Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

It takes the right foods to fuel her physique

Rhonda Rotterman gets her power from protein, veggies and complex carbs. (Matthew Masin/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Rhonda Rotterman had so many interesting things to say for this week’s Refresh "What are you eating?" Q&A – which will be published Saturday – that I wanted to share lots more from her in this blog.

Rotterman, 47, of Kenmore, has found it easier to eat well and exercise more during the last couple of years. It shows. Since last year, she has been the overall winner of the National Physique Committee Miss Buffalo, Miss Rochester and Miss Northern Kentucky competitions.

Program director for the University at Buffalo Institute for Person-Centered Care– which looks to set better and more compassionate standards for elder care – she also is featured this month in No Nonsense magazine, which targets those really, really, really serious about fitness.

You’re ripped. What was key, nutrition-wise, to build your body?

Off-season or getting ready for competition, because there’s two different methods?


When getting ready for competition, you’re not looking to build muscle at that point, you’re looking to drop body fat. The cardio becomes key, primarily in the morning on an empty stomach. You’re still lifting weights but you’re not lifting weights for size, you’re just looking to maintain what you already have. You’re no longer in the building phase. You’re just looking to lean out to prepare your body to hit the stage, so you’re stripping away all of your body fat and eventually you strip away all your water, too, because you only want to see skin and muscle.

So dietary-wise, you’re focusing on proteins, primarily from animal sources – chicken, turkey, fish – and you’re eating a lot of vegetables instead of complex carbohydrates, because even though people think of vegetables as merely vegetables, vegetables do contain carbohydrates, although it’s lower and they are primarily in fiber and water and vitamins.

What about when you’re building muscle?

You have to have the complex carbohydrates with the good proteins and the vegetables. Your muscles have to have a certain amount of sugar in order to grow, in addition to the protein sources. So you’re having carbohydrates with all of your meals, with the exception of later in the day when your body tends to slow down. And when you’re working those weights, you’re really working them very hard, so you’re tearing down those muscle fibers and fueling your body with protein and sugar so that they, in turn, grow. When you hear competitors refer to off-season, you might see them and they don’t look like they’re stage ready. They’re fluffier, if you will. You don’t see a lot of the striations and the definition. We just look bulky till it’s time to take that all away.

We scale back on the cardio. We still do cardio, but not as much. You want your body to respond when you’re getting ready for competition. I think a lot of people, whether it’s fitness or competition, especially females, they hit that cardio ad nauseam, and what that does is your body adapts. Our bodies are very, very smart, and if you’re hitting your body constantly with cardio, then it gets used to that. And if you try to scale off and you don’t change your dietary habits, you can get into a metabolic syndrome where you’re actually putting weight on relatively quickly. So the more cardio you do, the more you have to do to get your body to respond.

When you talk about carbs, what sort of carbs are you eating?

Complex carbs would be things that have fiber in addition to the carbohydrates, so you’re talking about sweet potatoes, brown rice or wild rice, oatmeal, any of the fiber cereals.

You want a carbohydrate that is not going to spike your insulin, so you want something that’s going to burn slower over a longer period of time. When you spike your insulin, it tells your body to store energy that is not being used, so you want to keep your insulin at a pretty steady state throughout the day so you’re not spiking it with simple carbohydrates and having it plummet. That also triggers your hunger response.

What are your energy foods?

If I’m looking to get energy quickly, that’s when I would use a simple carb. So a white rice or white potato or something that’s going to give me that quick energy. The quickest form of energy is always a sugar, so a honey or something that’s going to get into your bloodstream. I’m not a real big proponent of high fructose corn syrup or any of those additives, so if I’m going to have a sugar, it’s going to be a real sugar, and not a molecularly modified or fabricated sugar. So an iced tea with regular sugar or honey.

The staples of your diet?

Clean proteins: Chicken, fish, turkey. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, ever, even if it's off season ... complex carbs and vegetables with every single meal that I eat.

Do you have any favorite vegetables?

In Western New York we don’t have access to a lot of fresh things regularly, so summer’s great because you get all of the tomatoes and cucumbers and squashes and beans, and all of the fresh things from the farmers markets. Those are my favorites. Off-season when we’re having to rely on imports, I’m still a big fan of sweet peppers, cukes, celery.

I don’t eat a lot of fruits for my complex carbs. If I do, it would be a grapefruit or apples, which are my go-to fruits if I have them.

In salad, romaine lettuce, cabbage ... I try to get whole foods as best that I can.

A food you can’t resist?

I do resist it, but my favorite cheat food is pizza. When I tend to have a cheat meal, that tends to be my go-to thing.

How often does that happen?

Off season, far more likely than I would like to admit to your readers. Off-season is probably once or twice a week for a cheat meal. Which is why I don’t compete in the fall typically. I do enjoy the summer. It’s such a finite amount of time in our region, so we have a lot of family picnics and weddings and showers, and a lot of functions that involve some great food. If I’m competing, I can’t really indulge in any of those, so I tend to compete in the spring. My go-to time is right after the holidays, and so I’m in the zone, which works out perfectly for me.


comments powered by Disqus

About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

@BNRefresh |