Whitney Johns is a personal trainer and fitness model who has competed professionally for NPC (National Physique Committee) and earned her Pro Card in the WBFF (World Beauty Fitness & Fashion). While Johns is officially the newest member to join Team MuscleTech, she has been part of the Iovate Health Sciences International Inc. family for years, previously as a Six Star Pro Nutrition Athlete.
Johns took time out of her busy schedule to chat with MuscleTech.com about her own health, fitness, and wellness journey, why she’s on a mission to empower others to become the strongest versions of themselves both inside and out, and what being a member of Team MuscleTech means to her. Johns also shares what a typical week of her training regimen looks like, tells us why good gut health is so important for your mental health, and explains how she was able to heal herself from the inside out. For anyone who’s feeling stuck, or maybe even isn’t quite sure where to start when it comes to training, nutrition, and self-care, Johns has you covered.
Q: Growing up in Idaho, you originally wanted to be a gymnast, a cheerleader and a dancer when you were younger. When that didn’t work out you started lifting weights with your dad when you were 16. Was weightlifting something that you were always interested in doing?
A: “I really wanted to do gymnastics, cheerleading, and dancing, but I had some synapses that didn’t fire in my brain when it comes to coordination and choreography. I would just stumble on everything, and be like, ‘Wait, what’s the next step?’ But I was very athletic in nature, and I had all of this kind of pent-up athletic energy that I wanted to express. So, my dad said, ‘Come to the gym.’ I never really thought about lifting weights, but once I got in there I thought, ‘OK. I can do this.’ (Laughing) I was like, ‘This doesn’t require too much thinking, it doesn’t confuse me, and it makes me feel strong and confident.’ So, I was hooked immediately. I’ve done some MMA training, kickboxing, boxing, and Wing Chun Kung Fu – I love the martial arts side of things, but I didn’t get into that until later in my fitness journey.”
Q: What was your experience like when you first started lifting weights with your dad? Would you listen to him when he was telling you what to do? Or did you want to do your own thing?
A: “My dad would show me a few things here and there, and I was like, ‘OK. That’s cool.’ Then I started doing my own research. I would look up body part exercises, and I started to get really obsessed with it. (Laughing) But he showed me the initial stuff.
No one in my family is as crazed with fitness as I am. Everyone else will kind of go to the gym here and there, but they’re not like me. They always give me a hard time when we’re on vacation because I’m always asking, ‘Who wants to go to the gym?’ They’re like, ‘Can you just give it a rest for one day?’” (Laughing)
Q: So, where does your love of fitness come from?
A: “When I was younger, I grew up with a lot of chronic pain. I had issues with migraines, and a lot of dietary issues, as well. I was eating the wrong things, and then having all of these crazy reactions to the food I was eating. I experienced chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. So, fitness was sort of this tool to be able to take the power back. I decided I was going to find the ways to strengthen my body, train it so it feels nice and mobile, reduce inflammation, and get my blood flow going. I noticed my pain started decreasing, and then my mood was improving because of all the endorphins. Once I started researching the answers to the questions I was having like, ‘Why am I having so many issues with migraines?’ and ‘Why am I having issues with my health and my mood?’ I knew it had something to do with what I was putting into my body. So, I did a ton of research there.
Once I was able to turn around the quality of my life, which was not a great quality of life at the time – I was living in this place of just pain, and weirdness going on. So, once I started training and really getting into the research I realized, ‘Oh, well this is a way better way to live.’ So, I was just a believer. That’s why I’ve made it my mission to help spread that message because I know so many people live in pain, and don’t have a high quality of life everyday. They don’t realize they actually have the tools. It’s just a matter of implementing them. Then they can have a completely different life trajectory.”
Q: You mentioned that you suffered from severe migraines, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and digestion issues. Can you talk a little bit more about how you were able to turn things around and improve the quality of your life?
A: “So, I started getting super nerdy. I listened to different health podcasts and just researched a lot. We had gone to the doctor, and I had a couple of head scans. They thought maybe it was a tumor, and couldn’t figure out where all of my headaches were coming from. The doctors were like, ‘Well, you don’t have cancer. So, nothing is wrong with you.’ And it was really frustrating because I had gone to a few different doctors and nobody could tell me what was going on. But I was like, ‘This is still real for me whether it shows up on your tests or not. It’s real for me and this sucks.’
So, I started getting really obsessed with reading, researching different things on the Internet, and listening to podcasts. While researching, I discovered something that recommended getting your food sensitivities tested. Once I did that, I was like, ‘Oh, here’s another missing piece. OK, here are the right supplements I can start using.’ It was a lot of that – just piecing things together. It was like, ‘OK, let’s try to troubleshoot this.’
Then I had heard a lot about gut health, and I got really interested in that and food sensitivity. That was a huge issue. And then now, essentially, I don’t have migraines – maybe once in a blue moon. So, I realized a lot of it was just the way I was eating. I was kind of eating just whatever. And I think a lot of people grow up doing that – you just eat whatever is on the table.
I knew nobody else was going to figure this out for me. So, I knew I had to figure this out for myself. It was a lot of trial and error. I tried going vegan for a while. I tried all kinds of different diets and approaches. Now, I’ve figured out what makes me feel best and gives me the most energy.”
Q: As someone who has healed yourself from the inside out, what changes did you make to your diet in order to improve your gut health? And why is gut health so important?
A: “I remember on one of my first tests what came up for my food sensitivities were lemons, almonds, and kale. This was stuff that I was eating every single day almost because I thought, ‘Oh, these are healthy.’ I was unknowingly wreaking all this havoc in my gut, and causing all kinds of inflammation and weird reactions when I thought I was eating clean. So, that was a big one.
As I continued researching gut health, I realized how connected it was to all the problems that I was having. With depression, the neurotransmitters that are sent to our brain are literally created in the gut. So, if your gut health is subpar, and it’s not producing what you need, you’re not going to have mental clarity. I had really bad ADD, it was hard for me to focus, I had brain fog, and then anxiety. So, I realized, ‘Oh, wow. If I can get the root of the problem fixed, then all of these other symptoms are going to just go away.’
Gut health is responsible for so many different functions in the body. Your mental health and your hormone health, as well. Your immunity will suffer if you don’t have good gut health, your metabolism, your aesthetics, and just your waistline in general. It was so many different things. So, I was like, ‘Oh, this is the root of the problem.’
When I was competing for NPC, the bikini division was so wrong for my body type because I naturally had a lot of muscle. So, my coach was having me do all this crazy cardio just to get rid of almost all of my muscle, which is so bad for you. I think so many girls – and not just girls, but men and women who compete – do that. They go to all these major extremes to get down to this aesthetic that is seriously damaging their metabolism and their hormones. You know, you’re going to have metabolic damage that can last for a long time. That’s why a lot of competitors totally yo-yo. They’re also eating a lot of sugar free things to fill up in order to stay in their calorie deficit. Do you know how terrible those sugar free things they’re eating are on their gut? All these little shortcuts they’re taking to look a certain way are really damaging their hormones and their gut health, and that’s what happened to me.
I was able to switch to a new organization – the WBFF. They had a division that was more suited to my body. It was sort of like in-between bikini and physique. So, it was like a fitness model division where I was able to embrace the muscle that I had, and showcase that without going too far with it. I didn’t have to train to the point where I was completely depleting myself, or overtraining, or doing metabolic damage type stuff. So, I actually had to go through sort of a hormone revamp after my first couple shows just because I had gotten way too lean. I didn’t have my period anymore, and my hormones were just totally whacked out. I’ve pretty much been through all of the hormone, the gut health, and the mental health stuff. That’s why I’m like, ‘Why don’t I just coach people on this?’ because so many other people have these problems, too.”
Q: What did competing at physique competitions teach you about yourself?
A: “I love the self-discipline that just gets ingrained into you from the competing process. You are signing up for it yourself. Nobody is telling you that you have to do it. So, if you want to do this, you have to go through all of this work, and you have to be super diligent about it. And I do think it gets a little extreme, but it was sort of like a boot camp for your work ethic, your self-discipline, and your self-control.
Through my competing experience, there are things that I’ve changed a lot about the way that I do things now. But it made it such a daily habit for me that it was just, ‘OK, this is my lifestyle.’ I had always trained, and I was always ‘healthy,’ but it was never to that level. Once you compete, you just step it up a notch. So, I think it’s amazing for anyone who wants to compete. I think it’s amazing for your own personal development. It also helps you build a base of muscle, and a nice base of full-body training. You’ll learn how to not just, you know, be like the girls who go to the gym and work their butt and their abs. You really learn how to have a well-rounded training routine.
So, I think it was really amazing in terms of education-wise on how to train my body not just for strength, but aesthetics, as well. It also helped my work ethic. I was always a hard worker, but I think it even kicked it up a notch. Even to this day, I’m working 12 hours a day working on my business – Find Your Fit With Whit. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that you just get in that habit of being a machine. (Laughing)
It was good. I’m really happy that I did it. But my advice to girls would be make sure you’re in the proper division, and that you’re not going to be killing yourself trying to fit a square peg into a round hole sort of a thing where you damage your metabolism and your hormones. And then also, don’t take the unhealthy shortcuts. You know, we all need hacks for staying within our calories when you’re hungry and you’re starving and you can’t have any more food. OK, well there are other things to reach for besides all these fake products with chemicals that are causing damage. So, look out for your holistic health. It’s so much more important than winning onstage. But do it if you can keep it in balance.”
Q: Take us through a typical week of training for you. How do you prepare for your workout sessions and what are your goals physically?
A: “Right now, I’ve been doing three days a week of jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. I’ve been doing kickboxing for a while, but I just started learning jiu-jitsu. So, I try to do three days a week of that, and at least four workouts of resistance training, lifting, and stuff that I teach in my own app. So, sometimes I’ll double up, or do two-a-day depending, but that’s sort of my routine now. It helps get your cardio in, but also with the kickboxing and the jiu-jitsu it’s very productive for self-confidence, self-defense, and it’s kind of like mental chess – it’s really like a mind exercise, as well. You have to be completely present, and there’s so much to think about in terms of your form. It’s almost like meditative in a way because you have no choice but to be in the present, or you’re going to get hit. (Laughing) So, I love that.
For my lifting, I just love it so much. If I don’t workout, for me, it’s not like I have to get motivated anymore – it’s become such a part of my lifestyle and my day that it’s like if I don’t do it I feel really off. And I feel like my mood will tank if I’m not releasing those endorphins and getting in the gym.
As for my preparation, caffeine always helps! (Laughing) Caffeine always helps going into your workouts, and make sure you’re eating an hour before. I’m hungry all the time and I have to eat like every two to three hours. If I try to go and workout without having ate, nobody is going to have a good time. (Laughing) That’s kind of my preparation.”
Q: You’ve been a trainer for over ten years. Why is it so important to you to help others get in shape and live their best lives?
A: “I just think so many people are suffering unknowingly and unnecessarily because they don’t realize this doesn’t have to be your life. You don’t have to live in pain. You don’t have to live in anxiety, or low self-esteem. And if you were to just get a few simple tools that literally you can do yourself – you can literally implement all the stuff yourself. You’re not buying some magic potion or whatever.
It just feels so good when I have the opportunity to work with clients and they’ll tell me how much it has changed their lives. That is so cool. Or they’ll let me in on their own struggles, or traumas, or things that have happened to them that were sort of their roadblocks mentally. Then we figure out how to work around them. It just feels very rewarding, and I know how they feel.”
Q: What are your own personal health, fitness, and wellness goals?
A: “Right now, I want to get good at jiu-jitsu. I also want to get really good with my training in kickboxing, and I want to feel proficient enough, and be consistent enough, with that. I’ve done it for years, but my priority was always being in the gym and lifting. So, now I’m in a place where I’m like, ‘OK, my consistency is really going to be in that area, as well.’
I actually really want to start teaching women how to defend themselves, if needed. I went through a situation recently where it turned into a pretty violent situation. And you kind of don’t know how to protect yourself in the moment unless it’s something that you have really practiced and you’re doing daily. So, I’ve always kind of loved the MMA stuff, but now because of what I went through and experienced, I realized how important it is. And it’s super powerful to start teaching others self-defense, as well.
So, I want to move that into my wheelhouse in what I’m coaching, my messaging, and just trying to put more content out there like that that can help people. I realized once I went through that how many people get into situations like that where they’re a victim of something scary going on, or violence, or abuse, and they have no idea how to get out of it, or how to even defend themselves against it, and they feel super powerless. So, I think my whole goal in my coaching is to help empower others to be the strongest version of themselves both inside and out. I want to get good enough and proficient enough with self-defense so I can actually start teaching that and passing that on.”
Q: What does strength mean to you?
A: “I think strength means being able to turn inward to your own determination, and taking the power in your hands to stand up for what is right and true for you. Taking it in your own hands to show up as your authentic self however that may be. So, that’s not just physically, but mentally, as well. I think physical strength really impacts your spiritual strength, and your emotional and mental strength, as well.
So, I think it’s all kind of connected. When you strengthen your mind, you strength your body as well because the physical really responds to the energetic realm, and translates in that way. It’s like, which one comes first? They are both interchangeable. If you strengthen one thing, you strengthen your inner and your outer. So, I think focusing on the ways to do that mentally and physically are so beneficial.”
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who’s feeling stuck and maybe isn’t even sure where to start when it comes to training, nutrition, and self-care?
A: “For me, I always kind of just messed around in the gym and did what I could. Once I actually hired a trainer and a coach, that’s when I really started to see how everything lines up. That’s when I realized there was a method to this. So, I always say to people, ‘Just hire a trainer’ or ‘Hire a coach to make you a plan,’ just so you can start understanding how it all works, and how important it is.
So many women will just compartmentalize their training by the body parts they want to have targeted. You’ll never get anywhere. You’ll always be working against your metabolism also in those situations. So, if you can just get a real plan from a real professional that’s legit, you can start educating yourself more. But you need a map. I just think people really need a map.
I think it’s the same with diet, as well. The amount of clients that I have who are like,
‘I don’t even care about working out right now. I just want to know how to eat. Like, I don’t even know how to eat, what to do, how many calories, like I’m completely clueless.’ Once that starts happening that alone will change so many things for them in terms of just mood and weight loss without even implementing the workouts at all. But you have to have the method, the plan, and the map to follow. Then once you build up a base of other people’s advice, then you’ll start intuitively knowing what’s best for your body, what works for you, and what you enjoy the most.”
Q: When did you first start taking supplements? And what are your favorite MuscleTech supplements?
A: “I started taking supplements probably back in high school when I started lifting. Just like glutamine. I love aminos. I think protein is really important, and making sure it’s clean protein. Like I really love the Grass-Fed Whey Protein from MuscleTech. I would probably say that’s my favorite just because you know you’re getting a really clean source, and it’s pure. You can feel confident knowing that whatever you’re taking in is good for your gut health, and is also good for your overall health.
I also really like the Pure Series Protein, as well. The one that’s naturally flavored because that’s clean, and it’s easier on your gut health. And MuscleTech’s Pre-Workout is always great. I love that pre-workout because it just gets the job done! (Laughing) It’s for when you need that little boost.”
Q: What does becoming a member of Team MuscleTech mean to you?
A: “I love the Iovate family. I had worked with Six Star for years, and Iovate is just such a cool company, and has such a good culture. So, it was important to me that I kept that relationship going. I had other offers on the table and I was like, ‘I want to stay with these people because I know they’re good people.
I think MuscleTech is even cooler because I do feel like it’s even a bigger deal to be part of the MuscleTech family. I think they’re doing really cool stuff with the brand and I’m excited and proud to be a part of the team.”