My Bikini Competition Diet and Training Plan

By: Samara Donald
Magazine 18 #4

I have been a performer all my life. From the time I can remember I was on stage singing and dancing, usually with one or more of my six sisters, brother, or mom. We were a theater family, much like the von Traps from the Sound of Music, so when one of my younger sisters invited me to her bodybuilding competition in Hawaii in 2007, I had no idea what to expect. I was 31 and she was 27, and we had long stopped performing in musical theater. But watching that first competition, I was struck by how similar the two were, and most of all –

My only regret is not starting sooner. I placed first in my class in the first competition I entered (the NPC Oregon State).

This year I am training for my second competition and first at the National level. Fortunately, I am working with the same coaching team as I did last year (Mike Davies from Ohio and Shannon Gill locally in the Seattle area). We’ve worked together before and are all a little more tuned into how my body will respond to various foods and cycles.

I wanted to do it!
It took me another 4 years to be brave enough to make the decision to train for a competition myself.
Samara Donald-on stage lean abs

  Photo credit: Jim Wallingford


In general, I have a total of 6-7 meals/snacks per day, spaced 2-3 hours apart. I cook and organize as much as I can on Sundays, so I go into the week with most of my meals ready to go. This eliminates the guess work andstress of trying to break down and track all my nutrient components meal by meal. It also saves time trying to pack your day’s food each morning. Life’s too hectic for that! I’m lucky to work in an office environment with a large refrigerator where I can store my food for up to 5 days. A great tip is finding ready to go options to make ahead such as my morning power muffins or pancakes – both made with Ultimate Muscle Protein – which you can store up to a week.

The only meal on the menu that I don’t pre-cook/prepare is dinner, because even during training I have chosen to prioritize the dinner hour as family time. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat clean! My family eats pretty healthy themselves, and I have five or six options that are consistent with my pre-contest menu which we rotate through so my family doesn’t get bored.

The only meal on the menu that I don’t pre-cook/prepare is dinner, because even during training I have chosen to prioritize the dinner hour as family time. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat clean! My family eats pretty healthy themselves, and I have five or six options that are consistent with my pre-contest menu which we rotate through so my family doesn’t get bored.

Five or Six option Pre-contest Menu
On Sunday I make a batch of 12 muffins (6 servings) with the following recipe: 3 scoops vanilla UMP, 1 cup oats, 2 cups liquid egg whites, half cup frozen raspberries. I blend this in a high power blender, pour into a nonstick muffin tin, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
(Post morning training – around 8 am): 2 Morning Power Muffins.
(10 am) 4 egg whites with 1 cup spinach and 4-5 jalapeño pepper slices
(12 pm) 4 oz. chicken with 10 asparagus spears
(2 pm) 3 oz. tuna with 10 almonds or walnuts
(Pre-p.m. Conditioning – 4 pm): 4 oz. Tilapia with 3 oz. yam
(6:30 pm, with the family!) 5-6 oz. lean protein (chicken, flank steak, turkey, or fish), 2 cups steamed veggies and 3 oz. yam or sweet potato
(8:30 pm) UMP chocolate pudding cake: This is such a simple dessert and is my favorite way to finish the day. I mix 1 scoop of UMP chocolate protein with about 2 tbsp water to make a thick consistency. I either eat as is (if I can’t wait!) or bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes to make a delicious lava cake.


  • UMP Protein – morning and evening (Power Muffins and Pudding Cake)
  • 7-Keto Musclean – 3 capsules prior to AM training for energy, metabolic support and fat burning
  • Lean Out – 3 capsules taken before a.m. training and an additional 3 prior to Meal #3 or #4 mid-day
  • Glutamine Select – 1 scoop following both a.m./p.m. training/conditioning sessions for muscle recovery and immune system support. (You can’t afford to get sick before a competition!)
  • Quadracarn – 3 tablets twice per day for muscle mass and fat burning with the extra bonus of hair growth support!


My glutes and hamstrings are where I carry fat and have the most trouble leaning out – it’s genetic! To counter this, leg day focuses mostly on hams and glutes with dead lifts, leg curls, walking lunges, and hack squats. On top of this my dedicated leg day, I sneak in some additional leg shaping exercises during the other four training days.

I love working my shoulders! It’s my favorite body part by far and so I’m always excited when it’s shoulder day. I do a lot of lateral raises and front raises of all variety (inverted, candlestick, flat), overhead press, and upright rows. My typical lift pattern is 4 sets x 10-15 reps, depending on the phase of training.

Back: My back is pretty shapely due to a lot of ballet as a kid (posture posture!). So I usually stick to classic exercises like seated row, one arm dumbbell rows, and lat pull down. I also do some extra glute and hamstring work with exercises like deadlifts, back lunges, and cable kickbacks.

I do bi’s and tri’s on the same day, often in super sets. Flat curls, inverted curls, barbell curls, preacher curls are all mixed in with triceps press down, kickbacks, and dips. For some extra leg work, I do a few plyometric exercises like box jumps, pop squats, and lunge jumps for more leg shaping and to help rev up metabolism.

Chest/Abs: For chest, I use an incline bench and do barbell press, dumbbell flyes, and pullovers. Because I do yoga, I only do one other day of abs to get the desired flat abs of a bikini competitor. I do about 6 sets of 30 reps total, of all different exercises.

Samara Donald backstage prep
My #1 advice for first time competitors would be to keep your priorities in order, be tenacious but forgiving, and above all else patient with yourself and your body.

Cardio (aka Conditioning)

I like to use the term Conditioning vs. Cardio, because rather than traditional endurance cardio meant for general health and heart function, as physique competitors our real goal is burning maximal fat in the shortest amount of time. In conjunction with my weight training, my conditioning sessions are focused on reducing body fat to lean out, mostly using HIIT (high intensity interval training). I rotate through planned workouts from my coach, or my own routines of interval training using sprints, plyometric, or tabata. Studies have demonstrated that all of these techniques have a greater impact on metabolism and fat burn than steady state cardio. I tend to keep my conditioning workouts to about 20-25 minutes each, twice per day, during my 5 main training days. This plan helps prevent any muscle breakdown and maximizes post-workout calorie burn.


If I’ve learned anything during my competition journey, it’s practice, practice, practice! At my first competition, I did not realize how important daily posing practice was. Because I was on the stage from an early age, I thought it would be natural to walk on stage and smile. Boy, was I wrong! When I look back at my photos and videos, I can see my posing wasn’t right, and looked more nervous than I actually was. This is because I just didn’t practice enough. You need to practice until you are so comfortable that standing on stage in a bikini is second nature. Now, I pose daily for at least 10 minutes, and video some sessions to watch later and critique. I also watch videos of national NPC and IFBB level competitions, to study the walks, poses, and transitions from the experts.

Closing I entered my first competition as a bucket list item. I was 35 and thought, if I don’t do it now, when will I? I learned way more than I thought I would during my competition journey, and proved that if I put my mind and spirit to it, my body would follow. What I didn’t expect was how much fun it would be! And I certainly didn’t expect to win my first competition! Doing so has qualified me for nationals, but I took a year in between to really make sure it is what I want to do.

Preparation for a National competition is a step up from the Regional level, but I still keep the same values top of mind. Competition is fun, but it’s not my whole life. My family and friends are my world, and it’s their support that motivates me to continue. I’d like others to know me as someone who inspired them to live just a little healthier. If I can do that, I feel a big part of my life purpose has been fulfilled.

Related articles:
» Michelle Brown Year in Figure nutrition training comprehensive program
» Total Bikini Competitor’s Program Resistance training is the most important activity for reshaping your body.
» Bikini Training and Diet to Help You Get Better, Faster
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