Eat & Train to THRIVE

Part I: Eat to Thrive

For the past year, I’ve been eating with the mindset to maintain a lean physique. Prior to the past year, I competed in four figure competitions that kept me in either extreme discipline mode or at least an awareness / habit maintenance mode.

Under the coaching of Carter Schoffer, my nutrition has entailed protein, vegetables, fruit, starch (oats, rice, sweet potatoes, legumes), healthy fats, super shakes and supplementation. Along with that, I drank a ton of water and a fair amount of coffee (usually sweetened with splenda or stevia and a non dairy creamer – soy, almond or coconut milk).

Throughout the recent holiday months, I permitted myself some flex after last year’s holiday season was dedicated to the round-the-clock preparation and discipline for the Arnold Classic. I knew however, flex in my habits (read: alcohol and dessert) equaled a slightly softer physique which is fine, but not the physique I ultimately want for myself.

In a casual email exchange, Carter and I were discussing the disparity between my goals and my efforts. Carter is a special coach and he knows how to get through to me. The following is an excerpt from a larger email exchange Carter and I had. I have cut and pasted portions of his thought process because I think it‘s fair to say, even I, need a kick in the pants at times and I thought you all may benefit as well, from his thought process regarding “elite”

“For you to get to and stay at what I call “walk around” leanness, there needs to be shift from a project mindset to a process mindset and you need to identify Alli McKee… Eating in a productive manner and avoiding counterproductive foods or portions need to be incorporated into your value system and your integrity needs to ensure that those values are upheld if you’re going to transcend to the next level of body mastery and your goal of an everyday elite physique.…Getting and staying lean can’t just be something that you do but rather something that you are….We’re talking about transcending from advanced to elite – both in terms of behaviours and goals.  I want to make that clear because I agree, you DO have very good habits.  What we’re talking about is going from very good habits to great habits (along with the shift in your value system or hierarchy of priorities). So definitely be proud of your efforts.  Just don’t rest on them if you want more than what you currently have.

Shortly after that exchange with Carter, a client of mine came to me and asked my opinion of the Paleo lifestyle. I told her I wasn’t familiar enough about the Paleo strategies to give an educated stance, so I began asking around to other Fit Pro’s for their experience and feedback. After liking the responses I received, I soon ordered Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solutions book. Robb’s book coupled with Carter’s coaching and his above thoughts lead me to a paradigm shift.

Over the past few years, Carter taught me a tremendous amount on nutrition and positioned me with great habits for grocery shopping, meal prep, food timing, food pairing, mindset / discipline / dedication and much more. It’s because of working with Carter (and perhaps my type A personality) that I have the habits I do today. Carter is the kind of coach that COACHES, not just supplying a program.

That said, Robb’s book began to fill in some gaps for me and shifted my way of thinking. My thinking recently went from “Eat To Be Lean” to “EAT TO THRIVE“. The Paleo Solutions book explained the reactions our food choices have on our insides from the hormonal responses, digestion, inflammation, sleep, energy, etc. I stopped thinking about how my nutrition was effecting my outside and started thinking about how my nutrition was effecting my insides. Let me be real, my body composition is STILL important to me, but it’s a bit more of a by-product of the eating habits.

Leading up to NYE, I planned to make some radical changes in my nutritional habits beginning Dec 31st, 2011 to launch the new year off solid. I decided I was going to take a hybrid approach of what I developed with Carter and what new information I acquired from the Paleo lifestyle. It was a no brainer that I was going to cut the alcohol from my holiday season, cut the sugar, anything processed and all dairy. What I was furthering to eliminate were any artificial sweetners (bye bye splenda / stevia in my coffee) and no grains at all (no rice, no oats, no legumes and of course, no gluten). What that leaves in my current nutrition plan is protein, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats.

Granted, individuals thrive with different foods and different approaches. I find I do best with black and white parameters (ie: protein, vegetable, fruit, fat = Yes. Grains, dairy, sugar, processed food = No). That route is most simple for my understanding and compliance. I have also played with intermittent fasting in the past but found that I enjoy starting the day off with breakfast too much to omit it and found that my results in body composition are about the same either way. For me, it’s more about consistency in compliance. 

So what do I eat and how do I structure it?

Since Dec 31st, I have kept my food parameters to proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. My liquids are water (lots of it), coffee and green tea. I usually eat about every few hours. If it’s a weight training day, I incorporate more fruit. If it’s not a weight training day, I dial back my fruit to one serving if any (aiming for fat loss, watch the sugar from fruit). I make sure I have a green and colored vegetable with every meal and get a mix of fats throughout the day. All the variety in my nutrition is in an effort to avoid food ruts, developing food allergies and above all, to get a variety of nutrients in!!

Since eliminating the holiday treats, I have found my body to be reverting back to a tighter physique quickly. Since eliminating the grains, legumes, dairy and artifical sweetners, I have found digestion to be MUCH better and no bloating whatsoever. I go to bed and wake up feeling even better. It’s much easier to stick to this now because it’s a matter of FEELING GOOD and getting leaner is an awesome perk.

Do I “Cheat”?

Sure, I’m not a robot. I enjoy red wine from time to time but I’m thoughtful about it. Fortunately, it’s not throwing off my digestion as gluten, grains or dairy might… it’s just not going to work towards the six pack abs.

So far, this seems to be a good scheme for me. I will say, it was a rather easy transition to make these changes due to the history I’ve been fortunate to have with Carter but I encourage you all to educate yourselves on nutrition, understand the WHY’s to nutrition suggestions and then manipulate your nutrition to see how YOU feel and respond. Give yourself time for your body to adapt and time for the adjustments to take effect. Be CONSISTENT at least for 30 days. One interesting point I read in Robb’s book was that gluten lasts in your system for 10-15 days. That is a long time if you consider how hard the first two weeks can be to adjust to new restrictions. Imagine if you accomplished the first two weeks, are feeling great and decide to treat yourself to a piece of cake at dinner… whoops, you’ve just negated your first two weeks effort and reintroduced gluten again for the next two weeks to come.

To me, eating to be lean is important but eating to promote the best hormonal responses, digestion, sleep patterns, daily energy levels, disease prevention, anti-inflammation and more.. Now that’s Eating to THRIVE.

I may not have covered everything here so if you have questions or want to generate more posts on nutrition, meal construction, recipes, etc. feel free to leave a note.

Stay tuned for part II, Training to Thrive.

36 Comments on "Eat & Train to THRIVE"

  1. Alexandra says:

    How timely Allie, as I have been “toying” with the idea of going full on Paleo. I eat somewhat Paleo now except I do eat legumes and occasionally brown rice. Like you, I’m trying to get out of focusing solely on body composition (although still important) and focusing more on eating to feel good consistently or to thrive as you put it. Please do post current meal structure, sample meals/recipes. I’m looking forward to following and looking forward to part two!

    • allimckee says:

      Thanks for posting / sharing! I will be sure to keep you all further informed with regards to sample meals, etc. if there is an interest :) Best of luck as you continue to evolve what works best for your nutrition and self!! -Alli

  2. tina says:

    LOVE this post! I think a lot of people are trying to elliminate the grains and the gluten not only because of how much leaner you will get or look, but because I think everyone is ready to FEEl great, and not have digestion issues, skin problems, etc- all the junky stuff that comes along with grains. I still eat forbidden rice maybe once every other week….and I still eat lots of chick peas. FOr the most part I rarely have grains….I love my veggies!

    I look forward to seeing an example of your meal plan as well! I get Robb Wolff’s emails, he is on the money!
    Good luck and keep posting!

    • allimckee says:

      Thanks, Tina! Yes, I feel a lot better when I operate on more fruit, fat, veggies and protein. I do love some brown rice sushi so that might be the OCCASIONAL treat as well ;) Interestingly enough, I don’t miss the starches from a food standpoint or energy levels. I’ll keep posting and Thanks for sharing your feedback!!

  3. cindy says:

    I’ve been learning about heavy metal toxicity and how to detox from them…someone told me about green smoothies…I tried it and to my surprise I felt energised…so much so that I’m making green smoothies a regular habit. Its a compact way to get a lot of vegi’s in your diet..and I’m also getting rid of sugar, gluten..most dairy, processed foods..I’m glad there’s a lot of information and recipes available to help make the switch! Even though we’ve all been told about getting rid of the foods we are so acustomed to wasn’t until my eyes popped open after being energised by the green drink… friend did the same thing..she is off her medication for an autoimmune disorder and hasn’t needed her inhaler for asthma…amazing huh?

    • allimckee says:

      That is amazing and awesome to hear! I have another client who incorporates a daily green smoothie.. he LOVES them. I haven’t tried that yet but he tells me his VitaMix is the bomb :) “foods we are so acustomed to” …Robb brings up great arguments in his book about what the “health / medical” practitioners are saying we should eat versus what is really good for our body to thrive…look at the dang food pyramid for an example! Thanks for your feedback!!

  4. Billy says:

    Eliminating grains and beans, what type of carbs do you eat, especially post-workout?

    • allimckee says:

      Now, since eliminating grains, I will do protein, vegetables and fruit post workout. I will also have my starchier veggies post workout (ie: acorn or butternut squash) and sweet potatoes are a great option post training too.

  5. Heidi says:

    “Be proud of your efforts. Just don’t rest on them if you want more than what you currently have.” I love this!! Most people stop when they get good at something and for some – that is okay. But for the rest of us, we need to stop ‘resting on our efforts’ and go for something that is more than what we currently have, currently do, and currently are. I love this. :)

  6. Great post Allie,

    I am vegan, and want to mention since eliminating dairy, I definitely notice a huge difference. I had recently introduced “greek yogurt” back into my diet for the protein(low carb). However almost immediately found that my immune system was weakening as well as I was developing a weird rash.

    With that said I think living a plant based lifestyle is the best way to go!

    We have some great recipes on, if your interested :-)

    Thanks again for the great posts…

  7. Lexxy says:

    What’s the rationale behind eliminating dairy? I can’t imagine living without greek yogurt! And then there’s the whole “eating dairy helps trim waist fat!” thing that I can’t make myself ignore…

    • allimckee says:

      Good question. If you would like to fact check it in Robb’s book, it’s on page 98/99. He doesn’t go into heavy detail because he spends most time talking about grains, but he does touch on legumes and dairy. He mentions “in simple terms, dairy and legumes have problems similar to grains: gut irritating proteins, antinutrients, protease inhibitors and inflammation” Robb states “it is critical that you consider grains, legumes, and dairy all in the same category. This is particularly true if you have weight loss goals, inflammation or autoimmunity.” He also mentions that you can find more information / research on this in the reference section of his book.

      Now, that said, I will go back to my numero uno point and that is “find what works best for you!” with regards to what you can live without long term and how it makes you feel. Personally, I eliminated dairy a long time ago when I was competing in figure. I never missed it so I left it out. Every once in a blue moon, if I wanted a slice of pizza, I knew it wouldn’t kill me, I just felt it the next day. I do want to stress however that I started taking a probiotic when I eliminated dairy — I think they are important and will always keep that in my supplementation.

      p.s. plenty out there in good habits that will “help trim the waist” — dairy is not the magic answer ;)

      I Hope that helps some!

  8. Sabrina says:

    I’ve been full-on Paleo for 6-ish months now and find it pretty easy to avoid the processed junk; for me, dairy & grains = cystic acne, BAD, and almost immediately, so avoiding them is a no-brainer.

    The same conversation happens almost every time I explain this: “So what DO you eat?!” and I answer, “Meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit. Stuff without labels.” And they answer, “Oh. All the stuff you’re SUPPOSED to eat…”


  9. Franco says:

    Coach Carter got us all with this phrase: “Be proud of your efforts. Just don’t rest on them if you want more than what you currently have.” If a person establishes a goal and gets it then a new and more challenging goal need to be made… Everyone should aim at continually improving

  10. Love your coaches words. Very powerful and – I’d imagine – very motivating. Great to know you have people in your corner who believe in you and your vision of yourself.

    • allimckee says:

      Thanks! I think it’s SO IMPORTANT to be the Gatekeeper of your universe. Only allowing people who have your back, make you smile and add to your positive sense of self.

  11. Lisa says:

    I love that saying “EAT TO THRIVE” …it’s so perfect, Allie! I am with everybody else, please post a sampling of your meal plan.. . It’s so much easier to realize it is possible when the exact food plan is all laid out. Thanks as always Allie!
    xoxoLisa :)

  12. Angela says:

    This is a great post! I’ve been paleo/primal (with some dairy) for over two years now. As of today I’m on my 26th day of my Whole30 challenge. For everyone with specific questions on why to eliminate certain food groups (grains, dairy, legumes, etc), an easy and reliable resource is This is also the site of the Whole30.

    • allimckee says:

      Congrats on your near completion of the Whole30 Challenge! That is what was originally brought to me by my client. Thanks also for posting the link for everyone to benefit reading if they choose!! :)

  13. Abby says:

    Amazing! It’s so motivating to “hear” coach’s words of getting you to achieve your highest potential without falling in to complacency. I am training for a fit body show which is 3 months away as of today and will be writing down some of the quotes for inspiration! My question is, do you think paleo would be a good way to go for show prep? I already don’t consume dairy, haven’t for a long time. I do powerlift though so I’m nervous if I cut out my oats in the morning, I won’t have any steam to get me through my workouts. Let me know what your thoughts are. Thanks again for the post, awesome!!!!

    • allimckee says:

      Hey Abby, glad you connected with Carter’s words :) and find some of the addtional quotes inspiring! Email me for thoughts regarding your show prep. I am not “qualified” to prescribe your nutrition but may have a few helping thoughts / directions

  14. Stephanie Le says:

    It’s great that you’ve transitioned to Paleo. Are you still using supplements and pre/post workout shakes? Or is your nutrition plan completely done with whole foods? I’d like to know because I’ve hired someone who has added some supplements into my nutrition along with sprouted grains for breakfast, but I’ve been Paleo for over a year now. Maybe the supplements are needed because I can’t eat the calories right now. Thoughts?

    Keep up the great work!

    • allimckee says:

      Hey Stephanie,

      Thanks! I’m not positive I have transitioned into full-on Paleo. I do eat pnut butter (and I hear that is not recommeneded) but I have been following things pretty closely. To be honest, I have aimed to create a nutrition scheme from what I learned with Carter as well as what I have learned through personal education plus trial and error. So it’s a bit of a hybrid approach maybe? That said, I will resume with full direction from Carter beginning February 13th. I value him so much and his coaching, this has been a great jump start though and the elimination of legumes, grains and minimal artificial sweetners have me feeling much better. In regards to your questions about supps, I take a fair amount of supplements for wellness (probiotic, fish oil, primrose oil, digestive enzymes, vitamin D, curcumin and so on…) I also drink a “super shake” usually in the day as a meal if needed for convenience and that includes protein powder, flax meal, coconut flour and various seeds. As of the last few months, I had gotten away from pre and post workout drinks, but may be reincorporating them if the boss-man makes recommendations :) . I was usuing Biotest’s Anaconda before and I loved it.

      I think supplements can be beneficial when all other health variables are in order. Greens Plus is another goodie, but it’s hard for me to stomach!

      Hope that helps!

  15. Monty says:

    I’ve been following GGS on Facebook for a while now and you’re all such inspirations to me!
    I’ve been Paleo for almost a year now. I have reached a point now where my BF isn’t moving much (I’m stuck at about 22% and would like to get down to 18-20%). I think maybe my portions have been too big. How big are your portions of meat/veg/fruit/starch? My focus has been to eat really good quality food, but I sometimes eat the same as by boyfriend (who is 6’5″ and 200lbs).
    Can you give an idea of your portion sizes?
    Post work out I usually have a small sweet potato and protein and veg. I’ve tried cutting mine down by about 1/3 recently but have found that I’m not as strong during training. I’ve played with Intermittent Fasting as well, which makes me feel great, but can impair my training. What are your thoughts on IF?
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • allimckee says:

      Hi Monty,

      Thanks for supporting GGS!

      Also, Awesome to be a year on a nutritional lifestyle that’s great for your body / fuel. I don’t know your height and weight but would venture to say you’re not 6’5″ and 200lbs like your boyfriend. If you think you’re consuming about the same quantities he is and are looking to break a BF plateau, maybe taking a closer look at your portions as the first step. That said, I can’t prescribe portions, it’s not within my scope of practice and what works for me is so specific to my needs…that’s one of the reasons I hire my nutritionist because I leave the brains of that up to him. Since you do follow the Paleo guidelines, you may want to check out the Whole30 link that was posted a few posts up.. I read that and recall it had some sugestions for portions. I don’t think we can go wrong with unlimited veggies and I think listening to our bodies is important, but I think watching fruit (sugar) and watching fat portions (calorie dense) can be important if you’re trying to make things shift.

      As for IF, I personally felt Ok with my lifts. I prefer my cardio fasted and don’t mind true strength training fasted. Not sure I would like to do conditioning fasted :) Again, I think it’s what works for us individually / what we are comfortable with…but also giving our bodies time to adapt and respond when introducing new variables (ie: IF).

      Hope that helps!!

    • Brett says:

      if your serious about IF, id say give it a few weeks and let your body’s hunger hormones readjust themselves, you may also want to give lean gains style a try, its seemed to gain almost a cult following as of late, but other than that I feel its good quality information. As for me I can’t seem to do cardio or actual strength training after eating, I just get subpar results. However, for depletion training, I absolutely need at least a shake before or some chicken.

      Good luck with your progress.
      ps don’t go bite for bite with your boyfriend, my girlfriend does the same thing. Unfortunately here in america we kind of bond over food, so try making it a habit to bond over cooking homemade, healthy meals and only create enough for a portion for you and a portion for your boyfriend, in the end everyone will be happier :)

      • allimckee says:

        Hey Brett, thanks for your feedback. I actually did IF for a few months (maybe August through October). I experiemented with it under Carter’s programming, in fact, Dr. John Berardi put out a free ebook on it which I posted a few months back. I like the fasting for various reasons – one in particular was that it was less maintenence when it came to my food prep and packing for the day. I think, like Neghar Fonooni always states, many things work and it just depends on what works for your personality and at that particular point in your life. To me, again, discipline and consistency in your efforts is the key. That said, allow yourself permission for life’s special moments too. :)

  16. Thanks for this post! I cut dairy when I was dieting down for a fitness competition and realized when I introduced it that I was actually lactose intolerant:( I have also noticed that I have a problem digesting some grains. Just curious, but have you had any problems digesting certain fruits like apples? I have heard of the Paleo diet, but I haven’t ever looked to see what it was all about. I’ll have to look into that a little more I think. Thanks!

    • allimckee says:

      Hi there, to answer your question directly about apples, no I haven’t noticed any problems. The fruit I generally gravitate to however are strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapefruit, canteloupe and bananas. I also take digestive enzymes w/ meals (Now Foods Super Enzymes).

  17. Brett says:

    Its too bad you didn’t like Intermittent Fasting (absolutely love it), however I do love breakfast, which I do every day of vacation (more motivation to take vacations). However, I think you are right there isn’t much of a difference between regular dieting and other types, its whatever you are consistent with and what gives you what you are looking for. Great read and thanks for sharing!

  18. Kristin says:

    Exercising and keeping fit is crucial for my overall well-being. Diet and proper nutrition is also very important. To increase the effectiveness of my workouts I am taking nutritional supplements. For me Military Grade Nutritionals work best. They quickly bring me up. I feel energized when I exercise and throughout the day.

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