Whether wrecking backfields like All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald or going from tour to TV like entertainer Nick Cannon, different high-performance celebrities require different fuels. The job to energize both the aforementioned stars fall upon the bodybuilder-wide shoulders of Chef Arron Sain, a Chicago-born, self-described “kid from the hood who liked to cook” who was hired by both Donald and Cannon to keep them fueled behind the scenes so they can perform at max level on the grand stage.
The goals of both Donald and Cannon were similar—gaining and maintaining muscle—but getting there for the 6’1″, 270-pound two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the 153-pound rapper and host of Fox’s The Masked Singer required different means.
“It’s never a cookie-cutter plan,” Sain says. “Each plan needs to be individualized and takes time.”
For Donald, knowing his way around the kitchen was never the problem, but finding time to regular meal prep between practice, studying film, lifting, and traveling for road games was tough. The ramifications of lacking a reliable meal plan surfaced when Donald dropped nearly 15 pounds during the 2018 season, affecting his on-field performance, he says.
“I played in the Super Bowl last year at 257—people don’t know that,” says Donald, whose Los Angeles Rams fell to the New England Patriots 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII. “The double teams become a lot heavier out there. You’re a little lighter, so you have to anchor down a little extra strength. When you’re at 257 trying to play two guys who weigh 330 each, it takes a toll on you after a while.”
It was at an event during the off-season where Sain persuaded Donald to try a few packages of his Chicago-based InsainlyFit Meals. It also gave Sain the chance to tell Donald of his most recent success story: Nick Cannon, whom he connected with on social media. Sain helped him bulk up from a scrawny 153 pounds to a lean 163 in just under a year while in the middle of his Wild ’N Out tour.
For both stars, putting on pounds and muscle was the goal. But getting them to their respective finish lines required opposite approaches.
Cannon’s 10-pound gain started with a 3,000-calorie diet, which was a challenge, according to Sain, since the rapper is a “busy noneater.”
His solutions: For breakfast, Sain would have Cannon down a 1,500-calorie mass-gainer shake—loaded with almond milk, peanut butter, and oatmeal. That would keep Cannon full for hours, which made his next meal—one or two 750-calorie chicken and bean burritos—tough to stomach.
On the other hand, managing Donald’s intake—which would be as much as 4,500 calories per day—was easier. Unlike with Cannon, Sain could get creative with Donald’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And when it came to the day before games, Sain would whip up a complex-carb-filled spaghetti and meatballs dinner. “I wanted Aaron to have marathon-runner-like endurance, so I had him eat like a runner opens in a new Window..”
Donald is now back at 270 pounds while maintaining his physique on a 3,600-calorie diet.
“It’s like having two machines using two fuels,” Sain says. “One machine is fed food and the other is fed through supplements.”
Check out some sample meals from Donald’s daily meal plan below.
1 Breakfast: Breakfast Tacos
- 1–3 whole-wheat tortillas
- 15 oz spicy turkey sausage (“I choose turkey sausage over pork because it’s leaner, has less saturated fat and cholesterol, is a good source of protein, and is high in vitamins, such as zinc and vitamin B,” Sain says.)
- 6 whole eggs
- ½ cup spinach (per taco)
- 2.5 oz Mexican blend of cheese
The Macros (for all 3 tacos):
- Calories: 1,908
- Protein: 128g
- Carbs: 101g
- Fat: 111g
Why breakfast tacos?
“Aaron needed to eat before morning practice. Breakfast tacos were a quick and easy way to get food into his body, and Aaron can eat just one or all of them. Tacos allow me to pull multiple food choices together so Aaron could get in the amount of carbs, protein, and fat he needs. Also, I take into account the amount of time I have to cook and how much time Aaron has to eat. Tacos are quick and easy on both sides of the equation.”
2 Lunch: Brisket Sandwich
- 8 oz brisket
- 1 ciabatta roll
- 1 oz smoked Gouda
- Calories: 975
- Protein: 75g
- Carbs: 45g
- Fat: 54g
“Brisket is a great protein with some fat, but you can trim that off. I like it because it has a low fat melting point, which helps contribute to the juiciness of the meat. Pro tip: Cooking the brisket in a Crock-Pot allows me to prep other foods while the meat is cooking.”
3 Dinner: Baked Jerk Chicken
- 16 oz chicken
- ¼ cup green bell pepper
- ¼ cup red bell pepper
- 1 white onion
- Jerk seasoning
- Garlic powder
- Ginger seasoning
- Calories: 530
- Protein: 102g
- Carbs: 13g
- Fat: 8g
Why jerk chicken?
“Aaron was a fan of spicy food. Not flame-throwing spicy, but something that has good flavor and some kick to it. I prefer to bake my jerk chicken at 360 degrees, but this pure protein meal can be cooked on the grill.