If you think bodybuilding is just lifting weights, former Mr. New Mexico Levi Benitez invites you to see how the sport develops the mind, body, and soul.
Written by Charlotte Tallman
Photography by Donicio Madrid
If there were a way to measure dedication based on a certain look, bodybuilding would have it in the bag. In fact, bodybuilding is one sport where it is all about the look, and you can’t get the look without dedication.
“A lot of people think that if they have worked out all their life or lift weights every day, they can be a bodybuilder. That’s where a lot of people fail. What it really boils down to is dedication and nutrition. You can’t be a bodybuilder if you don’t focus on those two things,” says award-winning bodybuilder Levi Benitiz, owner and trainer at LB Fitness.
For those who compete, that focus should start one year before a competition, whether training for classic bodybuilding or the men’s physique, women’s physique, figure, or bikini divisions. Levi says the first nine months should be spent bulking up by eating (men should eat 4,000 to 6,000 calories per day; women should aim for 3,000 to 4,000 calories) and lifting as much as possible. “After nine months, you are going to be round and fat. Then you start cutting. That’s where the really hard work comes in,” he says.
The last three months are spent dieting (men drop to 2,500 calories and women to 1,200), cardio, and lifting. Finally, the true dedication comes in—eating, breathing, and sleeping bodybuilding 24-hours a day, seven days a week, for at least eight weeks. “It becomes very intense. In fact, if you don’t think about quitting every single day for eight weeks you aren’t doing it right,” says Levi.
The ultimate challenge comes four weeks before a competition, when people start to drop out. What keeps Levi going when he sees people so close to a goal quit? Those who stick with it, especially those who literally changed their lives through bodybuilding.
“Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to help 10 people who were in a really bad place. They had serious drug or alcohol problems, or were just lost mentally,” he recalls. They stuck with it, obtaining a goal most are unwilling to even attempt. “They come back and tell me bodybuilding changed their lives. That’s what keeps me going. I know that their lives could have been a whole lot different if they stayed on the path they were on. Instead they found something greater within them. It’s rewarding when you help change a life.”
Levi, who has trained over 1,000 people, has been helping himself and other people with their fitness goals since he was 14-years-old. He started a fitness regimen at such a young age to look and feel good and to stay healthy, but it soon became a passion, and he found he wanted to work alongside anyone who wanted to feel the same way.
As a mechanical engineering student at New Mexico State University, Levi continued to train in his home gym, where he trained several years after graduating in 2009. While he was focused on fitness, he was never really interested in bodybuilding competition—until a friend who was training for a bodybuilding competition unexpectedly passed away in 2000.
“He was always trying to get me to do a bodybuilding show but I wasn’t interested. When he passed away I decided to do it to honor him. I spent the next eight weeks getting ready and I won the Mr. New Mexico title. I went into that show for him, but then I stuck with it for myself.”
Four years ago, Levi opened LB Fitness, and more recently he opened Gym Chef, a food prep business offering healthy foods and healthy fats. Both he does to help his clients bring dedication and nutrition together, and at a good time, it turns out. Because of social media platforms like Instagram, bodybuilding is gaining popularity among men and women, especially young adults under 30.
Want to get in on bodybuilding? Levi says the two most important things to do when starting is to reach out to a local trainer who understands bodybuilding and to get nutritional guidelines from the start. And then? Dedicate the next year to changing your mind, body, and soul. “A good bodybuilder is selfish, and you are constantly working against yourself. You do it to prove that you can, but it will be a fight. A fight worth winning.”
Think You’ve Got What It Takes?
Check out this sample day in the life of a bodybuilder, three months before a show:
3am: Eat a smoothie with two scoops of protein powder, 1½ cups oatmeal, and 2 tablespoons almond butter.
5:30am: Complete 2½ hours of cardio.
8:30am: Eat 12 oz. chicken, 10-12 oz. red potatoes, and a cup of veggies.
9am: Work to pay the bills.
11:30am: Eat 10 oz. steak, 1½ cups of rice, and a cup of greens.
2:30pm: Eat 12 oz. chicken, 10-12 oz. red potatoes, and a cup of veggies.
between meals: Lifting workout.
5:30pm: Eat 10 oz. steak, 1½ cups of rice, and a cup of greens.
evening workout: Complete 1½ hours of cardio, an hour of working abs, and an hour of posing.
post workout: Eat a snack of 2 scoops protein and 2 scoops simple carbohydrate
9:30pm: Eat 12 eggs and a cup of oatmeal.
final step: Sleep to start all over again the next day.
Alcohol, drugs, and simple sugars are excluded from training.
Types of Bodybuilding Competitions:
Bodybuilding: The whole body is considered. Athletes train to develop all body parts and muscles to a balanced maximum size, with zero underdeveloped muscles. Competitors are judged based on symmetry, muscularity, and conditioning.
Classic Bodybuilding: A version of bodybuilding where the athlete doesn’t develop their body to the extreme. Since muscle mass is limited, attention is paid to the overall view of the physique, body proportions and lines, and muscle shape and condition.
Bikini: Judges look at overall body lines, balance and proportions, body tone, and appearance. The emphasis is on a well-shaped, fit, healthy, and attractive appearance, similar to that of models.
Male Physique: Men wear board (long) shorts and are judged from the waist up. Judges look for fit contestants who display proper shape and symmetry, combined with some muscularity and good overall condition.
Female Physique: Judges look for shape, proportion, and muscle tone, but also poise, femininity, and beauty. Competitors are expected to present the overall athletic development of the musculature but also balanced and symmetrical development of all muscle groups.
Figure: These emphasize muscle definition, not size. Judges assess the overall athletic appearance of the physique, taking into account symmetrically developed physique, muscle tone, and shape (with a small amount of body fat) as well as the hair, makeup, and individual style of presentation, including personal confidence, poise, and grace.
Want to go?
Levi trains his clients for events like these:
Oct. 15, 2016
Culver City, Calif.
Dec. 10, 2016
920 N Telshor Blvd, Ste D • 575-571-2402
Gabe: 575-650-7353 • Levi: 575-571-2402