Deciphering one of Toni Lee’s business cards can be either interesting or confusing. Her titles include: Fitness Model, Athlete, Bodybuilder, TV/Film Producer, Comedian, TV Host, Fitness Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Bikini Competitor, Actress.
It’s a long description for the multi-talented, petite woman who captured our attention when she graced the cover of Fitness X Magazine earlier this year and let us know that RAW Meal and RAW Protein from Garden of Life are fueling her fitness competitions. “I do some serious workouts,” said Lee, who worked as a fitness trainer for 10 years before deciding to enter competitions two years ago. “I go heavy on the weights and do a lot of training, but I tell my clients it’s really all about the food. A balanced diet with plenty of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats is essential, and that’s why I rely on RAW Organic Meal and RAW Protein to eliminate a lot of the guesswork. By adding them to my routine, I know I’m getting all of the protein, vitamins, minerals and probiotics I need to feel great and do my best at competitions.”
When she first decided to enter several fitness and bikini model shows, Lee visited her local health food store, Superior Health Products, in Sherman Oaks, California. Impressed by an employee’s recommendation of Garden of Life products, she started taking Vitamin Code multivitamins, RAW Probiotics for Women and Vitamin Code RAW B-Complex. After a short while, she was hooked and went back to purchase RAW Protein and RAW Meal. The plant- based protein she favored in both products was crucial to helping her sculpt a chiseled physique required for fitness, bikini and bodybuilding competitions.
“I prefer to build muscle the natural way, without putting a lot of garbage or harmful substances into my body,” she said.
“My challenge is that I have a small frame, and holding on to muscle is difficult for me. I absolutely must have enough protein to stay healthy and have muscle definition, so I carry a shaker cup with either RAW Protein or RAW Meal in it almost all the time!”
Lee racked up several trophies in local and regional shows before snagging several first-place finishes at national qualifying competitions such as the 2012 BMR West Coast Class Championship. She was a bit nervous about competing in the bigger arenas at first, but by the time she reached the U.S. Bodybuilding Championship in July, she was used to all of the accolades and the limelight. “It’s very rewarding to get a trophy that reflects all of your dedication and hard work,” she said. “It’s a demanding sport, but I love seeing my body get better and competing for my own satisfaction.”
Lee pays no attention to critics who complain that fitness and bikini modeling are not real sports or that female competitors look too skinny and unhealthy. She says her goal is not to look like a toothpick or a starving model onstage, but to promote awareness that it is possible to have six-pack abs and be healthy at the same time. Currently training for an Excalibur show in Culver City, her diet and exercise regimen rivals that of any professional athlete.
“In the morning, I have RAW Meal and Perfect Food® RAW in a smoothie,” she said. “My diet is very specific and includes mostly veggies, egg whites and protein. For lunch, I usually have RAW Protein Vanilla with different fruits or perhaps some coconut milk. On other days, I might have RAW Protein Pancakes (see her recipe on page 50) that I cook with coconut oil because it’s a healthy fat. Overall, I eat a lot of raw vegetables, dark greens, broccoli and kale because you just can’t go wrong with those!”
After breakfast, Lee hikes, climbs and works on building leg strength in nearby Runyon Canyon or heads to a gym for intense cardio training. Always interested in pushing her athletic abilities, she was a track star in high school and participated in martial arts before her brother introduced her to fitness and weight lifting. Insecure about how she looked as a teenager, she started building muscle and immediately felt more confident.
“I was born in Korea, but my family became very Americanized after moving here,” she said. “I was brought up in a healthy environment where there was no drinking or smoking allowed, and my family stressed the importance of taking care of our bodies. Weight lifting took things to another level for me.”
Prior to competing in shows, Lee cuts out all sodium and eats non-flavored foods with no salt, soy sauce or other seasonings. A week before competition, she drinks plenty of green and dandelion root tea to help detox her system, although she says many competitors rely on water pills to avoid looking bloated. On the day of a show, it takes a team of people to spray tan her body to a warm, bronzed glow and to style her hair and makeup.
“We have to look ridiculously dark because of all the lighting at the shows,” she explained. “Spray tanning is very important, because if you choose the wrong color, you can actually turn green under the lights!” Thankfully, so far she’s been able to stay lean and mean with no green—except for the Perfect Food RAW greens supplement she loves to add to smoothies.
“Some people like to go wild and go back to eating lots of fats, starches or unhealthy foods after competitions,” she said. “I don’t like to do that because I like to stay healthy all the time. It’s a big part of my life, but I like to do many other things as well. I think people are surprised sometimes when they see me hosting a television show or doing the opening act at the Jon Lovitz Comedy Center. I think the audience appreciates that I keep my jokes clean—just like my diet!”
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