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Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

In the fitness community, I’m most often recognized because of my big weight-loss transformation. I went from 185 pounds to a little less than 130 pounds. It took me a few years to get to my lowest weight, but I followed the motto that slow and steady wins the race and I never gave up. I know it was this attitude that helped me place second the 2013 Bodybuilding.com BodySpace Spokesmodel Competition.

Sometimes, I look back and can’t believe how far I’ve come. I don’t even remember the girl who had never stepped foot in a gym and gorged on pizza, chips, and ramen all day.

But I’ve decided my transformation work is not yet done—in fact, it’s only just begun! I’m on a second transformation journey, and this time I’m putting my happiness and my health first. I’m transforming my body from skinny to strong, and my mind from unhealthy to happy.

Before

After

Why I Decided to Change … Again

Believe it or not, when I weighed 185 pounds, I was one confident girl. I loved my body and never thought of myself as fat. I was who I was and that was that. I wasn’t defined by my body’s appearance. But that self-confidence changed the moment I decided I should lose weight. It seemed as though the more weight I lost, the more self-conscious about my appearance I became. I reached every weight-related goal I had set for myself, and yet I was never good enough.

At 125 pounds and with barely enough body fat to function, I competed for the first (and last) time with anxiety that I was “too fat” to be on stage. I had become so progressively wrapped up in numbers and body fat percentages over the few short years of dieting, that I was mentally destroyed.

I also noticed that my training started to suffer. I first began working out to be healthy and because I loved the way it made me feel, but I had lost sight of those reasons. I trained to burn calories and stay as thin as possible. If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run. I started to hate outdoor runs because I was forcing myself to do them. I allowed my training to control me. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed in exchange for doing whatever it took to stay thin.

Along with a severely distorted body image and training that was running me into the ground, my relationship with food started to become extremely disordered. Gone were the days of using food for fuel. If my food wasn’t weighed out to the gram and if I didn’t prepare it myself, I refused to eat it. There were days that I had full-blown anxiety attacks because I couldn’t log something in MyFitnessPal.

“If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run.”

I began taking hours of my day to try to configure my food so I would hit my macros just perfectly. If I didn’t, another anxiety attack would ensue. To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I restricted myself with calories, types of foods, and situations. God forbid I would eat a cookie!

I felt like I was drowning, like I was just barely holding my head above water. Everything I had loved so much in the beginning—the healthy eating, the workouts, my body—now had complete control of my life. They were no longer positives. They had become negatives, weighing me down with each passing day. I knew I had to change. It was only a matter of time before I broke down completely.

That’s when I decided I wanted to find strength.

Letting Go

The first thing I had to change was my mindset. I had to let go of the unhealthy habits that were slowly suffocating me. My negative body image was, and still is to this day, the hardest thing to let go of. I found it much easier to allow for self-hate than to find self-love. Sadly, I think this is true for many people. But I had to let go.

I had to let go of having visible abs 24/7. I had to let go of desperately trying to maintain 12 percent body fat. I had to let go of the number on the scale. Most importantly, I had to let go of the idea that I would only be happy if I was lean. I wanted to be happy when I looked in the mirror, and I knew it wouldn’t come from a certain size. It had to come from letting go and loving myself no matter what.

“I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made.”

I still remind myself of where I started. That girl sitting on her ass eating ramen all day is 180 degrees from where I am today, and she always will be. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made. Whether I stay the size that I am now or gain or lose a few pounds, I love who I am. My worth is no longer based on what the scale says in the morning.

I don’t have “fat days” or “fluffy days” anymore, because quite frankly, I don’t care. I refuse to let something like three pounds of water destroy my day. I know now that I’m healthier than I ever was at 130 pounds. My hormones aren’t out of whack, I’m not moody or depressed, I don’t have random headaches, I’m not constantly fatigued, and I don’t feel weak.

Unfortunately, there’s a widespread belief that equates health to six-pack abs. This might be true for some people, but for the majority it’s not. I can lift more, sprint faster, and am healthier now than I ever was. There is beauty in strength. I don’t just say it, I know it.

Letting Go

I wanted my fire for exercise to burn like it did when I first started lifting, so I let go of the forced daily runs and extra HIIT sessions to “make up” for calories. I began to utilize conditioning work 1-2 times per week instead. I added back my short outdoor runs, but much more infrequently, and never because I felt pressure to burn a certain number of calories. I threw my heart monitor away.

I also discovered powerlifting. When I finally dropped the light-weight, high-rep stuff I was doing to stay thin, I started following Wendler’s 5-3-1 program and quickly fell in love. My strength skyrocketed, and when I decided I wanted to take my training to the next level, I signed with The Strength Guys. Now, the spark is back when I’m in the gym. I feel the fire again.

Squat

Strength Training Program

I follow an intense, block-periodization powerlifting program created by my coach, Jon Stewart. It’s high volume, tailored to correct my weaknesses, and uses movements and load intensities built for progression. I’m on six-week cycles of five-day splits. I have one day of light conditioning and one day of complete rest. Mobility is a vital component of my current program because my training pushes my body to its limits.

Each day and week I use different sets, reps, and weight with a specific rest time, exercise tempo, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to follow. Days one and three look on week three of my program.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Pause Squats have the lifter descending to the bottom position of the squat and freezing. The bottom position is held for three seconds, maintaining tightness in the muscles and correct technique, before returning to the starting position.

Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.)

is lifting sub-maximal loads with maximum force. For more details check

elitefts.com

.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Reset Deadlifts are performed the same as a standard deadlift, but the lifter will put the weight completely on the floor and reset their hip position between each rep.

Letting Go

The hardest physical aspect to change for me was my diet. I had developed such rigid views and habits around food that it was almost more of a struggle to let them go than it was to keep them. I packed away my food scale and deleted MyFitnessPal. I started incorporating foods that I hadn’t allowed myself to eat in years. I stopped restricting. I re-learned how to eat, not from a clock or scale, but from what my body was feeling.

At first I thought I would feel free without the calorie counting, stress, obsession, and anxiety, but I didn’t. I would take two steps forward and three steps back, wondering if I would ever be able to change. It took years to develop my disordered relationship with food, and I knew it wasn’t going to take a week to fix it. So, I trusted the process just as I always had, kept working at it, and didn’t give up.

Today, around 70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food that allows my body to perform at its optimal level. This includes things like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

The other 20-30 percent of food I consume is made up of things that I crave, or that I just plain want—no explanation or condition necessary. There is no special time, day, or place for these foods. I allow myself the freedom to eat them when I want them. Some days I’m at a 50/50 split, some days it’s 100/0, but on most days I stay right around 80/20. It all balances out.

I don’t restrict, I listen to my body’s needs and wants, and most important, I consume everything mindfully and in moderation. Through all of the extremes, I’ve found balance to be the key component in my physical and mental health. It’s also been the key to my happiness.

Sample Day

I don’t have a meal plan to follow because the foods and amounts I eat change on a daily basis. I don’t weigh or measure anything, so all quantities below are estimated. I don’t know my caloric intake or macro breakdown, but I would guess I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200-2,700 calories per day. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Greek Chicken Wrap

Final Thoughts

Throughout my second transformation, I’ve found myself spending more time with friends and family. They couldn’t care less what I look like—my abs make no difference to them. As long as I’m healthy and happy, they’re happy too.

It’s funny because these are the people I pulled away from when I started my downhill slide into disordered eating and thinking. I sheltered myself from everything that wasn’t fitness related, even friends and family. But when I finally let go of the obsession and the stress, I felt free.

During this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

The fitness community is full of extremes. We work out until we can’t move. We eat diets of tilapia and broccoli. It takes a strong individual to endure what we put ourselves through. But during this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

I want to be somewhere between the overweight college girl and the underweight girl on stage, somewhere between the girl who ate pop-tarts for every meal and the girl who ate lettuce for every meal, somewhere between the girl who never stepped foot into the gym and the girl who wouldn’t leave it until she’d burned enough calories. This middle spot is where I’m happy and strong. It’s where I found my balance.


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Fitness 360: Karina Baymiller, Petite Powerhouse

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Perfect Legs: Karina Baymiller’s High-Rep Plyometric Leg Workout

Leg day is so nice, you better do it twice! I go heavy on legs early in the week and then finish them off with this powerful plyometric workout.

Body Transformation: Fitness Formula

Karina found out through relentless experimentation that good things come to those who are patient. She tried every plan in the book and perfected her own formula!

10 protein foods for weight loss

Trying to lose weight? Protein is your best friend. These foods will keep you fuller for longer, regulate your metabolism and help build lean muscle.   1. Egg whites They don’t taste as awesome as whole eggs, but egg whites are much lower in fat. Eggs (whole or not) are high in leucine, a muscle-building amino acid. Egg whites contain around 11 grams of protein and zero fat per 100 grams.     2. Tofu This glorious spongy soy product is cholesterol free, relatively low in fat and contains around 11 grams of protein per 100 grams. It’s also a great source of amino acids. 3. Cottage cheese: It might lack visual appeal, but cottage cheese contains all essential amino acids, is super low in fat and contains around 10 grams of protein per 100 grams. Dairy is also an excellent source of L-Carnitine, which plays a roll in fat metabolism. 6. Whey Protein Whey is a by-product of cheese production, and whey protein is a product made by isolating the protein in this by-product. It’s usually found in powdered form as protein shakes or supplements. Whey protein isolates tend to be the lowest in fat, but any kind of whey protein is a great source of amino acids, especially leucine, a muscle building amino acid. 7. Skinless chicken Ditch the drumsticks and wings for a nice lean chicken breast. Most of the fat in chicken is concentrated in the skin, leaving the meat quite lean. 100 grams of skinless chicken breast contains around 22 grams of protein and around 2 grams of fat. Chicken is also good for fat-free cooking methods such as poaching. 8. Prawns If you’ve only ever had these sweet crustaceans crumbed and fried from the fish and chip shop, you’re missing out. Prawns are high in protein (around 20 grams per 100 grams) and contain almost zero fat. They are also high in omega3, magnesium and iodine, all good for maintaining metabolic health. 9. Peanut flour Peanuts are high in fat, so chowing down on handfuls isn’t a great idea, but peanut flour is usually defatted, meaning that it’s actually quite low in fat. 100 grams of defatted peanut flour contains around 52 grams of protein and one gram of fat. Use it in your protein baking, or just add water for spreadable peanut butter! 10. Chickpeas Chickpeas might be lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates than most other protein foods, but they pack a fibrous punch. Chickpeas are a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre is a great way to increase the transit time of food in your tummy, leaving you feeling flat tummied and lighter, whereas soluble fibre soaks up water and slows digestion, keeping you fuller for longer.   4. Venison: Game meats tend to be leaner than traditional meats, and venison is no exception. It’s low in fat and high in protein with around 25 grams of protein per 100 grams. It’s also full of B vitamins that help regulate metabolism. 5. Kangaroo: If you’re not too concerned about eating an Aussie icon: kangaroo meat is lower in fat that most other red meats, and is loaded with metabolism-regulating B-Vitamins and L-Carnitine, which plays a roll in fat burning for energy. And it contains around 21 grams of protein per 100 grams. {nomultithumb}  

Eating for Distance

A good training regime is, of course, essential for distance running.  But for real success on the endurance front, it is important to give your nutrition a long hard look. The longer you run, the more fuel your body needs. As a general rule, if you exercise at intensity beyond one-and-a-half hours, your body needs to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes to maintain performance, says nutritionist Sarah OíNeill (sarahoneill.co.uk). And if you don’t consume the extra salt and sugar your body craves, you’re more susceptible to dehydration.

Fitness model healthy food swaps

Fitness model healthy food swaps If you’re struggling to swap out certain unhealthy foods, three of our favourite fitness bloggers and models share their food swaps below.Bianca CheahFitness website founder and model // Sporteluxe.com and biancacheah.com.au“I eat a high-protein, low-carb diet. I don’t eat dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt. Chicken and fish are my top protein picks and with them I always eat plenty of fresh vegetables – particularly the vegies in season as they are grown more naturally.

Erin Stern Elite Body 4 Week Daily Fitness Trainer Day 27

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As you progress through the program, push yourself from 30 to 40 seconds of high-intensity work for every minute of low intensity.

Today’s interval workout is the last training day of Elite Body. It’s no time to slack off or sandbag. Now is the time to push harder and sprint faster. Think of the last three weeks as practice rounds leading up to this one workout. It’s time to show the world (and yourself) what you can do and how you’ve improved!

  • Warm-Up
  • Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill Walking, Jogging, or Rope Jumping
    5 minutes
  • IntervalsIntervals Dynamic Sprint Drills: A Skip
    20 meters
  • IntervalsIntervals Dynamic Sprint Drills: B Skip
    20 meters
  • IntervalsIntervals Dynamic Sprint Drills: Straight-Leg Short
    20 meters
  • IntervalsIntervals High Knees
    20 meters
  • Intervals Intervals HIIT Cardio
    10 rounds: 30 seconds high intensity followed by 30 seconds low intensity. Use bike, treadmill, elliptical, or other equipment
  • Cool-Down
  • Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill Walking
    5 minutes

Elite Body Meal Plan

Check out the table below to see what Erin eats on a daily basis. You don’t have to follow these meals exactly, but take some cues from Erin’s template: Eat 5-6 times per day, eat protein at every meal, stick to complex carbs, don’t skimp on healthy fats, and taper your carbohydrate intake as the day goes on. Follow these rules to build your own elite meal plan.

Because each of us has particular caloric and macronutrient needs, feel free to add or subtract calories, increase the protein, and make other adjustments. Be smart about your choices, stick to the same food categories, and try to adhere to the schedule. What you eat is just as important as what you do in the gym, if not more. There are a lot of healthy options in these example meals, so you shouldn’t ever feel deprived or hungry.

Elite Strength Stack

Support strength, growth,
and recovery with this protein, bcaa, and pre-workout combo!*

“Day & Night” Protein Stack

Support muscle growth and recovery with this whey,
casein, and ZMA combo!*

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Fitness 360: Samantha Ann Leete, Nutrition Program

Samantha’s nutrition program is simple and effective. It’s also full of food that actually tastes good! Just like she programs her workouts, Samantha programs her nutrition so the macros aren’t always the same. Her meal plan goes hand-in-hand with her goals. Whether she’s trying to lean down for a competition or build some muscle in the off-season, she knows the right combination of food to help her reach her best self. Here’s her plan!

Samantha Ann Leete Fitness 360
Watch The Video – 13:58

Nutrition For Life

Samantha’s nutrition plan consists of clean food that makes her mind and body feel good and complements the huge amount of effort she puts in to her exercise regimen.”They say you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. I think that’s totally true,” she says. “Nutrition transforms how you feel, how you perform in the gym, and how you look.” To Samantha, nutrition is not only vital to her success as a bikini competitor, but also to her general health and well-being.

“I believe in balance,” she says. “I don’t think you need to go to any extremes to reach your goals.” Samantha practices what she preaches. She eats smaller-portioned clean meals every 2-3 hours. She prepares her food for the week so she doesn’t have to worry about how much to eat or when, and has a solid macronutrient profile for fat loss and muscle-building.

“Eating food that you enjoy will help you stick to your nutrition plan you’re on for a long time.”

“Having a healthy relationship with food is important to me,” says Samantha. Sometimes, it’s too easy to have negative associations with food, particularly if that food is considered “bad for you.” Samantha maintains that she never wants to feel bad about the food she eats. “Sharing a delicious meal with a loved one, trying new foods, and liking taste with the emotion of an exciting event are all really positive things about food. I don’t want to miss out on any of those.”

Samantha has two great pieces of advice for anyone wanting to live a healthier life: Enjoy the food you eat and create a nutrition plan based around your goals. Eating food that you enjoy will help you stick to your nutrition plan you’re on for a long time. If you hate every meal that you eat, you won’t be able to eat them for long.

“I believe in making small changes and replacing old habits with new habits that will help you perform and feel better,” says Samantha. “Moderation is key!”

Samantha’s Meal Plan

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 290 Fat: 2.2 g Carbs: 44 g Protein: 24 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 210 Fat: 1.9 g Carbs: 19.6 g Protein: 25 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 333 Fat: 4.5 g Carbs: 29.2 g Protein: 35.9 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 240 Fat: 13.8 g Carbs: 8 g Protein: 22 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 393 Fat: 19.4 g Carbs: 24.8 g Protein: 29.8 g

Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients.
  2. Spray coffee mug with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Pour ingredients into mug and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Place in microwave 30-60 sec and top with peanut butter.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 308 Fat: 11.3 g Carbs: 15.6 g Protein: 36.4 g


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About The Author

Cassie Smith is a writer/editor for Bodybuilding.com and former professor & college athlete. Find out more about her right here.

Build Mass With Class: Hunter Labrada's Guide To Adding Muscle

Growing up, bodybuilding wasn’t pushed on me at all. This might sound strange to some people, seeing as my dad is Lee Labrada, the IFBB Hall of Fame bodybuilder, but it’s completely true. I consumed a healthy diet as a child, but I never ate that much. As a result, I was always skinny.

More than anything, I loved sports. I played hockey from the time I was 5 years old until I was 12, and I never felt like I was at a disadvantage due to my lack of size. I could skate fast and was pretty strong—what else did I need?

In seventh grade, I became interested in football, and from the first practice I was hooked. I quickly realized that unlike hockey, I was at a distinct disadvantage. I had fun and did well enough in my first season, but my growing passion for football made me start looking for ways to put on size so I could become a better player. I’ve learned this is a common story among bodybuilders. Many, including my dad and Shawn Ray, got their feet wet in bodybuilding in order to get better at high school football.

I immersed myself in the afternoon and summer strength and conditioning camps my school had to offer, and while I made some progress initially, it wasn’t as much as I had hoped for, or expected. Following my eighth-grade season, I weighed a whopping 100 pounds, and I knew things had to change big time if I ever wanted to see playing time in high school.

Grow Like Dad

I consulted with—who else?—my dad, who made it clear that if I wanted to gain weight, I had to dramatically increase my caloric intake. Sure, I was training hard, but I had to eat more! That offseason, with his help, I started eating like a horse, and it made a world of difference. I gained 25 pounds that year alone.

As I kept working out and getting bigger, I began looked forward to training for football almost as much as I enjoyed playing football. By my senior season, I had built myself into a 5-foot-8, 210-pound running back and strong safety, and I signed a letter of intent to play football for a Division-II university in Boston. My senior season was a major letdown, however; I tore my hamstring on the first day of regular practice.

Hunter Labrada was part of the bodybuilding community long before he ever decided to become a bodybuilder.

After rehabilitating, I returned and played just four games before hurting myself again. This time, I suffered an avulsion fracture when my quadriceps tendon pulled a piece of bone off my hip at the growth plate, which was still soft because I was so young. Essentially, my legs had become so strong that the tendon had overpowered the connection to the bone, resulting in the fracture.

Football was looking less and less like my future, but as an upside, these injuries gave me an opportunity to train on a strict bodybuilding split routine. I found I had to split up the work for my upper body into multiple sessions so I could still be at the gym as much as I wanted to be. I made incredible progress, and by the time I was cleared to begin running, my athletic dreams had transformed along with my musculature.

Soon enough, I found I wasn’t enjoying all the things I used to enjoy about football. The highlight of any day became getting into the weight room. I decided that fall that I was done with football, and I was going to become a competitive bodybuilder.

Do The Caloric Math

That was three years ago, and since then, I have been able to transform my body even more, adding layers of muscle and quality size. I now weigh 237 pounds and am holding sub-8 percent body fat. More importantly, however, I’ve learned through trial and error, and hours upon hours of research, what works for me in terms of training, diet, and supplementation, and what doesn’t.

Remember that bodybuilding is a marathon, not a sprint!

Do you know what doesn’t work? The old method of walking up to the biggest guys in the gym and asking them what their splits looks like, what they do for certain body parts, or my favorite, what supplements they take.

Nine times out of ten, the people asking these questions do it with the best of intentions, and they just can’t figure out what the big guys’ secrets are. All they see are beasts crushing heavy weights in their workouts and drinking concoctions afterward that look questionable for human consumption.

The real secret is what those guys do during the other 22 hours of the day. What sets them apart from the people who are not growing is nutrition. Many people might think they know what I mean by that statement, but even they could be way off the mark. If you are truly trying to put on muscle mass, your traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner simply won’t suffice, no matter how hearty they are.

The basics of growth are simple: Consume more calories than you expend. In some ways, it’s that easy. But figuring how many calories you need to maximize quality growth, well, that’s not as simple. Here’s how you burn calories during your day:

  1. Resting metabolic rate: These are the calories burned by your body just so it can function, which accounts for approximately 60 percent of your daily caloric consumption.
  2. Daily activities: You burn plenty of calories just doing your daily tasks like walking, talking, working, and every other way you pass time outside of the gym.
  3. Training: These are the calories burned by your workout and cardio.

There are a number of different ways to calculate these numbers, but no matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of calories!

The amount of surplus that you’ll need varies based by your goals and how your body individually responds. One person might only need a 300-500 calorie daily surplus to make incredible gains, while another might require closer to an extra 1,000 calories. And the bigger you get, the more you will need to eat. This is a result of the increased metabolic rate caused by the added muscle mass and, most likely, your heightened training intensity.

The New Macros: Lean, Complex, Healthy

As you know, figuring out how many calories you need is only one part of the battle. Choosing which foods are the best to fuel your body and achieve your daily required caloric surplus is the other.

There are several schools of thought on this, but the one that I am most partial to, and have had the most success with, is simply eating large amounts of clean food. And no, I’m not talking about how you wash your vegetables.

I’ve never been one to go on the pizza-and-ice-cream bulking diet, because while you’ll probably put on weight, you will also be left with a lot of empty calories and unwanted body fat that you’ll have to burn off later.

Remember that bodybuilding is a marathon, not a sprint! So why put on large amounts of unnecessary body fat when you can achieve the same end goal of building dense muscle, while looking and feeling much healthier, by doing it the right way? It’s simple: You can’t go wrong by eating lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats.

These clean-food options aren’t complete lists, but they are guidelines. Why “ultra-lean” ground beef? Food marketers in our country have done a great job of capitalizing on consumer ignorance, so when the average person picks up a package of ground beef and sees a big “93 percent fat free” sticker, they think they are making a great choice. This beef, at 93 percent fat free, is actually approximately 33 percent fat per serving.

How is this possible, you ask? Because the beef is 93 percent fat free by weight, not by calories! A gram of protein has 4 calories, and one gram of fat is 9 calories, so you can see where it can get tough to stay on top of the numbers. This is why I look for 98 percent fat-free lean meats for my diet; these work out to approximately 10 percent fat per serving, by calories. I keep my proteins lean, and make up for it by eating fats from the “healthy fats” list.

The bigger you get, the more you will need to eat.

Supplementation

Before we dive into training, it’s important to touch on the supplements I use to augment my nutrition plan. As any smart athlete or coach will tell you, supplements can’t replace hard work and quality nutrition.

They can, however, round out your diet, introduce performance-boosting nutrients, and make getting adequate amounts of specific macronutrient easier.

Protein

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Protein is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you talk to someone about supplements, and for good reason. Protein is essential for muscle growth and post-workout repair.

Whey is digested much faster than any other protein source available, which makes it ideal after training. Try to drink your whey within 30 minutes of your workout, targeting roughly 40 grams of protein.

When searching for a good whey protein, look for servings per container, protein per serving, and the presence of any “filler” nutrients like fats and added sugars.

You obviously want to maximize your money spent and give your muscles the best possible quality of protein for optimal results.

Creatine

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Creatine monohydrate is simple, safe, effective, extremely well-tested, and cheap. You will experience size, strength, and performance gains while taking it because creatine increases phosphocreatine stores inside your muscles and also causes them to hold more water.

I don’t like to mega-dose creatine, so I stick with five grams per day. When shopping, look for a pharmaceutical-grade creatine like Crealean.

Glutamine

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Glutamine is the most prevalent amino acid in your muscle tissue, and it’s one of the key shuttles for nitrogen into your muscles.

Beyond the muscle-building and recovery benefits of glutamine, it’s helpful for immune support and gut health, making it an essential supp in my book.

Take 5-10 grams per day.

Pre-workout

Yes, the stimulant present in nearly every pre-workout is a plus, but you shouldn’t purchase a pre-workout product just for caffeine. You should purchase it because of other physiological boosts.

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A good pre-workout will increase blood flow to your working muscles, which increases your strength and endurance by delivering more oxygen and nutrients. This, in turn, increases your performance and supports growth.

Look for a pre-workout powder that contains a full dose of creatine, beta-alanine, glutamine, and other performance ingredients.

Stay away from products that feature proprietary blends. That’s usually where manufacturers hide useless pixie dust amounts of exotic sounding ingredients that don’t help you much.

Fast-Acting Carbohydrates

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I don’t normally advocate fast carbs, but they can be helpful around your workouts. Since your body rapidly processes simple carbs, they allow you to replenish the glycogen in your muscles that you deplete during training.

This helps you recover faster and train harder. After a workout, fast carbs spike your insulin and help dliver nutrients to your fatigued muscles.

You can get simple carbs from fruits, sugary sports beverages, dextrose, or any number of extremely simple carbohydrates. I personally use Labrada’s PowerCarb product; it contains a special carbohydrate molecule designed to serve the exact function I described above, but better than any of the previous options listed. I enjoy sipping one scoop throughout my workout; it helps me sustain a full pump.

BCAAs

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When you consume proteins, your body breaks them down into amino acids. There are three essential amino acids called branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs, which are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are some of the most important for muscle growth, repair, and recovery.

I like to supplement with BCAAs before, during, and after my workouts to prevent catabolism (or breakdown) of my hard-earned muscle tissue and provide the fuel necessary for additional growth and energy during the intense stress of my training.

HUNTER’S MEAL PLAN AND SUPPLEMENTS

Here’s how a week of nutrition and supplementation looks for me on the system described above:

Training for Mass

Training regimens are a dime a dozen, and they’re almost all impressive in their own way. You have to listen to your body and find the one that works for you, or alter an existing one to better suit yourself. In the end, I believe it comes down to optimizing what I like to call your “training intensity equation.” Here’s what that looks like:

Training Intensity = (Volume x Weight used)/Rest time

This isn’t an equation that will spit you out a number. Instead, it’s meant to portray the relationship between the variables, so you can change them according to what works best for your body. You can increase or decrease your training intensity by either changing the volume, the weight you use on each set, your rest time, or all three.

I’ve been training on a push/pull-style split almost since I started, with all of the trial-and-error experimentation happening in the variables making up the training intensity. Initially, I pounded my larger body parts with upward of 25 sets. While I initially got great gains, my progress quickly slowed despite my good nutrition, supplementation, and rest.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that you don’t grow in the gym—it’s the opposite! You incur tears and trauma on a microscopic level, breaking down those precious muscles you have spent so much time and money to build. If the tears and trauma are too great, or they’re not given adequate time to recover, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Of course it’s normal to be sore or feel like you did something taxing the day after you train, but you shouldn’t feel like you got hit by a truck for three days after every workout, either!

The Intensity Sweet Spot

Once I started tweaking my training intensity equation, I found that I experience my best gains doing 12-15 sets per large body part (chest, back, legs) and 8-10 sets per small body part (shoulders, biceps, triceps) using a moderate 8-12 reps. This level of volume allowed me to keep my training intensity high by decreasing my rest time between sets and by performing each set to failure using techniques such as forced reps and negatives.

Staying mindful of these variables allows me to be more efficient in the gym, as well. My weekly chest and triceps workout takes me 1 hour and 10 minutes, but if I did the same routine in 1 hour and 45 minutes, I will feel like I did significantly less work. And for all intents and purposes, I did!

I challenge you to increase your intensity in some way during your next workout. That increased intensity, as many greats like my father have shown, makes muscles grow. Just stay mindful of the equation to avoid getting hit by the intensity freightliner!

Increase or decrease your training intensity by changing the volume, the weight you use on each set, your rest time, or all three.

My Sample Bodybuilding Workout

Abs and cardio

Abs and cardio

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