Whether you've admired their perfectly flat abs or toned quads on billboards or in videos, one thing's for sure -- fitness models have some admirable physiques. And while some of a model's appearance comes from good genetics, a regimented diet and vigorous exercise program are responsible for the rest. While the dieting tactics models might use to prepare for a fitness competition or photoshoot shouldn't be a regular part of your lifestyle, you can still steal some of their diet secrets to help you get fit.
Stick to a Healthy Basic Diet
A female fitness model's diet doesn't need to be complicated; the same fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains recommended for any healthy diet should make up the bulk of her diet as well. Keep yourself feeling full with smaller meals throughout the day -- for example, six small meals or three medium-size meals and two snacks -- and include protein at each meal for satiety. That could mean adding a container of Greek yogurt to your cereal in the morning, topping that vibrant green salad with a few chunks of tuna or salmon, and pairing your roasted veggies with grilled chicken breast at dinner. Limit your intake of obviously unhealthy foods, like sugary baked goods, refined carbohydrates -- like white bread and pasta -- and fatty processed and packaged foods such as snack crackers, chips and frozen pizza.
How Female Fitness Models Stay Satisfied
While you might think fitness models follow an unsustainable diet on a daily basis, that's not true, according to a profile of six female fitness models published in Women's Health and Fitness magazine. The models shared sustainable diet "secrets" that give them long-term success -- for example, fitness model Andrea Albright explains in the interview that she never leaves the house hungry, and thinks of the occasional indulgence as metabolism-boosting extra calories, not "cheating" on her diet.
Steal this trick by filling your diet with healthy foods, but allow yourself a few indulgences every once and a while to avoid feeling deprived. Experiment with new ways to serve healthy foods. For example, try model Meaghan Terzi's favorite craving-buster snack -- oven-roasted chickpeas -- to get the satisfying texture of unhealthy foods without all the calories and fat.
Staying hydrated should be a key component of your diet if you want a fitness model-worthy physique. Water helps flush toxins out of your body via your kidneys, and your liver needs water to function properly and to metabolize fat. Dehydration can also make you feel hungry, which can tempt you to break your diet. In an interview with World Fitness, fitness model Monica Brant notes that she keeps water with her at all times, and drinks about a gallon of it each day.
While hydration is a must, you don't necessarily need to drink a whole gallon, notes the University of Arizona; at least 64 ounces is fine. You'll likely need a little more water on the days you work out. Weigh yourself before and after your workout; drink 16 ounces of water for each pound you lose to replenish your fluid levels. Add a few sprigs of mint to your water for a refreshing drink or squeeze in some lime juice.
Slim Down for Photoshoots
If you're looking for a photoshoot-ready physique, you'll need to make extra diet adjustments. As fitness models diet down to their photoshoot or competition weight, they'll cut calories from their diet without lowering protein intake. Cutting calories allows for weight loss, while protein helps spare muscle mass; together, they help maintain the model's muscle tone while boosting muscle definition by burning the overlying fat. Generally, the diet revolves around sources of lean protein -- such as egg whites and chicken breast -- and fibrous veggies, with starchy carbohydrates, like rice, eaten in progressively smaller amounts.
Adjusting your diet to this level requires fine-tuning based on your physique and ultimate goals, so it's best to consult a professional for a personalized short-term plan. Keep in mind that most fitness models and competitors don't look photoshoot-ready all the time, and the diet and exercise program used to prepare for an event isn't meant to be followed long term. In fact, regularly eating too much protein and too few carbs can up your risk of health problems like osteoporosis, notes Harvard Medical School.
For your day-to-day diet, a nutrition and fitness professional can help you develop a sensible plan. Setting realistic goals helps you avoid feeling disappointed or falling into a fad diet or disordered eating from trying to achieve an unsustainable goal.