July 9 2024 01:27 PM

My performance and energy are best when I eat well, just like they are for our cows.

A little over a year after having our first child, I decided I wanted to do a bodybuilding contest. I met with a bodybuilding professional and trainer, and together, we mapped out my plan.

Fitness had always been a part of my lifestyle, so I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a change in my routine. I already devoted the time to lift and do cardio; now it was just about making sure those activities matched my improvement goals. It took a bit of creativity sometimes to get my workouts in (including doing a resistance band session on a rooftop in Seoul, South Korea!), but I made it happen.

My nutrition had always been reasonably healthy, but my love for sweets and volume of food needed some limitations. My meals were planned around their macronutrient content (protein, carbs, and fats) and timed for about every three hours during the day. Friends have gently teased me for always eating, so the frequency was nothing new to me. But having defined macros was quite new.

During this process, my biggest gain was in the knowledge I added of my own body and how fuel directly affects it. I understood nutrition in theory, but in a calculated practice, it is quite eye-opening. Lowering the amount of calories I consumed was not as challenging as I expected. Instead, manipulating the sources of those calories was what was most difficult. On low carb days, my mood was not ideal. Perhaps being pre-disposed to love sweets was intentional in my genetics! Limiting fat affected my hormones, and in retrospect, I’m sure it affected my micronutrient absorption, too. Fortunately, our bodies can regulate pretty resiliently. I did find a happy medium that produced the results and performance I was seeking in a sustainable way, but only after some trial and error.

Ultimately, the bodybuilding contest was based on how I showed my physique onstage. I was judged not only on my physical condition but also on how I posed and presented myself. Essentially, the stage was my showring. I needed to present myself as lean, strong, healthy, and well-groomed. It was like a cow class and showmanship combined! For the record, I am much more comfortable in a showring leading a cow than I am onstage.

As dairy farmers, we all desire to feed our cattle optimally. Their diets are carefully managed by dairy nutritionists (like my sister!) for this exact reason. Food is their source of fuel. We want our cows to be highly efficient not only for their milk production but for their overall health and longevity. That goal is the same as my own. My energy, performance, and moods are best when my nutrition is best. Even without a bodybuilding competition on the schedule, I want to eat optimally, just like our cows.

Erin Massey

The author grew up on a Florida dairy farm, obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida and has spent her career in dairy processing. She now serves as business development manager for North America with Bunge. Erin and her husband live in St. Louis, Mo., with their three children. Her personal mantra is “Be Bold.”