This IFBB Bikini Pro champion proves that you can be an elite competitor and a mom all at the same time.
By Mike Carlson
PQ: “I want people to remember me by how I made them feel or something I taught them rather than what my body looked like.”
Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry?” The same could be said for looking at Cori Baker’s Instagram account. Baker posts more pictures of delicious-looking food than Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray.
“I have always been a foodie,” Baker says. “As much as I am a competitive adrenaline junkie, I love food. My grandma was a pastry chef and my mom loved to cook. I grew up in the kitchen. I have a lot of memories tied up in food.”
Unfortunately, her memories of food haven’t always been good. A former college athlete and fierce competitor, Baker got up to 208 pounds when she was pregnant and then spent several years in a vicious cycle of restrictive dieting followed by binge eating. She would eschew a slice of bread but gobble down handfuls of almonds because she heard they were healthy. If a bite of pizza passed her lips on the weekend, she would devour the whole thing. It wasn’t until she began competing in Bikini when she learned about the concept of eating for your macronutrients needs, known as flexible dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).
“Flexible dieting 100 percent saved my life,” she says.
Now a Mr. Olympia-seasoned veteran, online nutrition coach, author, and mother of two, Baker wants to share her experience with others who may be as nutritionally confused as her younger self.
Mike Carlson: How did you get into Bikini competitions?
Cori Baker: I have always been an athlete, and I have always craved setting goals and working hard for something. Since I had my kids so young, I still had that fire, that competitive drive. I did a couple half marathons, and that got me to lose a little bit of my baby weight, but then I realized that it wouldn’t change my body. I started doing CrossFit. Then, I saw a friend do a Bikini competition and I really liked her body composition. I had tree-trunk thighs, and I felt so boxy. I think it came from CrossFit and the act that I didn’t know how to eat. I didn’t track my macros at the time.
MC: You are an outspoken fan of tracking macros with flexible dieting. How did you realize that was the right strategy for you?
CB: I was competing at my first National show two months after my first NPC show. I was onstage with competitor named Laurin Conlin, who was a flexible dieter coached by Layne Norton, I was fascinated with her. I would read her Instagram and be like “She eats this before she gets onstage? I don’t get it!” So I watched Layne’s YouTube videos, and that was the start of my research. I started diving into books and learning about the thermic effect of food and my total daily energy expenditure. A light bulb went off. Ever since then my life has been completely different.
MC: What is your current macro breakdown?
CB: I am deep into my off-season right now. I do 260 grams of carbs, 58 grams of fat, and 150 grams of protein. When I go into prep again, I’ll do one high-carb day and about three low-carb days. That way I respond really quickly, but I never feel deprived because I keep that high day. And my carbs are never under 165 grams a day. I don’t like to whine about my low days, because 165 grams of carbs is a lot compared to some other competitors. My protein stays the same, but my fat intake will get lower during competition.
MC: Are you guilty of the flexible dieter trait of bragging about the junk food you eat your Instagram?
CB: I feel like I try to fight the stereotype. For instance, I posted a sandwich on whole grain bread the other day, a little sprinkling of cheese puffs, and an apple. I’ll post oatmeal with five or six M&Ms on it. I try to have that balance. A stereotypical flexible dieter posts Pop-Tarts and pizza 24/7. I at least show oatmeal or protein pancakes; it’s not just cupcakes and Twinkies.
MC: How did you feel about he 2016 Mr. Olympia? Disappointed?
CB: I would have loved top 10, of course. The way I was called out, I think I would have been 19th or 20th, but anything after 12th place is the same. It was just an honor to be up there. I set the goal of being on the Olympia stage within one year of getting my pro card, and there I was. Hopefully I make an impact on those who struggled like me and prove that we can do anything we set our minds to. So I felt like I had won the second I stepped on that stage.
MC: What do you think is your best bodypart?
CB: My glutes. They tend to respond, and I enjoy training them. I think I developed them from volleyball and then from powerlifting, because I did a lot of deadlifting when I was in CrossFit. Now I do two glute-focused days a week, one heavy and one light. But I think I was born with glutes. I wasn’t born with a pancake backside.
MC: Your abs have great shape.
CB: I owe that to my genetics. I never knew I had them until I dropped my body fat low enough. I don’t directly train abs. I like to keep my abs tight when I lift and do my sprints, but I never just lie down and do 150 crunches.
MC: When you’re competing, how many other moms are onstage with you?
CB: There are usually two of us at each show. Some girls will have kids and I’ll have no idea. One girls took top 10 at the Olympia, and I didn’t find out she had a child until I saw her family at the show. But there are not very many of us.
MC: Do you ever feel like an outsider because your life is so different from that of an unmarried 24-year-old competitor?
CB: I don’t feel like an outsider. I do look at all of their skin and think, “I would kill for that 22-year-old skin!” But I don think of that when I am onstage. It almost fuels me even more. I want to come in and show what I can do having two kids.
MC: What’s the reaction of your fellow competitors when they learn you have kids?
CB: They are so supportive. At every show at least five of them will be picking my brain about it. I feel like they know it’s their future, so it makes them happy. I think sometimes—and I don’t mean this in an overconfident way—that I am a breath of fresh air for them. They know they can still get up there and rock it and it’s going to be all right.
MC: What’s it like working with the online supplement company Gains In Bulk?
CB: I love working with Gains In Bulk. They are a perfect fit for me because I wanted to represent a company that provided products that I not only love, but could feel great about recommending. Their products are pure, unsweetened, contain zero fillers, and are sold at wholesale price. I was very impressed by their willingness to provide a certificate of analysis with each batch proving purity. That’s very rare these days.
MC: What supplements do you take on a daily basis?
CB: My favorite products to take on a daily basis are BCAAs, glutamine, and the Athlete Digestive Formula [ADF]. The ADF is a probiotic and digestive enzyme in one. I cycle on and off with instantized creatine. GIB-100 is a pre-digested vanilla protein and is unique because it acts as a daily multivitamin, containing 100 percent of the daily recommended vitamins and minerals. Another bonus is that it’s sweetened with monk fruit.
MC: What are your competitive goals for 2017?
CB: My goal this year is to get in the top-eight mix at the Olympia, but I am realistic in the fact that competing is not my entire life. I have two children and I work. And I do that during competition season. So I’ll bring the best package I can, but it’s kind of out of my hands from there. I can guarantee that I will work crazy hard to get there, but I can’t put that pressure on myself to win the Olympia. I can show up, give my all, and see what cards are handed to me.
MC: What are you going to do differently in your prep?
CB: More upper body–focused workouts. I have to simmer down with my glutes. I love to push myself with the weight, but I have to back up a little bit. When you get to the Olympia level, it comes down to millimeters. You have to be so symmetrical. So I have to grow my upper body. The only time I feel like I look symmetrical is when I have a nice big pump and a ton of carbs in me.
MC: No matter what happens, you seem like you have a full life without competing.
CB: Competing has given me the platform to influence and motivate women who have the same story as me. There are so many women who are in the same boat I have been in. We get completely wrapped up in taking care of our kids that we don’t exist anymore. We forget that we have goals. I want people to remember me by how I made them feel or something I taught them rather than what my body looked like. IM
Name: Cori Baker
Lives: Gilbert, AZ
Profession: Nutrition consultant, IFBB Bikini Pro
Likes: Family time, cooking/baking, the feeling after a great workout, reading, being outdoors
Dislikes: Scorpions, procrastination, oysters
Favorite Drink: I’m a lemon-water regular, but if I want to spice it up, then Dr. Zevia or Dr. Pepper with a splash of coffee creamer
Favorite Movie: Remember The Titans, The Pursuit Of Happyness, Elf
Ultimate Vacation: On the beach with my family
Who Would You Cast To Play Yourself in a Movie? A combo of Jennifer Lawrence and Zooey Deschanel
Desert Island Exercises: Hip thrusts, Arnold press, and then I’d bring a resistance band because you can get a great workout with just one of those!
Favorite Charity Or Cause: Locks Of Love
Sponsors: Gains In Bulk, FitChoice Foods