Nichole Gunderson Explains How Discipline Is Self-Love


Nichole Gunderson treats her body like it’s a supercharged Lamborghini.

She eats six high-protein meals a day for weeks on end for a 5-to-10-minute performance on stage as a bodybuilder, including the May 4-6 North Carolina State/IFBB Champions of Power and Grace at the Raleigh Convention Center.

“Bodybuilding is something I can completely control, and it’s taught me so much about myself … that I can finish anything,” said Gunderson, an Easley, South Carolina, native who now lives in Cornelius, North Carolina. “It’s taught me a lot about self-worth and also just self-discipline and self-love.”

Gunderson trained for three years before she entered her first competition – the Jay Cutler Classic in Richmond, Virginia – last year. She finished second overall out of 15 contestants.

To prepare for her next event, Gunderson meal/workout plan is meticulously crafted and followed to a T. She starts her day (around 5 a.m.) with a 20- or 30-minute workout on a StairMaster, followed by a meal of eggs whiles and oats, sometimes topped by sugar-free maple syrup. Her workday – Gunderson does business development for the IT consulting and integration firm Burwood Group – begins at 8 a.m. She takes a break at 10:30 to eat her second meal of chicken and broccoli, then continues to work until 1:30 p.m., when she eats a third meal of chicken, broccoli and almonds. She then works again until 4 or 4:30 p.m., when she has a meal of turkey and broccoli before heading to a gym. From around 5:30-6:30, Gunderson lifts weights, then does another 30 minutes of StairMaster work. She then eats another meal of chicken, this time mixed with either broccoli, sweet potato or rice, the finishes her day with a sixth meal between 10-10:30 p.m. of whitefish and green beans before finally going to sleep.

She and her husband, Tony Butler, a bodybuilder who got Gunderson into the sport, purchase their food in bulk, and Gunderson estimates they spend a few hundred dollars per week on their meals.


“When you’re eating like this, it’s unreal how you can feel your body process each part of the food,” Gunderson said.

Gunderson, a graduate of J.L. Mann High School and Tri-County Community College, said bodybuilding has given her tremendous confidence in life and at Burwood, where she conducts cold calls and builds partner relationships.

“It’s helped me just knowing that I’m putting in the work, I’m making these calls and there’s going to be something good that comes out of it, just like bodybuilding,” Gunderson said. “You might not see it right away, but the end result is what matters.”

Joanna Robinson, Senior Vice President of Technology at Burwood Group, said Gunderson “exudes palpable energy and confidence in her role as a business development manager.”

“As Burwood encourages employees to work towards optimal health and physical fitness, we are thrilled to see Nichole pursue her bodybuilding goals with such passion and dedication,” Robinson said.

Gunderson will turn 28 on May 18, when she also will participate in the NPC Junior USA Bodybuilding Championship in Charleston, South Carolina. If she finishes first or second in the event, she will earn an IFBB Pro Card, which will allow her to compete professionally in events.

But Gunderson is not in bodybuilding for the money. She said the sport has simply changed her life.

“I grew up in a very small town for doing this is extraordinary for me,” she said. “I never thought I’d be doing something like this or achieve what I’ve achieved. It’s the greatest thing.”

Priscilla Dave