Cover-Worthy Nutrition: 3 Elite Athlete Meal Plans

Three chiseled athletes share the meal plans that have helped them attain cover-worthy physiques.

We all need role models to look to when it comes to eating well. Yet when seeking a diet that will help you build (or at least maintain) muscle while getting lean, you're likely to be overwhelmed with conflicting information from myriad experts regarding everything from meal timing to carb consumption to fat intake.

Why not, then, find your role model in a guy who possesses the physique you want and find out what he eat? In the following pages, three men with sought-after physiques - a pro bodybuilder, a cover model, and an elite fighter - share exactly what they eat, meal by meal, in a typical day.

Mark Dugdale

Job Title: IFBB Pro Bodybuilder
Accomplishments: 2005 NPC USAS Champion
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Unconventional is the word Mark Dugdale uses to describe his off-season diet. For one, even when he's trying to gain mass, he prefers to keep his carbohydrate intake in check, unlike many bodybuilders who endlessly scarf down carbs in the off-season to pack on size, even if much of it happens to be body fat.

"I'm a big proponent of keeping my body fat below 9% year-round," Dugdale says, "because I feel the body grows best while not carrying a bunch of extra fat."

Another quirk of his diet is the amount of game meat it contains. In fact, Dugdale likes bison so much he eats it for breakfast. "A five-pound bison brisket in my slow-cooker for eights hours provides me meat for a week's worth of breakfasts," he says.

He's a big fan of grass-fed organic wild game like bison, wild boar, and elk for three reasons:

  1. Favorable fat content (leaner).
  2. More essential fatty acids.
  3. Less toxicity (no hormones or chemicals), which translates into better recovery and growth.

Mark Dugdale's Meal Plan
Meal 1
Meal 3
Meal 5
Meal 6
Meal 7

Greg Plitt

Job Title: Fitness Model
Accomplishments: More than 150 magazine and book covers,
including two for Muscle & Fitness
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Dugdale thinks his meal plan is unconventional? Check out Greg Plitt's. He calls it a "caveman diet" because he stays away from all processed foods, opting for meats and vegetables only for his whole-food meals. What makes his diet truly unique, however, is that he typically consumes only one whole-food meal a day, and it's a big one, comprising around 3,500 calories.

In this respect, Plitt's eating habits are reminiscent of the Warrior Diet, where little is eaten all day and then one feasts for several hours. "I believe in eating one large meal in the middle of the day, whereas most [people] eat 5-to-6 small meals," says Plitt, one of the most recognizable fitness models in the country. "This ensures I have all the food digested before bed."

The rest of Plitt's calories come in liquid form before and after working out. What he eats can change day to day, the one constant being that his food intake is dictated primarily by his work schedule.

"My meal plan is directly correlated to whatever activities I have planned for that day," Plitt says. "Meaning, if I have to film or shoot that day [Plitt is an actor part time], my meal plan changes. It will also change as I prep for filming or shooting, as I'm usually in the gym twice a day during prep periods. I eat only when I've done the work to demand the supply of nutrition. I don't have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, per se, and I don't eat because the clock tells me that it's mealtime. I eat to fuel my body, not to satisfy an appetite."

Greg Plitt's Meal Plan
Pre-Workout Meal

Morning Lifting Workout

Post-Workout Meal
Main Meal Of The Day

Meat, fish, or poultry, and vegetables - a large meal totaling around 3,500 calories.

For Example:



Pre-Workout Meal

Evening Lifting Workout Or Cardio

Post-Workout Meal

Brian Stann

Job Title: Professional Mixed Martial Arts Fighter
Accomplishments: 11 wins as a pro, 4 losses
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If you're counting pre-workout and post-workout shakes, UFC fighter Brian "All-Amercian" Stann eats a whopping 11 meals a day in peak training season. Are all these meals really necessary? On days you do three separate workouts, they most certainly are.

"If you're going to be a serious athlete, you need to be dedicated and disciplined not just in the gym but also with what you put in your body," says Stann, a rising middleweight and decorated combat veteran.

"That's the fuel that's going to allow you to perform. You're going to get out of your body what you put into it." Stann's diet - thanks in part to his wife, Teressa, who has a degree in nutrition and dietetics - is especially clean, consisting of quality protein sources like chicken breast, salmon, and egg whites; a variety of fruits and vegetables; and healthy fats from almonds.

Aside from whole foods, though, he relies heavily on supplements from his sponsor Gaspari Nutrition, which is evident in the sample meal plan below, where Gaspari products are present early and often during the day.

Stann's rigorous supplement regimen is crucial for keeping his strength levels up when he's cutting weight for a fight, as well as allowing him to hold on to as much muscle mass as possible in spite of his demanding workout schedule. "The last thing I want," he says, "is for my body to go catabolic when I'm training 3-to-4 times a day."

Brian Stann's Meal Plan
Meal 2: Pre-Workout


Meal 4
Meal 5
Meal 6: Pre-Workout



Meal 8: Post-Training Recovery
Meal 9
Meal 10
Meal 11: Nighttime Shake