AND WHILE IT CAN SOUND WAY TOO TRENDY OR TOO FEMININE FOR YOU (REALLY, GUYS?) MEAL PREPARATION IS ONE OF THOSE ELEMENTS IN YOUR LIFE THAT CAN IMPROVE YOUR FITNESS AND EXERCISING GOALS BY 100%! READ THAT AGAIN. WITHOUT EATING THE RIGHT FOODS, ANY WORK THAT YOU DO IN THE GYM MEANS NOTHING. BUT GUESS WHAT? WE GOT YOU COVERED ON THE IN’S AND OUTS OF WHAT MEAL PREPARATION CAN DO FOR YOU AND YOUR FITNESS GOALS.
Meal Prep has many different meanings. It could mean:
- You’re prepping a week’s worth of food – 1 meal every single day (usually lunch) in a Tupperware
- Making one snack that you can bring to work with you to fend off the mid-day hunger craving.
- Making larger portions at dinner that divide into multiple servings and eat the extra serving the next day
- Prepping an on-the-go breakfast for your post-gym or pre-work meal.
Meal prep or food prep, will only work if you make it work for you. Don’t do it because others say it’s what you should do. Figure out your schedule, your needs, your time constraints and go from there. If you’re dedicated to a dieting plan or just eating to your macronutrients, then try following the next 3 simple steps to take control of the fuel you want to put into your body.
STEP 1: ANALYZE YOUR SITUATION
Answer these questions before you dive into meal prep:
WHY DO YOU WANT TO MEAL PREP?
Is it because you want to stay on track with your nutrition? Do you have a busy schedule and have no time for making lunch? Is it because you don’t want to cook everyday and prefer cooking once or twice throughout the week? Do you need to save money because out everyday can get expensive? All of these could be possible reasons why you want to, and should, prepare your meals.
HOW MUCH TIME CAN YOU DEDICATE TO MEAL PREP?
Meal prep involves some planning. What do you plan to eat/prepare for the week? When will you be prepping and cooking this food? When will you go grocery shopping - once a week, twice a week, etc.? This is crucial step to meal prep. It takes time and a tiny bit of knowledge of cooking. Certain fresh ingredients vary in the amount of time you have to use or cook them.
WHEN WOULD YOU PREFER TO MEAL PREP?
Is this a Sunday morning ritual where you want to prep enough food to last you until Friday? Or is this a Wednesday night deal where you only want to prep a few things because you know you have a busy few days ahead? Plan your meal prep for when you know you can set aside 1-3 hours. Of course the length of time will depend on how much you plan to prep, but give yourself some extra time especially if this is your first go at it.
WHERE DO YOU NEED THE MOST HELP FOOD WISE - BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER, SNACKS?
Do you workout in the morning, shower at the gym and then go right to work? Need something easy to travel with? Does your stomach start rumbling in the afternoon and you instinctively reach for that bag of chips in the vending machine? Maybe you want to cut costs and stop buying lunch everyday.
It may seem overwhelming, but take it one day at a time. Remember, meal prep is about what works for you. Answer some questions and figure out why you want to prepare your meals ahead of time, how much time you can spend actually prepping and what’s your game plan moving forward?
STEP 2: PLANNING
Regardless of how you’ve answered the questions above, start small your first time. Try preparing 2 snacks and a lunch or 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, and 1 snack. Limit your prep to 2-4 items and then gradually increase it over time once you find the sweet spot. Here are some ideas for different food items to plan out for different meals:
EGG MUFFINS - any combo of eggs, lean meat, and veggies; mix together in a bowl and pour into muffin tin to bake.
OVERNIGHT OATS - oats, milk, chia seeds, protein powder (optional); refrigerate, add fresh fruit.
SMOOTHIES - make individual smoothies and freeze overnight or defrost the night before and grab and go in the morning.
SIMPLE 1, 2 - Banana + protein shake
SALADS - Cook your protein source, then let cool, cut up the veggies and lettuce, portion out the dressing or extra toppings. Don’t go overboard with the toppings.
DINNER LEFTOVERS - make multiple portions at night for dinner, and separate into additional meals
BENTO BOX STYLE LUNCH - any combination of different protein, carbs, and fats (See Photos)
CASSEROLES - Can be divided into multiple meals (based on portions)
CROCK POT RECIPES - also can be divided into multiple meals (based on portions)
PROTEIN BARS OR BALLS - Find a great recipe HERE
APPLE + PEANUT BUTTER - easy and instant gratification
PACKAGED VEGGIES + HUMMUS - Easy snack found in your grocery aisle
BANANA MUFFINS - easy to make, but watch the sugar content
HARD BOILED EGGS - A weightlifters best friend
YOGURT WITH FRUIT AND GRANOLA - Stick to low sugar versions
BAGS OF MIXED NUTS AND RAISINS - Lightly salted or raw
CHIA SEED PUDDING - Chia seeds + Almond Milk, leave overnight, top with fresh fruit
STEP 3: EXECUTION
Once you’ve decided on what food you are going to prep and have gone grocery shopping, it’s time to execute the meal prep! In order to make the most out of your time when meal prepping, you should try and multitask. Here are some tips on multitasking while prepping food.
- PREHEAT THE OVEN AND PREP ANYTHING THAT NEEDS TO GO IN THE OVEN FIRST. Start with the simple things that don’t need to be assembled before going in the oven: your proteins, chopped veggies for roasting, etc. Toss them in when the oven is ready and set a timer.
- START PREPPING ANYTHING ELSE THAT NEEDS TO GO IN THE OVEN, BUT REQUIRES EXTRA ASSEMBLY BEFOREHAND. Maybe you are planning to whip up some banana protein muffins or breakfast egg muffins. While round one is in the oven cooking, start mixing your batter for your more complex recipes. Fill up your muffin tin, and place in the oven when the first batch of food is done.
PREP THE NON-OVEN STUFF. Finally, prep the items that don’t need to be cooked, or that just require the stovetop. Here, you can fry some bacon to have on hand for salads or breakfast, boil some eggs, throw some energy balls in the food processor, portion out some mixed nuts, mix up your overnight oats…whatever is left, now is the time to prep it.
- LET COOL AND PORTION OUT. Your final phase of food prep is simply to let anything from the oven cool down. Then get your containers, Tupperware’s and zip lock bags ready, and portion out and store your food - individual containers or large Tupperware’s work. Remember, the best way is whatever suits YOU best, not everyone else on Instagram.
PRODUCT THAT CAN HELP YOU WITH MEAL PREP
Now that meal prep has been broken down into simpler, more manageable steps, it’s time to go ahead and get started! Just remember to analyze your why, plan out your days and food, then execute and get to cooking!