“I started doing competitions last year, and so far I’ve placed as high as fifth. But I’ve been told I need to ‘lean out’ more. How can I do that in a healthy way? I’m a physician, so I would like to be the picture of health myself!” – Elora R., Fort Washington, MD  


Our Expert Says: 

Congrats so far on your success! Let’s take a moment to define your goals: Instead of thinking about “leaning out”—which implies that your conditioning and nutrition need to be ramped up—focus on muscle and shape. Ask yourself: “How much muscle do I own, and is the shape of my body where I want it to be?” For competitors, that generally means a smaller waist, slight sweep to quads, firm glutes, and a balanced upper body. 

The term “leaning out” may call to mind dietary issues and weight loss, but it can really mean the absence of muscle. Instead of thinking about how much weight you may need to lose, consider whether you need to gain more muscle—and in turn, burn more fat. To achieve this, you may simply need to spend more time resistance training and give yourself more recovery. Remember, when your body is in a calorically deprived state, less is more!

In addition, it’s important to make sure you’re taking in enough protein to allow for muscular repair, growth, and recuperation. I recommend taking 1.2 grams of protein per pound body weight when you’re getting ready to compete. 

It’s also important to make sure the timing of your competition coincides with your diet. Give yourself at least 16 weeks to follow a tapered diet that will take you from decision day to showtime. Taking only a couple of months to prepare will create turmoil when you’re attempting to look crisp and still be in top condition. 

Which brings us to your workout. It looks like you’re training your upper body on Monday, then doing four full days of crazy HIIT, cardio, legs, and yoga and not hitting upper body again until five days later. You need to lift and rest more and not starve and do cardio. 

I suggest you balance your workouts more, giving yourself time to fully target each body part while still getting in your favorite cardio and yoga routines. Up the weight, protein, and rest and you’ll see your body change—hopefully enough to get you that top finish! 


Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Strength and Cardio Workouts
Leg day plus hot power yoga Chest/back plus 30 minutes HIIT 30 minutes HIIT plus hot Vinyasa yoga Hot power yoga Leg day plus,30 minutes HIIT Steady-state cardio (30–45 minutes) Arms/shoulders plus yoga class with light weights
Targeted Training Plan
Leg day a.m./ hot power yoga p.m. Chest/mat work abdominals/
40 minutes steady-state cardio
30 minutes HIIT
Shoulders/weighted abdominals/40 minutes steady-state cardio Leg day/20- minute bike warmup Arms/steady-state cardio (30–45 minutes) Rest or do yoga; reduce caloric intake by 400 calories