Turning 40 last year inspired big changes for Ben and Jacqueline Duke (he’s a chiropractor, she’s a psychologist): The couple hired coaches, stocked up on supplements, and sculpted their biceps and booties. At a National Physique Committee national qualifier bodybuilding competition in Wisconsin in June, the novices from Northfield were a forceful presence: He won the male physique division, and she won True Novice bikini. Now their sights are set on the NPC masters national championship this summer. What started as a hobby has turned into a quest: “Our goal is to win,” Ben says.

Dietary philosophy

BD: “We had to gain weight, mostly muscle — about 20 pounds for me, seven for her. Right before competition, we dropped as much body fat as possible. For bulking, we’re in a calorie surplus; if we’re cutting, it’s a calorie deficit. Throughout, our diet is low in fat and sugar, high in protein.”
JD: “People accuse bikini girls of not eating enough, but I average almost 3,000 calories a day. We eat small, portioned meals, six daily for me and eight for him.”

Eating plan

JD: “A typical day includes three-quarters of a cup of egg whites in the morning with two slices of Ezekiel bread, then a postworkout shake with protein powder plus five ounces of sweet potato. At dinner, I’ll have more sweet potato, a cod fillet, veggies, and a tablespoon of MCT oil. In between, there’s a meal that alternates cod and lean ground beef — I hate chicken — and a veggie. Before bed, I make a ‘chocolate soufflé’ with four eggs, MCT oil, cocoa powder, and a little stevia and salt.”

Training routine

BD: “At the beginning, I was rowing twice daily to burn fat and keep muscle. That’s on top of barbell work — squats, chest presses, rows, and dead lifts. I push it with everything I have for 40 to 50 minutes, five to six days a week.”
JD: “Bikini is judged on proportions. You want two triangles — a tiny waist with full glutes and shoulders. I do one to two hours of weight training five to six days a week. During the pandemic, I used a hex bar and bands over the door in our home gym.”

Vitamin variety

JD: “Most of the stuff I take is basic — vitamin D, a multivitamin, B complex, three different types of probiotics, and magnesium, which helps with sleep and muscle performance.”
BD: “Fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids are important. Because we’re high in protein, fiber supplements help with digestion. There’s a preworkout supplement — a blend of L-carnitine, amino acids, and sometimes caffeine — that gives us energy and boosts our endurance. Midworkout, we’ll take essential amino acids with a little bit of carbs for extra energy. Afterward, a shake with whey protein isolate provides proteins and carbs without fats to slow the absorption rate.”

Behind the scenes

JD: “The day of competition, I had hair and makeup at 3 a.m. and spray tanning at 4:30 a.m. Your $650 Swarovski crystal bikini is glued on as tight as possible; you can’t get it wet or mess up your tan, and you have to pee backward into a funnel.”
BD: “I had to shave everything that wasn’t under my board shorts, which was not fun. Also, you have to bring your own sheets because of the tan.”