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Whether wrecking backfields like All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald or going from tour to TV like entertainer Nick Cannon, different high-performance celebrities require different fuels. The job to energize both the aforementioned stars falls upon the bodybuilder-wide shoulders of Chef Arron Sain, a Chicago-born, self-described “kid from the hood who liked to cook” who was hired by both Donald and Cannon to keep them fueled behind the scenes so they can perform at max level on the grand stage.
The goals of both Donald and Cannon were similar—gaining and maintaining muscle—but getting there for the 6’1″, 270-pound two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the 153-pound rapper and host of Fox’s The Masked Singer required different means.
“It’s never a cookie-cutter plan,” Sain says. “Each plan needs to be individualized and takes time.”
For Donald, knowing his way around the kitchen was never the problem, but finding time to regularly meal prep between practice, studying film, lifting, and traveling for road games was tough. The ramifications of lacking a reliable meal plan surfaced when Donald dropped nearly 15 pounds during the 2018 season, affecting his on-field performance, he says.
“I played in the Super Bowl last year at 257—people don’t know that,” says Donald, whose Los Angeles Rams fell to the New England Patriots 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII. “The double teams become a lot heavier out there. You’re a little lighter, so you have to anchor down a little extra strong. When you’re at 257 trying to play two guys who weigh 330 each, it takes a toll on you after a while.”
It was at an event during the off-season where Sain persuaded Donald to try a few packages of his Chicago-based InsainlyFit Meals. It also gave Sain the chance to tell Donald of his most recent success story: Nick Cannon, whom he connected with on social media. Sain helped him bulk up from a scrawny 153 pounds to a lean 163 in just under a year while in the middle of his Wild ’N Out tour.
For both stars, putting on pounds and muscle was the goal. But getting them to their respective finish lines required opposite approaches.
Cannon’s 10-pound gain started with a 3,000-calorie diet, which was a challenge, according to Sain, since the rapper is a “busy noneater.”
His solutions: For breakfast, Sain would have Cannon down a 1,500-calorie mass-gainer shake—loaded with almond milk, peanut butter, and oatmeal. That would keep Cannon full for hours, which made his next meal—one or two 750-calorie chicken and bean burritos—tough to stomach.
On the other hand, managing Donald’s intake—which would be as much as 4,500 calories per day—was easier. Unlike with Cannon, Sain could get creative with Donald’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And when it came to the day before games, Sain would whip up a complex-carb-filled spaghetti and meatballs dinner. “I wanted Aaron to have marathon-runner-like endurance, so I had him eat like a runner.”
Donald is now back at 270 pounds, while maintaining his physique on a 3,600-calorie diet.
“It’s like having two machines using two fuels,” Sain says. “One machine is fed food and the other is fed through supplements.”
Check out some sample meals from Donald’s daily meal plan below.
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