How to Build a Basic Meal Plan (in 8 somewhat simple steps)

Many of you may be wanting to develop a more structured eating plan, but perhaps for whatever reason, are not ready to hire someone else to do it. If that’s the case, follow these 8 steps to put together your own plan!

Step 1-
Determine your goal. Is your goal for muscle gain? Is your goal for fat loss? Is your goal for maintenance/healthy nutrition? Whatever it may be, your nutrition plan needs to start with a goal in mind.

Step 2-
Determine a calorie level appropriate for your goal. There are a lot of websites that will calculate an estimated BMR (basal metabolic rate) to which you can adjust based on your activity level and goal (most of the website tools can do this as well). If you don’t want to use one of those tools, the simplest way to begin is to multiply your body weight by a factor of 10-15.
Typically, I would start with calories of ~12x body weight for fat loss and ~ 15 x body weights for muscle gain. These numbers can then be adjusted based on your progress.
For example, for a 150lb female looking for fat loss, I would start at about 1800 calories per day (150lbs x 12). This is not an exact science, and as mentioned, you can make adjustments as you go along.
**If you are much heavier than your target weight (50+ pounds), you may need to use a weight closer to your target weight for these calculations

Step 3-
Make a list of healthy foods you enjoy, group them into categories based on their main macronutrient composition.
For example, I like chicken, turkey, steak, sweet potato, rice, oatmeal, peanut butter and avocados. So I would list:
Proteins: Chicken, turkey, etc.
Carbs: sweet potato, brown rice, etc.
Fats: avocado, peanut butter, etc.
Now many of these foods will, of course, contain more than one macronutrient, but most foods can be categorized by the macronutrient they are mainly composed of.

Step 4-
Determine how many meals you would like to eat per day (that’s an easy step, no further explanation needed).

Step 5-
Determine the proportion of calories you would like to come from each macronutrient group. I feel the best place to start is around 1g of protein per pound of body weight (*again, use a weight closer to your target weight if you are 50+ lbs overweight).
Multiple the protein grams by 4 (4 calories per gram of protein) to get the calories you will be consuming from protein. This will roughly give you 25-35% of your calories from protein. The rest will come from carbohydrates and fats. Typically fats can comprise ~25-35% of your total calories. And then carbs would make up the rest.

OK, so that was a little confusing, but take a look at the example here and it should help to clarify:
150 lb female looking for fat loss.
Total calories = 12x bodyweight (150lbs)= 1800 kcals
Total protein= 1x body weight = 150 grams
150grams of protein x 4 calories per gram= 600 calories from protein
1800 total calories x .25 (25%) = 450 calories from fats
450 calories divided by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) = 50 grams per day
1800 total calories – 600 calories from protein – 450 calories from fat = 750 calories left (these will then come from carbohydrates)
750 calories from carbs divided by 4 (4 calories per gram of carbohydrate) = 188g carb
So, our meal plan for a 150 lb female looking for fat loss would have
~1800 calories, 150g Protein, 188g Carbs, 50g Fat
I promise you, if you just work through the numbers, its not as complicated as it looks!

Step 6-
Distribute the calories/macros amongst your meals. Try to evenly distribute protein amongst each meal (i.e. each meal should have an equivalent amount of protein). Typically, I like to include my carbs in breakfast, lunch and post-workout meals, but in theory, you could evenly spread them throughout all of your meals or even eat them in just the pre and post workout meals if you prefer. Similarly, fats can be divided into your non-carb meals, or evenly spaced throughout the day- however you prefer.

Step 7-
Start plugging foods from your list into the meal plan. Again, there are many websites available to give nutrition facts for most foods. Although this may seem tedious at first, if you eat similar things most days, it would not be too difficult to get a handle on the composition of those foods. I typically like to allow 1-3 options per meal—for example- 3.5oz of chicken or 1 scoop whey protein or 6 egg whites all have roughly the same amount of protein. You can use the same concept with carbs and fats.

Step 8
Monitor your progress and adjust accordingly. Whatever your goal is, you should give yourself a solid 2-4 weeks on any given meal plan and keep measure of your progress. Avoid adjusting things too soon just because, for example, you didn’t lose 2 lbs. the first week. Allow your body to settle in to the new meal plan and then make adjustments as needed. Usually this will lead to results with just a few small tweaks instead of a complete overhaul.

As you’re progressing, you can begin to manipulate both calorie levels and macronutrient levels depending on your goals. You can also make adjustments based on if/what you are training on any particular day.

As a side note- this is not an IIFYM plan, as I do not believe all calories are created equal, and thus I would encourage your food list to consist mostly of quality, nutritious, single (or very few) ingredient foods.

Advertisements

The question on implants- making the decision

So this is not the most PC topic to discuss but I think it’s worth bringing up, because let’s face it, it’s a reality in the fitness industry and especially the physique sports (figure, fitness, bikini, etc-).
So ladies, the question is… To get implants or to not get implants?

Here’s my take…

When I first turned pro, I was told… (yes, flat out told, by a “higher up” in the industry)… that in order to do well as a Pro, I would need to get implants.

And guess what. As a Pro, WITHOUT implants, I placed as high as 2nd in a pro show, qualified to the Olympia and competed in 2 Arnold’s. Although implants were something I’d considered for personal reasons, at that time I thought I’ll be damned if I ever let some guy tell me I need implants to compete in a sport. F-THAT.

But here I am now with implants, so let me explain.

I have been flat as board for my entire life. It had nothing to do with training, I’m just not genetically well endowed in that area. And to be 100% honest, it was always something I was self conscious about. I got teased about it in middle school and high school, and for me it was just something I was always uncomfortable with.
Should you love your body unconditionally? Yes of course. But if there is something about your body that you are not comfortable with and you have the power and means to change it, and if doing so improves how you feel about yourself and boosts your self esteem… Then do it.

I actually got my implants done during my “retirement” from competing. At the time, I had absolutely no intention of ever competing again… It wasn’t even a thought in my mind.
I had the means to have them done, and I decided I wanted to do something FOR ME. And so I did.

Do I regret it? NOT ONE TINY BIT. It was quite possibly one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I am MUCH more comfortable with my body now and I feel much more feminine. I don’t have a naturally “curvy” or feminine figure, and for me, they make a tremendous difference in that aspect. Personally, I didn’t go huge, I went from a small A to a large C/small D, and I think they look very appropriate for my body type. And to be honest, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about them, because they’re mine and they make me happy.

So how do you decide whether or not it’s right for you?
Ask yourself this: Am I doing this for me, or am I doing this for a better placing at my show? If the answer is the latter, DON’T DO IT. Getting huge boobs is not going to get you your pro card. So if that’s your motivation, forget it. The judges see huge boobs on 90% of competitors, they’re not going to make you stand out and they’re not going to win you first place. And even if they do, who cares, if you’re not happy with yourself then it’s not even worth it.

Make the decision FOR YOU. Not for anyone else. Not for your boyfriend, or for competition, or for more instagram followers.
But if deep down you feel like changing that part of your body will truly improve your self esteem and how you feel about yourself, then go for it. I did, and I PLACED THE WORST I EVER HAVE AS A PRO. And I still consider them the best decision I ever made for my self esteem 🙂

Be inspired by actions, not looks

This may come across as a bit of a rant, but a humbling encounter with an exceptionally memorable patient in the hospital today got me to thinking about some things…

The nature of the fitness industry lends itself to a strong focus on “look.” Thousands of “fitspo” pictures of shredded abs and arms and glutes are posted daily as “inspiration.”

But really, what is so inspiring about these things? Honestly, nothing. That’s not inspiration. Inspiration comes from people’s’ actions, their character, their message. What is that person doing or overcoming every day to get those abs? What is that person doing to make themselves a BETTER PERSON?

Personally, I am more inspired by the patient I see in the hospital bed dealing with a terrible situation who has a better outlook on life than 99% of the people I encounter on a daily basis (myself included). What would your outlook be like in a situation like that? Because let’s be honest, most of us would have a hard time seeing the bright side.

I’m inspired by the obese person that finds the courage to go to the gym, despite being uncomfortable, despite the looks they get from the “fitspo” crowd. The person that loses 100+ pounds through hard work and dedication and probably more struggle than we can ever imagine but will never have those “fitspo” abs.

I’m inspired by people who genuinely help others; people who set a good example; people with morals; people that care about more in life than how they look; people that don’t quit despite the fact that the odds are stacked against them — IN LIFE. Not just in the gym or during contest prep.

So start looking a little deeper at your sources of inspiration. Be inspired by people’s actions, by their message. Not by how they look.

And if you’re biggest struggle is that you’re feeling “fluffy” in your morning ab selfie because of the cheeseburger you ate last night, I’m sorry, you are not an inspiration.

Stop chasing a placing. Seriously.

I have to admit, I cringe a little every time I hear someone say “My goal is a pro card. I will do whatever it takes to get it.”

As someone whose said those very words, which then turned into “My goal is the Olympia…” and then “My goal is top 5 at the Olympia…” –let me tell you that all that mindset got for me was injuries, frustration, anger, depression and terrible self esteem. I was chasing a placing; letting competition results dictate how I felt about myself. And in doing so I lost sight of who I was and what it meant for me to compete.

If you are training/competing solely for a placing, you are going to be disappointed. There are so many factors outside of your control that come into play in physique type competition, that in actuality, you have no control over where you place at all.

Let’s face it. In sports, just like anything else in life, politics exist, and that’s NEVER GOING TO CHANGE. The sooner you accept that the more sane you will stay. To make things worse, physique type competitions are SUBJECTIVE. They are judged by other peoples’ OPINIONS. And then there is that whole factor that you cannot control who else shows up (sometimes more politics here) but realistically, you may be at your absolute best, but the person standing next to you may still be better. Should that diminish the fact that you are at your all time best, and you did everything you could possibly do to get to that point?

Physique type competitions can be absolutely brutal on confidence and self esteem if your concept of success/failure is based on where you place.

Everyone wants to win. Not everyone will. #fact. It’s ok to want to win. I mean, why compete if you don’t want to win. But at the same time, how you feel about yourself and what you’ve accomplished cannot solely be based on winning.

My advice is to focus on YOU. Accept going into the show (and I mean really, truly accept) that your placing is beyond your control. Focus on the factors YOU control. Did you give 100% to your diet and training, did you work as hard as you could, are YOU happy with how you look. If you can answer yes to all of these questions then you are successful, regardless of where you place.

For the first time in my competitive career, I can honestly say that I couldn’t care less where I place in Phoenix. Of course I want to win and I train to win (I’m competitive, I always train to win) but it’s no longer the most important thing to me. I’m not trying to fit in, I’m not trying to impress anyone, and I’m not chasing an Olympia qualification. I’m doing this for ME. I’m doing this because I love it and because I want to and because I CAN. And I hope to inspire others to do the same along the way.

My goal is to be the absolute best version of ME that I can. In all aspects of life. My goal is to work towards improving myself, overcoming obstacles, learning from mistakes and teaching others to do the same.

I am honored to have the ability to compete as an IFBB Pro. But bottom line is- pro status, placings, qualifications- they really don’t mean anything in the big picture. It’s the process and what YOU get out of it that means everything.
Besides, once you turn IFBB pro you have to pay $200-$400 per year just to renew your pro card 😁😁😉

Be you. Do you. Never settle.

“Badass or Bad Idea”

These days it seems everyone wants to be “hardcore.” But in reality, there is a very fine line between dedication and just plain dumb.

Let me preface this by saying that pretty much every mistake I’m about to list- I’ve made. The thing about pros is that we can be very good at only showing what we want people to see. After all, we are pros, we are supposed to be the best of the best and we have an image to uphold. But in turn, we are doing a complete disservice to those people who look to us for inspiration and advice.

What you get to see are the beautiful stage shots and photoshoot shots and contest shape gym selfies that we like to share, but what you don’t get to see through those photos are the actual consequences of what it might have taken to get there. You don’t get to see the permanent injuries, the thyroid damage, the 25lb post contest rebounds, the reproductive issues, the broken relationships and all the other not so nice things that can go along with taking “badass” a little too far.

Since returning to the fitness world last year, I’ve made it a point to maintain perspective and balance in my life, to keep my health and my relationships at the top of my priority list, even while contest prepping. It’s definitely still a work in progress for me, but let me share with you a quick reference list that may help…

>Getting your fasted cardio in at 5am before a long day of work and returning to the gym later to get your weight training in is pretty badass.
>>Spending 4 hours on the stepmill everyday is a bad idea.

>Training when you’re sore, or improving a different lift/body part/area while recovering from/working around an injury is pretty badass.
>>Continuing to train on a known injury to the point where it becomes a lifetime problem is a bad idea (yes, this one I am very guilty of).

>Getting through your very low carb days two weeks out from your show with no deviations to the plan is pretty badass.
>>Spending 12+ weeks eating nothing but tilapia, chicken, eggwhites, broccoli and asparagus is a bad idea.

>Going to a party and opting to avoid the desserts and alcohol while still spending time with friends is pretty badass.
>>Skipping all special/social occasions for an extended period of time because there will be “bad food there” is a bad idea.

>Doing some extra work on the side to make some extra money to put towards competing is pretty badass.
>>Spending your life savings and putting yourself into debt for the sake of competing is a bad idea.

>Completing a 12-16 week contest prep to the absolute best of your ability is pretty badass.
>>Spending 6+ months on a contest diet without giving your body any time to recover, only to rebound 30lbs when you’re finally “off” your diet is a bad idea.

>Going to the gym instead of to the bar on Friday nights is pretty badass.
>>Being a complete bitch because of your workout schedule/diet to the point where none of your friends/family even call you to hang out anymore is a bad idea.

I’m sure the list could go on and on. The point is, there needs to be a distinction between giving your all and being stupid. You can still be hardcore/badass/completely dedicated or whatever you want to call it, while still being SMART. You still need to dedicate yourself to your goals and do what it takes to accomplish them. If you want something, you need to work your ass off and sacrifice and do things that may not be a lot of fun to get there.

I’m NOT saying to slack. I’m NOT saying to take the easy way. I’m NOT saying to give less that 110% every damn day. But what I AM saying is that part of being “badass” and dedicating 100% is also being knowledgeable enough to realize when something you’re doing is just flat out not good for you. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s the importance of keeping perspective. You always have to keep in mind the things that are most important in this life- spending time with the people you love, maintaining good health, enjoying this short time we have here on the earth—because winning that plastic trophy at your show will not mean anything if you lose all of those other things along the way.
Just something to keep in mind.

Survival of the Fittest: The Last Few Weeks of A Contest Prep

You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re cranky. You’re not sure how you will make it through your next workout, and then cardio, and then four more weeks of the same. You question whether or not you’ll be ready. You’re checking the roster to see who else is competing, sizing yourself up against them. You check your abs a few times per day to see if hat last bit of fat has finally gone away. And all you can think about is pizza and donuts.

No, you’re not crazy. You’re 4 weeks out.

Even the most well planned, well thought out, sanely executed contest preps can be extremely grueling. Competing in a physique contest is NOT easy. You are pushing your body to a state its not likely comfortable maintaining and this can prove mentally and physically challenging for even the toughest of athletes.

So how do you handle the mental aspect of those last few weeks before a show, without finding yourself elbow deep in a gallon of ice cream?

It’s easy.

Just suck it up buttercup, you’re almost there…

But for real, here are a few pointers that have helped me through those last few tough weeks before a show.

1. Do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed. This is one of the only times I would suggest NOT looking at the big picture. If you overwhelm your thought process with “oh my god, how am I going to do this for another 4 weeks” you will never survive. So break it down into pieces. Take one workout, one cardio, one meal at a time. After all, it really is only one workout, or one cardio, or one meal that you have to get through. It’s nothing more or nothing less. You’ve done it before and you can do it again.

2. Trust the process. Your body will be ready if you just trust the process. You can only do what you can do. Stressing out about how you look or not being ready will only increase cortisol levels, causing you to hold more water and fat. Relax. Take a deep breath. And have faith that your body will do what it needs to do.

3. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Do what YOU are supposed to do. Just because Johnny is cutting sodium and Mary is doing two hours of cardio does not mean that YOU need to be doing that. Do what is best for YOU.

4. On a similar note, stop worrying about who else is going to be at your show. You can only control what YOU bring to the stage. It doesn’t matter if Jay Cutler is going to be in your class. It should not change what YOU put into how you look. So stop worrying about it!

5. Keep your mind busy with things other than contest prep. I know that all you feel like doing is sleeping until it’s the next time to eat again. But staying busy can help distract you from the overwhelming thoughts of “will I be ready in time” and “how will I look.” Find things to do- movies, hang out with friends, read, clean, etc. Time is going to pass regardless, but it’s better spent doing things that help keep you calm, rather than stressing you out.

6. Surround yourself with people that support you. Having a solid support system is key during those last few weeks. The last thing you need is negativity. Stay near people that boost you up and give you the confidence to keep going.

7. And finally, believe that no matter what, it will be worth it. And trust me, it will be. No matter how you look or where you place, you will be so happy that you didn’t give up. You want to be able to say, I gave it my all, I could not have done anything more. It is an experience you will never forget.

So there you have it. I hope you find these tips helpful. Please feel free to comment and share your own “survival of the fittest” tips below!