“I never expect anything I didn’t work to earn. I always aim to be the hardest worker.” – Lizy Israel, IFBB Bikini Pro

Lizy Israel recently won her IFBB Pro card at Team Universe after competing in the NPC for 3 years. I got a chance to talk with her this past week about her journey, as well as some of her training and nutrition tips. In this interview, Lizy shares some of her workout tips for her insane abs and glutes, how she stays in shape all year, and a simple (yet delicious) healthy recipe she uses each week in her meal prep!

FitRX: Hi Lizy! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! Congratulations on your recent Pro Card win at Team Universe! Can you start just by telling us a little about yourself?

Lizy: Thank you! Competing is definitely a huge part of my life, but not my whole life. I am actually a West Point graduate and was an Officer in the Army for eight years. I was still in the Army when I started competing in October 2012. When my husband and I married in 2014 we both decided to start careers outside of the military (we had lived across the country from each other for three years when we were dating because of Army assignments). So now I am working as a regional logistics manager.

When I started competing, it was just on a whim. I had done races and crossfit competitions as well. This was just another “thing” to enter. I ended up winning the Overall title at my first two shows and was hooked. Over the next 3 years I entered 14 national competitions in pursuit of my goal to qualify to compete professionally. I ended up winning 7 national trophies on my way to my pro card win. I don’t think there is anyone who has ever done more national shows than that, or at least done more and then finally won their pro card. Along the way I met a ton of great people and ended up with sponsorship by Line One Nutrition, CJ’s Elite Suits, and Flawless Hair.

FitRX: That’s so incredible! You had so many close calls in competing this year to getting your Pro Card with placing 2nd at Jr. USA’s and Jr. Nationals. And, you looked absolutely phenomenal at each, yet you kept improving! How did you keep fighting through those losses and stay motivated?

Lizy: This year I realized that I really just needed to look to myself for validation of my hard work, not the judges and the competition placings. So I reminded myself constantly to be proud of the hard work that I put in, and I just focused on the improvements that I made in my physique from my previous shows.

FitRX: It definitely worked! What type of workout schedule do you follow?

Lizy: Lifting weights is definitely my favorite and the most important part of my workout plan. I lift 5 days per week for 45 min to an hour per day, and take 2 rest days that are usually not in a row during the work week. That just helps me with my work/life/workout balance. I do cardio for 30 min to an hour a day 5 days per week. The amount varies based on whether I am trying to maintain my weight or lose for a competition. And actually when I am trying to gain muscle, I have decreased cardio to 20 min, 3x per week. It’s all about what your goal is.

I prefer to get all of my training done in the morning before work if I can. Even if that means waking at 3:30 in the morning. That way I have no excuses in the evening when I am more tired, and I can spend some time with my husband.

FitRX: I prefer getting the workout done first as well. You have insane abs and glutes! What are your favorite ab and glute exercises that really get a good burn for you?

Lizy: Thank you! My coaches at Bombshell Fitness make some awesome workout plans. I actually do a different workout every day of the month, which makes it really interesting. There are some really good exercises that appear in a lot of the workouts.

One of my favorite things to activate the glutes is using resistance bands below my knees while doing squats on the Smith machine, hack squats, or leg press. Using them forces me to push with my outer glute, and helps build that roundness. For my glute exercises I am usually doing 5 sets of every exercise, and I have noticed a lot better results from that than back when I used to just do 3 sets.

When it comes to ab exercises, I mainly focus on exercises that tighten the core instead of ones that build bulk. A couple of my favorite ab exercises are crunches on the stability ball and hanging leg raises. I avoid side-to-side oblique exercises or weighted sit ups. I can always see my abs when my body fat is low enough, and I’ve found that just builds more bulk in my waist than definition.

FitRX: Thanks! I need to get a band and try that. I know your diet is also be really important! What type of meal plan do you follow to get in such great shape?

Lizy: I like to stay in good shape year round, but I definitely have to be leaner when I am getting ready to compete. To stay at a healthy weight and have plenty of energy for my workouts, when I am not in competition prep I eat about 2,000 calories per day with at least 1g of protein per lb of my body weight (I weigh about 115 lbs normally and 107 at competition). I use My Fitness Pal to track what I am eating and make sure I get enough protein and don’t eat too much. 2,000 calories is definitely not a magic number; you might need to eat more or less. But an easy way to figure out is to just track what you normally eat for a week or two and see. After that, you’ll find that even if you give yourself a goal in one area (limiting carbs or increasing protein) you will naturally just eat healthier foods.

When I am about 8 weeks from a competition, I follow a stricter meal plan to lose about 1 lb per week. My calories decrease by about 200-500 calories to the (1800-1500 calorie range). You need to be in an approximately 500 calorie per day deficit to lose 1 lb per week. So that deficit can be split between increased activity (weight training/cardio) and nutrition. During this time, my protein intake increases so I don’t lose muscle in the caloric deficit. My carbs definitely decrease, but on average I still take in over 130g carbs per day.

Whether or not I am in competition prep I like to eat small meals fairly often—usually 6 times per day. This keeps me from getting too hungry and keeps my blood sugar more stable.

Some of my diet staples include: berries (lower carb and higher fiber for fruit), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, squash, and okra (all lower calorie but filling veggies)

FitRX: That’s a great plan to stay in shape all year. It still requires work, but I can see that it’s worth it. I have seen your meal prep posts, so I know you prepare everything for the week at once. What is one of your favorite healthy recipes?

Lizy: A good crockpot is my big healthy cooking secret. Especially if you are busy. And I actually prefer how soft it makes chicken. A super easy recipe that you can vary or serve different ways is a crockpot salsa chicken. I like to serve it on a low carb wrap.

Crockpot Salsa Chicken

5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16 oz jar salsa
28 oz jar diced tomatoes (not drained)
(onion or jalapenos optional)

-Place all ingredients in crockpot and stir, covering the chicken breasts
-Cook on high for 4 hours
-I like to serve on a low carb tortilla with lettuce, avocado, and greek yogurt (or low fat sour cream)

FitRX: That looks delicious! So simple too! What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Lizy: When it comes to working out, the best advice I ever got was to not worry about what anyone else at the gym thought about how you were training or what you were doing.

FitRX: Great advice… Do you have any upcoming plans for competing?

Lizy: I’m planning on doing 2 shows in Oct/Nov. I wanted to give my body a little break before I jumped back into competing again, but I’d like to see how I compare in a pro lineup before the end of the year.

FitRX: Awesome! I’m sure you will do great. Do you have a motto you live by?

Lizy: I never expect anything I didn’t work to earn. I always aim to be the hardest worker.

FitRX: Love it. Thank you so much Lizy! Congrats again on earning your IFBB Pro Card and good luck as you compete this fall!!

For more on Lizy:

Instagram: @lizyisraelbikinifit
Facebook: Elizabeth Yisrael IFBB Bikini Pro