’s passion, drive, and, in Zwick’s case, kefir that are the key to his success!

The Lifeway team wishes you good luck at Nationals, Ivan!


Update: September 5, 2019

Ivan Zwick competed at the 2019 USA Powerlifting Bench Press Nationals competition in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1. He won a gold medal in the equipped competition and a silver medal in the raw competition, both in the male 70+ age division. Congratulations Ivan!