Mike Hildebrandt is a dad to five children and has carefully crafted a unique balance between fitness and family because he knows success in one area means success in both. Here’s how he does it.

Meals that build

Your fitness goals should never come at a cost to the family. Instead, they should be complementary, especially in the kitchen. This means there are several meals we eat together as a family that are conducive towards my personal health and fitness goals, but that also satisfy the kids’ need for tasty food. Here are a few that work exceptionally well:


Everyone loves this but the typical spaghetti meal is a carb bomb that can be hard to consume while staying on track with your physique goals. We will serve the kids some lean grass-fed ground beef with some homemade spaghetti sauce over a bed of delicious noodles. My wife and I will substitute the noodles for spaghetti squash and go a little lighter on the sauce. Everybody gets to enjoy the meal and we are able to keep our carbohydrates and calories a little more under control.


Pancakes are one of those foods that makes just about anyone happy. Most quick pancake recipes are loaded with preservatives and extra carbohydrates that you just don’t need. We prefer to use a base of blended rolled oats with pumpkin, cinnamon, stevia and some egg whites added in. The pumpkin will give volume and fluff to the pancakes without a lot of added calories. We can then top the pancakes with some Greek yogurt-based cream cheese and sugar-free syrup to save extra calories. The kids really enjoy this meal and have actually come to prefer it over regular pancakes now.

Protein shakes

Every night I blend up a large Dymatize ISO100 shake. When I mix it, I start with two cups of ice, add in a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter and a half a scoop of Smooth Banana ISO100. Before blending, I add in several shakes of pink Himalayan sea salt along with just enough almond milk to blend the shake into a fluffy masterpiece. The kids all like to take bites out of the shake and look forward to this treat each night.

Mastering food prep

Since I eat roughly seven meals a day, the majority of my meals and snacks are not with my family. I take my healthy and portioned meals to work with me each day yet leave a little macronutrient flexibility for dinner with the family. I will typically “bank” up some added fat and carbohydrates for my meal with the family knowing that we will have something different than the typical chicken-rice-vegetable-bodybuilder meal. That said, I always prep extra chicken when I make my meals so that we have the base of a good lean protein to go along with whatever we are eating for dinner.

Informed decisions

It can be a very fine line talking about the benefits of nutrition with kids, however I believe that you need to have these discussions on a regular basis. This is particularly important considering the direction we are heading towards in terms of extremely sedentary lifestyles and over-abundance of calorie-dense foods. We try to help kids understand that there should be a balance between protein, carbohydrates and fats in the food consumed throughout each day. We also try to make a connection between energy consumed and energy expended so they can know how to properly fuel themselves for the activities they have. We want our children to love food and appreciate the varieties of flavors that come from enjoying healthy options while also understanding the harm that comes from the mindless consumption of calories.

Fitness is fun

We build fitness into everything we do so that it no longer becomes a matter of if we are going to be active, but how, when and where we are going to do it. For example, during the summer the kids know that we will hike 8-15 miles every Saturday so they no longer complain about it, they simply want to know which hike we will be going on. Also, we try to limit screen time and get creative with things to do outside whenever possible such as bike rides, walks along the river and so forth. Once it’s part of your family culture it becomes easy for everyone to get moving on a regular basis.

Prepare for everything

There have been several times our regularly scheduled workouts didn’t happen for some unexpected reason, maybe because a child was sick, had an activity or weren’t able to use the kids’ club at the gym. I think the mistake most people make, is using the above mentioned circumstances as an excuse to skip a workout. Instead, it’s better to seize this as an opportunity to get creative and try something different. We have some cardio equipment, basic free weights and suspension trainers at home so that we can at least get something done. The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen.

Time is everything

I think a lot of the fitness challenges families face come from poor time management and misplaced priorities. You have to plan and prepare ahead if you want to be successful. You can’t wake up each day with not a clue what the family will eat or what activities they can do. It’s far smarter for you to plan out at the beginning of the week what meals you will have, when you will have them and what activities the family has planned that need to be worked around. I find it extremely helpful to have a quick family meeting and create a calendar for the week each Sunday to make sure everyone is on the same page with their goals.