What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with figure?
Oddly enough i did not like sports growing up! I liked being active but had no interest in team sports. I did take gymnastics for a few years, play softball and ran track but my heart wasn’t 100% in it - I began going to the gym when i was 18 but mainly stuck with cardio - I was afraid of the weight room and I was afraid of “getting big.”
It wasn’t until after I had my son that I set a goal out of my comfort zone and to compete in a figure competition - boy am I glad I saw that through because that decision changed my like and helped me discover my passion!
What do you love most about figure?
What I love most about being a competitor is the anticipation leading up to show day, trying to be better than I have ever been. I love challenging myself mentally and physically - testing my limits - I’m a thrill seeker for sure!
What were the major milestones that gave you that "extra" motivation boost?
I spent many years in the night club industry working late hours, partying ect... When I began training and competing it was a godsend - it did not mesh well with that industry for obvious reasons - deciding to compete gave me the extra motivation to make a positive change in my life and has drastically improved my quality of life.
What keeps you motivated?
My husband, son family, friends and supporters. I want to continue to make them all proud and continue to inspire them - this motivates me to keep going on those days when I just don’t feel like it. I want to prove that hard work and determination will produce results.
Who were your heroes growing up and how did they help inspire you to get involved with figure?
Believe it or not my hero when I was little was Wonder Woman - strong, independent, beautiful & determined - enough said - lol.
What are your future goals, dreams and plans?
Future dreams, goals and plans would be to someday open my own personal training studio and to further my career in the fitness industry via fitness modeling, writing and continuing to pass my passion and knowledge along to others.
How often do you perform cardio?
Off season I do 5 days a week at 30 minutes - the closer show time gets I will bump it up to 40 minutes and the weeks leading up to the show if needed I will do split cardio sessions 40/40 - I used to think that you needed to do a ton of HIIT and plyos to burn your calories but over the past year or so I have learned that high impact cardio can tear down your hard earned muscle if done too much - nutrition and steady state cardio combined work very well for me and I find it preserves my muscle as a figure competitor.
Do you supplement your weight training and cardio with any other physical activities?
I use the spin bike and step mill for intervals sometimes for my HIIT cardio, I will throw in some tabatas training here and there as well. For my steady state I mostly bike - sometimes I bike outdoors, sometimes I will walk 6-8 miles keeping my heart rate at about 120bpm.
I have recently incorporated Bikram yoga into my routine - I love it! I feel strong, focused and centered after a good Bikram class. It’s awesome.
What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?
I believe that fasted cardio works well for burning fat in individuals who are on the leaner side looking to get super lean let’s say for a show. When the body is lean it it undergoes adaptations that make it more difficult to get “fat out of the fat cells” if you will.
Otherwise cardio anytime of day is fine - this is my opinion after reading several articles and putting fasted state to the test myself. I’m not saying I’m right - just my opinion based on research I have found.
Which do you prefer, and why…steady state cardio or HIIT?
Hmmm well - HIIT is quick but it’s a killer - steady state is less intense but can feel like forever. I personally rather get it done and over with as fast as possible but for my specific goals I incorporate a lot of steady state - everyone has different goals and fitness levels but for me specifically I find fasted state cardio and steady state burn optimum fat.
What are some of your best training tips for someone who wants to look good and get ripped?
Looking good and ripped starts with eating clean! You can go to the gym 5 days a week but you can’t out train a bad diet. You have to plan and prepare your meals and commit to a steady exercise plan in order to see healthy long lasting results.
How important is progression of weight in some form, in the muscle building process?
Well, you need to lift to grow. It depends again where you are and what your goals are. I train heavy and hard most of the time but my lifts are geared toward growth the further out from a show I am - as I get closer I focus on conditioning while still lifting hard. You can’t be afraid of the weights! You need to fatigue the muscles in order to make them grow.
What are some of the most common mistakes made when someone is trying to build muscle and/or get ripped?
One of the most common mistakes is in nutrition. You need to feed your body the proper amounts and types of food in order to see the results you desire. For example, you will not grow if you do not have adequate protein and you will not lose if your diet is too high in calories for your specific body type.
Do you have any gym, muscle building or fitness pet peeves?
Social hour at the gym - people who hang out on the machines and they are not using them other than a leaning post. Curls in the squat rack - why do people do this? Lol.
What are your best tips for getting ripped and shredded abs?
Abs are made in the kitchen - you can crunch, leg raise, sit up all day long but if your nutrition is lacking your abs will be too!
What does your post-workout nutrition and supplementation look like?
I incorporate Betancourt Nutrition products into my post workout regimen - Big Blend white chocolate mixed with glutamine powder and pure aminos in my water for muscle growth and repair. I also incorporate Egg Whites International liquid egg whites in with my powder. Egg whites are the 100% bioavailable to the muscles and are a very clean and lean source of protein. These egg whites are pasteurized and filtrated so you can actually drink them or mix them with virtually anything, so you can absorb all of the nutrients, some of which get cooked off when you cook your egg whites.
What does your off-season bulking (eating) plan look like?
In my off season I aim to stay within 5-10 lbs of my competition weight. Sometimes I am asked to do photo shoots or appearances and I need to be able to drop a few pounds realistically. However, I eat 6 meals a day, 25-30 grams of protein with each meal, 25 grams of carbs with at least 3 meals sometimes 4. I try to stick to steel cut oats, Ezekiel bread, sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa, fruit consists of a 1/4 cup with first meal, veggies consist of 1/2 cup with meals 2 through 6.
Healthy fats usually only with my last meal. Everyone’s body is different but I have found over the years that too much fat in my diet kept me from getting the look that I desired as a figure competitor. Again, everyone is different and I do believe we all need sources of healthy fat in our diets. I am in no way saying to get rid of them.
I have a lot of variety in my meals in my off season as far as the different types of foods in each food group. I also allow myself one meal a week to have pretty much whatever I want. One of my favorite treats in my off season are quest nutrition bars. They are absolutely amazing and they are made with natural ingredients which is always a plus. Low carb, high protein, high fiber bars with no trans fats - yes please!
What does your cutting (eating) plan look like?
When I am prepping for a show I get down to basics, it’s just easier for me to stick to the plan that I know works for me. The variety in my meals is much less when I am prepping for a show.
Proteins mainly consist of chicken, 97% lean ground turkey, Egg Whites International, fish and Betancourt Big Blend. I continue to keep my amounts the same - 25/30 grams per meal.
Carbs mainly consist of sweet potato, Ezekiel bread & brown rice - 25 grams with 3 meals and I may carb cycle if needed. Veggies - 1/2 cup with at least 5 meals - asparagus, broccoli, baby spinach and romaine.
I keep my fats very low - I use Betancourt fish oil as well. I generally do not have a cheat meal at 12 weeks out - I’m pretty strict - I have to be! My body does not allow me to slip up that close to a show.
Again - this is what I do and what works for me personally - everyone’s show prep and their beliefs on what works and what doesn’t work is different - you can ask 10 people this question and get 10 different answers. Follow what your coach tells you to do - don’t get caught up in listening to too many people - it will stall your progress and full potential!
How do you prepare meals? Do you cook daily or cook for the week?
Preparing your food is vital to your success if you want to eat clean and especially if you are a competitor or trying to make healthy lifestyle changes. I like to buy my meats in bulk and grill a bunch all at once and I also cook my ground turkey in bulk. I also like to cut a bunch of sweet potato in to chunks and bake them.
Egg whites are easy because I use Egg Whites International and I just pour 2 cups when I need to for 2 meals that day. Once all my food is cooked - I measure it and put it into individual meals so I can grab and go - no excuses. This is crucial for travel too. I swear by my six pack bags cooler. Keeps all my foods fresh for hours.
I’m pretty basic when prepping specific meal - I like easy so my favorites are chicken and sweet potato with a veggie or ground turkey and rice with a veggie, egg whites and Ezekiel or 1 can of tuna over salad. I use fat free Italian dressing over my tuna (1/2tbs). I always keep extra big blend in my bag or a quest bar in case I’m out longer than expected so i am prepared and have a meal with me.
What are your favorite cheat meals and foods?
Pizza, a good burger, a great carb loaded Italian dinner, tiramisu, cheesecake - I could keep going - lol.
What are some of your best diet, nutrition and supplementation tips for someone who just wants to look good and ripped, but doesn’t want to compete?
Be sure to get the proper amounts and types of foods in your diet. Your body will not allow you to lose weight healthfully if you deny it of what it needs. Starving yourself actually has the reverse effect and will slow down your metabolism. Exercise regularly. There is no magic pill - no easy answer - it takes time and commitment. You what you put in you get out.
How important is carb cycling when trying to cut fat and retain muscle?
Carb cycling has it’s time and place - it depends on your fitness goals and your fitness level - sometimes it is beneficial other times it is not. I myself have done it for shows/photo shoots and other times I was where I needed to be physically so I did not have to carb cycle.
Do you focus on specific macro (PCF) levels/percentages while cutting and bulking?
Yes I do - it’s basic math actually, calories in versus calories out - you need to know everything that is going into your mouth when you are a competitor. Those minute details can make or break your conditioning. Even if you are not a competitor I highly recommend doing a food journal so you know exactly what goes into your mouth calorically.
What does your current supplementation plan look like?
Currently I am using Betancourt Nutrition's glutamine powder, pure aminos and l-carnatine. I also use Isagenix ageless essentials for my multi which has a fish oil in it, or I will use Betancourt’s fish oil. I also use milk thistle, a digestive enzyme, Wobenzym joint supplement and a greens supplement.
What are some of your favorite supplements and why?
My favorites would have to be my glutamine - it helps to repair my tired muscles after heavy lifts and boosts my immunity. My pure aminos for endurance during my workouts as well as recovery afterwards plus they make my water taste amazing and finally my digestive enzymes - they keep my belly happy. Ionsume a lot of protein and these help my body break my foods down properly.
What are your favorite meals and foods?
One of my favorite meals would have to be Ezekiel French toast made with Egg Whites International and cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread and Walden farms calorie free syrup. I love baby spinach and I could never get tired of baked sweet potato chunks sprinkled with cinnamon. I love my Quest bars too - they are like dessert!
If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?
- Facebook: Shannon Petralito wbffpro or Shannon Petralito
- Instagram: @shannon petralito
- Twitter: @shanpetralito
- Pinterest: @shannon petralito
- Youtube: @shannon petralito
Do you have any tips for someone who is looking to compete in your sport?
Be sure to seek a good coach who is familiar with your particular division - do your research! Remember that although this is one of the toughest things you may do both mentally and physically remember to enjoy the process - to have fun, make friends and enjoy the experience.
Favorite activities and hobbies you enjoy when away from the gym?
Spending time with my husband and my son - just being a family!
Movies and TV shows you’ve enjoyed recently?
Sons Of Anarchy & Weeds !
CJP Photography, LHGFX Photography, Jorge Narvaez Photography