Gaining and Maintaining Lean Muscle (My BFF)

My best friend for 16 years, Maggie, is really a fitness inspiration.  Her body is the envy of all of our friends and we are always asking her for fitness advice.  Over the weekend, I sat down with Maggie for a lengthy chat about her lifestyle, including her eating habits and workout routines, along with what vitamins and supplements she uses.  I think she has a lot to share about the "mystery" behind what it takes to get a super lean body.

Her physique and lifestyle may be more extreme than most people desire (she maintains about a 14% body fat and carries a cooler with her food to work everyday, eating it cold if she can't get to a microwave), but my goal is that you'll see how incorporating some of the things she does can make a positive impact on your health and/or help you lose weight and build muscle-  if that's what you want to do.

A little background before we start:  Maggie and I have been friends since our early 20s and even lived in an apartment together in college and also worked together (she was the bartender, I worked the beer tub, and our phone number really was 780-BEER:)  Like many girls in our twenties, we had too much fun, and over the years, we've grown up (I'm 37, she's 39) and have been through many of life's ups and downs together.   She remains my constant confidant and I'm thankful to have a friend with such a big heart.

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Although she has been fit most of her life, Maggie has always worked very hard to be that way.  After her daughter was born and she lost the baby weight, she found herself skinny, but lacked muscle tone and definition.

Four years ago, when her daughter was 3, Maggie started working out with a trainer 4 times a week, doing cardio on her own 2 additional days, and started a new eating regimen that she still follows pretty closely to this day.  She has maintained her weight and muscle, fluctuating maybe 5 pounds every so often.

I will also mention that Maggie keeps up this eating and training regimen despite being a full-time working, single mom.  Her gym has a daycare that encourages activity where her daughter can climb a rock wall, play soccer, or engage in other sports with other kids.  Mags says that she firmly believes that taking 1 to 1 1/2 hours out of their day for her to workout makes her a better, more patient mom.  And she shared that working out frequently really helps reduce her stress and anxiety levels that tend to plague her when she doesn't get those workouts in.

Because I got so much information during our "interview", I'm breaking this post into two parts.  Today, I'll focus on the eating and, later, we'll talk about the workouts.

When she began working out with a trainer, he tracked her progress, weighing her and measuring her body fat regularly.  p.s. Maggie is 5'4. (and isn't her daughter just adorable??!)

February 26, 2008:  107 pounds; 17.5% body fat

April 28, 2008:  104.5 pounds; 15% body fat

July 10, 2008:  108 pounds; 12% body fat

October 4, 2008:  110 pounds; 12% body fat

Notice that she actually gained weight as her muscle mass increased, but her body fat decreased significantly, about 5 percentage points.

When she was being extremely diligent and goal-driven, Maggie ate balanced "meals" (which typically included a protein (4-6 ounces, 1 cup steamed veggies, and 1/3 cup complex carbohydrate) every three hours.  So, basically, at 8am; 11am; 2pm; 5pm; and 8pm, she was eating "meals" as described below.  Many days, the same meals are eaten repeatedly.

Now, she alternates the "meals" with "snacks" in between.  So, instead of 5 meals, she eats 3 meals and 2 snacks.

Examples of meals:

  • Protein pancakes
  • Extra-lean ground turkey (1/2 to 1 cup) with pasta sauce, brown rice (1/3 cup), steamed veggies or black beans (1/3 cup)
  • Grilled fish (tilapia, salmon, halibut) with salad
  • Grilled chicken salad with veggies 
  • Turkey burger (no bun) with veggies and a small sweet potato
  • Omelets with spinach, extra lean ground turkey
  • Meatloaf muffins with veggies and rice or sweet potato
Favorite proteins are fish, extra lean ground turkey, chicken, beans, quinoa, and egg whites.

Favorite veggies are fresh zucchini, squash, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, and asparagus.

Favorite complex carbs are brown rice and sweet potatoes. 

Favorite seasonings are Tony Chachare's Salt Free seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper.

She recommends using condiments and salad dressings to enhance the flavor of your food, but use them sparingly.

Examples of snacks:
  • Hummus and carrots
  • Raw almonds
  • Greek yogurt (she loves Chobani) with 1/3 cup granola (gluten free) or fruit
  • Cheese squares
  • Protein bar (in a pinch, she prefers real food)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Apples and raw almond butter

She drinks only water, no soda, and rarely coffee (although she IS the one who got me hooked on coffee when we lived together years ago).

8:00 a.m.   Protein shake

11:00 a.m.  Protein pancake

2:00 p.m.  Extra-lean ground turkey (1/2 cup) with pasta sauce, rice (1/3 cup), veggie (1 cup)

5:00 p.m.  (pre-workout) Meatloaf muffins, steamed veggies, and sweet potato

8:00 p.m.  (post-workout) protein shake

8:30 p.m.  Grilled fish, quinoa, steamed veggies

Before bed:  If she's hungry before bed, she eats yogurt (Activia) or 1/2 cup of skim milk.

Like me, Maggie's got a bad sweet tooth.  She says she can satisfy it with a Lenny & Larry's Muscle Brownie protein bar or a high protein chocolate chip cookie. But, once a week, she indulges in pizza or something else she's craving, and an awesome dessert.
Maggie typically cooks a big batch of food on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, then portions it out into meals she can  grab easily at home or take with her to work.

I asked Maggie what gave her the determination to stick with her meal plan initially, when it seems so extreme if you're not used to it.  She explained that she was highly motivated to get her body into the shape that she knew it could be in and did not want to "let herself go" after having a baby.  She knew from watching other people in her gym, as well as her trainer, that eating clean was the key to obtaining the body she wanted.  "The only person that can change you is you, and you have to just take control of your life and do it," she told me.

Maggie has friends and family members who are overweight, suffer from various health problems, and require medication.  Seeing how unhappy and unhealthy they are, helps drive her in the other direction.  She strives to live a healthy, drug free lifestyle.

Also, this girl HONESTLY enjoys the food she (and her daughter) are eating.  She loves grilled fish and steamed vegetables.  Trust me, I've been to some of the best steakhouses with her, and she still orders the mahi mahi!

Back in 2008, when Maggie started eating this way, she was quick to see visible results in just about 30 days. Within 90 days, she saw major results.  The pictures don't lie.  That is motivation enough to stick with it if you ask me.

Love you girl!  Thanks for sharing!

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I told Maggie that y'all may have comments or questions, so please, don't be shy!

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Gaining and Maintaining Lean Muscle (My BFF)
Gaining and Maintaining Lean Muscle (My BFF)
Reviewed by jembe
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Rating : 4.5