The most powerful thing you can do to get the most out of your training sessions, doesn’t take place in the gym, it takes place in your kitchen.
For strong nerds like yourself, one of the most challenging parts of training is making sure that you are fueled right through the day.
Today, we are going to demystify the legend that is meal prepping, by making it a bit more accessible and giving you a few tips on how to get the most out of your healthy eating habits.
Table of Contents:
- What is Meal Prepping?
- Why Are You Meal Prepping?
- What Can You Meal Prep?
- How Long Will Your Meals "Last"?
- Getting Started With Meals
- Quick Meal Prep Formulas
- What Should You Put Your Food In?
- 7 Quick Tips for Meal Prepping
WHAT IS MEAL PREPPING?
Simply put, meal prepping is preparing your food to create a grab-and-go style meal for later. The easiest examples would be if you’ve ever taken a PB&J to work for lunch… That is technically a meal prep situation!
A better understanding of this is it is packing all of your meals for a specific time in the future. This can be used for anything, from breakfast to dinner and your snacks in between!
From an athlete point of view, its a bit more complicated, where you will want to pack each meal with specific macro/micronutrient goals in mind along with meal timing. But those details are for another time.
Why Are You Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping can be a convenient way to reduce waste when you cook, reduce the temptation to break your nutrition plan, or simply be a way to save time when it comes to lunches for work.
As someone looking to improve themselves in the gym, the ability to make sure that you are close to your macros is important.
No matter your why, having a good understanding of the basics will help you get the most out of your nutrition and therefore the training you are doing in the gym.
What Can You Meal Prep?
This is probably one of the most common questions that people ask when it comes to meal prepping, what can you do with it?
It’s really simple, if you answer these two questions. Can you eat the food after it’s been reheated? Does the meal or food fit within the nutrition plan that you have laid out for yourself?
After you have answered these there are a few things to think about as well, like… what foods don’t typically work as a meal prep item:
Crunchy, Fried Foods
In the below picture we have also created an outline with food that work well in different kinds of meals. That’s not to say this is the definitive list, but if you are looking for a quick primer, start here.
How Long Will Your Meals “Last”?
Unfortunately, this varies incredibly from meal to meal. Most of the answer comes down to how was the meal prepared and how is the food being stored?
When it comes to storage of meals, obviously the easiest way to get make sure you can eat whenever you need to is store it in the refrigerator, which gives a lot of meals roughly 3-5 days of shelf life before you need to start considering the smell test or the eye ball test. (Hint: If it smells different than it did yesterday, it’s probably not good anymore). The longer your food is in the fridge, the more often the taste or texture will change.
If you want to get the longest life out of your food, but don’t care about the meal not being the quickest to grab then you can slam it into the freezer to get a bit more out of it.
On the other hand, if you want to do a deep dive into what kinds of foods can be stored for however long, well you can try to navigate the FDA website, which can be a nightmare.
Getting Started With Meals
While it may seem tempting to jump in feet first, you gotta start SMALL!
The easiest way to do this is by making a larger batch on your dinner from the night before, pack them up and take them for a meal the next day.
While you are doing this ‘leftover meal prep’ pay attention to what tastes ok the next day and what just… doesn’t feel right. This information will give you a good starting point for when you start doing full on prepper mode for your meals.
After you have a handle on the ‘leftover meal prep’ we suggest doing single recipe meals that require just a bit less work than a ton of different ingredients being cooked separately. A good option is thick stews, where all of your required nutritional ingredients are cooked in one pot. There’s no side dish to worry about, and thick stews tend to reheat a bit better than expected. (Pro Tip: Stay away from thin soups… they SUCK to pack properly)
After you have become the master of single recipes, it’s finally time to move onto the full course meal… IE Protein and Carb with maybe a hint of vegetable and fat.
Quick Meal Prep Formulas
Meal prepping can be simple when done properly. If you follow these formulas (in the amounts right for YOU) it’s literally as easy as 1+2=3
We recommend taking a look at the photo we provided above if you’re wanting to do some quick combos on your own.
The Basic: Protein + Carb Source + Vegetable + Fat
Vegetarian/Vegan: Plant Based Protein + Carb Source + Fat
Low Carb: Protein + Vegetable + Vegetable + Fat
Pre-Training: Protein + Carb Source + Carb Source
What Should You Put Your Food In?
This might blow your mind, but putting your food in containers is the way to go.
If you are prepping on a budget, or aren’t sure if the prep life is for you, starting off with some reusable Ziploc baggies can be a go to. If you want to take it up a step, because how does one store stew in there, Ziploc also makes plastic containers that are BPA free and microwave safe.
If you want to step up from there, glass or Pyrex containers are ok. If you are looking to take your meal prep to the next level or care about your food touching, investing into different styles of meal containers is huge. These can be different sizes or even be as cool as having different compartments that separate your food to keep it fresh.
Whatever you decide on, make sure they can be carried with you easily.
7 Quick Tips for Meal Prepping
Now that we have covered the basics to give you a good start, here are some tips, that if weaponized right, will let you prep like a pro.
1. Make a Plan and Stick to a Prep Schedule
When it comes to meal prepping, tip number one is to make a plan and stick with it.
Seems easy enough, but if you are just winging it day after day, forgetting to pack your meal is going to be the difference between success and failure.
Included with this “schedule” is making sure you set aside time to cook, shop, pack and even as dumb as it is to say, eat. By keeping each of these points on lock, you will rarely deviate from it and maximize your money saving, goal gaining potential.
2. Stay Organized
The basics of meal prepping is using what you have on hand and saving time, which is why staying organized is incredibly crucial.
You’ll want your cooking materials all to have consistent homes so you aren’t cabinet hopping to find them, your storage containers need to be sorted so you know which ones to grab, and your recipes picked out and ready to go.
3. Keep Your Menu Varied
One of the biggest complaints about this whole system is that meals tend to repeat frequently.
The power to change this lies in YOUR hands, since you are both the consumer AND the chef. Googling different recipes, trying new combinations, and rotating the menu will keep you on the path longer and stronger.
One piece of advice we have is to keep a running list of what meals you really enjoyed and sprinkle them in. By doing this, you can help avoid decision fatigue which is mentally draining and give you some quick wins when it comes to cooking.
Another really killer thing that people underestimate is switching up your protein. Going from ground beef to ground chicken to sliced steak keeps textures and flavors new and exciting while also reducing tongue fatigue.
4. In-Season Veggies and Frozen Kings
If you are looking to vary up your flavor profiles, look for produce that is in season around your area. When produce is in season, it’s typically closer to its nutritional peak, tastes great and most importantly, isn’t as likely to hurt your pocket book.
Another cool little tip to get the most out of your produce is using frozen. Most people are under the impression that frozen veggies are TRASH, like out of season isekai, however that’s not true. Most, if not all frozen veggies are picked and packed at the height of their season and their nutritional profile is potentially higher than some of the fresh ones you find in the store.
5. Keep Your List Ready
Don’t you dare shop on an empty stomach and you’re better off skipping the snack aisles.
Make your list when you are planning your meals, while you have eaten. This will keep you laser focused and ready to kill it later.
As for skipping the snack aisle, while it isn’t completely needed, it does help avoid temptation. This comes more from the belief that more ‘wholesome’ foods are found around the perimeter of the grocery store.
Just keep with what you’ve planned and keep your list stacked and ready to go.
6. Keep It Spicy
When it comes to keeping your meals varied, one of the biggest factors is your spice rack. Using new combinations of spices and herbs help add MASSIVE flavor, freshness and vibrancy to the meals that you are eating.
If you aren’t that confident in your spicing abilities, the spice section in the grocery store has pre-packed and mixed seasonings that you just sprinkle on, set and forget.
Keep it fun, keep it spicy, keep it flavorful.
7. Stock Up on Meal Prep Essentials
Keeping a healthy stock of rice, oatmeal, frozen veggies, ect. can be a massive time saver (and maybe save a few bucks as well).
A lot of these shelf stable (or frozen) items have an incredibly long life, meaning that you don’t need to worry about them going bad quickly. The biggest advantage to keeping these on lock is that since they are major parts of peoples meal prep equations, you never run out of options.
The Final Prep
Meal prepping doesn’t need to be hard, especially if you are wanting to maximize the benefits.
From prepping your meals to changing up the flavor combos anything can be done, so are you ready to take your meals into your hands and succeed?
If you are looking for a bit more on Meet Day Nutrition just click on that link and you can find out much more!
FOLLOW THEIR JOURNEY
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