Dr. Andrew Chappell PhD, WNBF Pro

Abs are made in the kitchen is one of those classic fitness cliches and for good reason. The cornerstone of any great physique or athletic endeavour is a nutritious and healthy diet. Following such a diet consistently however takes planning and one thing great physique competitors and athletes alike are good at is following schedules and putting time aside to invest in things like meal prepping. In this article we’re going about twelve way you can tackle your meal prep.

Having a killer physique doesn’t just happen, it takes a hell of a lot of planning and a ton of hard work. Meal prep is a cornerstone of that process.

  1. Plan your meals in advance.

Before you begin meal prep, it is important to plan out your meals for the week ahead. This means you need to consider your fitness goals and the nutrients you need to support them. For example, if you are trying to build muscle, you may need to increase your protein intake. If you are trying to lose weight, you may need to reduce your overall calorie intake.

Once you have a rough idea of what you want to eat and know the macros/ and energy you need to consume you can work out your meal plan. If you’re unsure about how to do this, then you’ll have to do your research or invest in a nutritionist to help you with this step. Once you’ve got your meals sorted for the week, you can create a shopping list and buy all the ingredients you need for the week. This will help you stay organized and save time when it comes to meal prep.

Having a plan makes prepping easier, if you work on a Macro/IIFYM basis it can be difficult to plan ahead and work out the food items you need.

  1. Start Out Simple.

You can make your meal plan as complicated or as simple as you want. It depends how good you’re cooking skills are, your budget, experience with meal prep, and time you must spend on meal prep. A diverse diet with lots of different food sources will be healthier, however if sticking to a diverse plan becomes a hindrance to meal prepping or even following then it’s better to opt for simplicity. Once you’ve mastered putting preparing simple menu’s you can move onto more complex menus. In general

Making meals like the ones featured here are easier than you think. The more ingredients you add and more meals you have to prepare can make things more and more complicated.

  1. Practice Good Food Hygiene

Nothing will a stop your progress more than food poisoning. One day you can be on top of the world looking awesome and pushing big numbers in the gym, the next a bout of food poisoning can lay you low and unable to perform for days. Food poisoning is no joke, and in the worst cases people can end up admitted to the emergency room. There’s a full article you could write on this, but here are some basic tips to avoid being brought low:

  • Check best before and use by dates and food freshness information.
    • If it’s a use by date don’t eat it past the date, if a container says eat within 3 days of opening, then don’t eat it past the date.
  • Make sure you store your food properly.
    • Dried items should be stored in airtight containers in a dry place.
    • Refrigerated food should be stored at a constant temperature, between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
    • Frozen food should be stored between minus 2 and minus 15 degrees Celsius
  • When preparing your food ensure a clean workplace using antibacterial kitchen cleaner
  • Wash your hands with soap and water prior to eating and food prep for obvious reasons.
  • Wash your vegetables, in transit and in packaging from the farm to the shop your produce goes on a journey, be sure to make sure your food is clean prior to eating it.
  • Cook your food properly, unless you’re eating a rare steak, food should be cooked to at least 70 degrees Celceius to kill any bacteria.

You can find more advice on food hygiene from the food safety authority (https://www.food.gov.uk/food-hygiene)

  1. Buy In Bulk.

This is worth doing for three reasons, 1) you’ll save money in the long term, 2) you’ll save time on supermarket trips, 3) you won’t run out of supplies allowing you to stick to your plan. Items. like cereals: rice, quinoa, pasta, and oats can all be purchased in bulk and stored for a long time without going out of date. You can do the same for other dried foods like nuts and dried fruits, just be sure to get some good storage containers for all these items. There are lots of online websites you can purchase these things from. If you like bread and have the freezer space, things like loafs and bagels can also be stored and taken out when need be. For meat it’s worth going to a wholesaler like Costco or a butcher and purchasing a few kg of food in one go. Check the eat by dates, but dairy and eggs can keep for a long time, however, be mindful that once you open a yogurt or something like soft cheese you should eat it within a few days. Frozen vegetables are also a great hack to save you time chopping veg and can easily be added to meals that you intend to eat later in the day, you can leave these to defrost naturally. Really that just leaves you to buy most of your produce fresh.

Buying in bulk from wholesalers can be a great way to make sure you’re always prepared and you’ll save money in the long run

  1. Cook In Bulk.

This is easily the best meal prep strategies. There’s several ways of doing this, but basically this means making a large batch of a particular dish, such as chili or chicken breast, and dividing it into individual portions. This will save you time and energy throughout the week, as you will only need to reheat the pre-made meals instead of cooking from scratch every day. I can’t stress enough how much time this will save you. If it takes you 1 hour to meal prep, then you’ll probably save 3 to 4 times that amount of time by just employing this strategy. There are a few ways you can do this, it’s worth starting off small if you’ve never done it before. Different batch cooking strategies:

Make 2 instead of 1: Simply make two meals at a time, instead of just making 1 lunch for today, why not make the same meal at the same time for the next day as well. Once you’ve mastered this, try making 3 instead of 1.

Daily/night before prep: As it says make all your meals the night before or in the morning for the day. If you want your food to be as fresh as possible, try this technique.

2- & 3-day prep: Once you’ve mastered the night before prep, try making two days’ worth of meals or even three days. The three-day prep is probably the most common strategy most of my clients employ, with meal prep designated to a Sunday and a Wednesday/Thursday.

Weekly batch cooking, Same as above, but you do a week’s worth in one go and then store day 4, 5, 6, and 7 in a freezer to be taken out later. This is the most time effective strategy, but does require freezer space, and not all food items are as palatable post freezing, so you’ll want to avoid freezing things like salad/potatoes and rice.

There are a lot of different ways to meal prep, find the system that works for you, but don’t be afraid to experiment either

  1. Invest In Quality Containers, Zip Lock Bags and Meal Prep Bags.

When it comes to meal prep, investing in quality containers is key. Look for containers that are durable, microwave-safe, and freezer-safe. It’s also a good idea to choose containers with compartments, so you can keep different foods separate and avoid any cross-contamination. You’ll want containers for meals, cereals, frozen food. Pyrex containers are a good move for quality; however, they aren’t great if intend to travel with them as they can be bulk and heavy. Meal prep bags are also a great idea, they allow you to stick to your plan when you’re on the go and they keep your food fresh. Invest in ones with lots of compartments and space for 4 to 6 meals. Avoid going cheap as you’ll want your bag to last you at least 5 to 6 years. If you travel a lot particularly overnight, plug in cool boxes are a great idea and can keep food fresh if you won’t be able to top up, your meals the next day.

Meal prep solutions like bags and containers are well worth the investment in the long run and can help you stick to your plan easier

  1. Invest in Kitchen Appliances.

Slow cookers, air fryers, George Foreman grills, steamers, blenders, microwaves. Trust me, they’re all worth it. A slow cooker is an excellent tool for meal prep, as it allows you to cook large quantities of food with minimal effort. Simply add your ingredients to the slow cooker in the morning, and by the time you come home in the evening, your meal will be ready to portion out and store in your containers. The same is true of things like steamers, where you can do a large quantity of vegetables easily, while air fryers allow you to cook meat, or potatoes without the need for oils in the same way as a George Foreman grill. Blenders open up the smoothie game for you or if you invest in a food processor you can make your own soups and sauces.  

You can go to town on the appliances and really take up your worktop space, but some of these appliances really are worth the investment and will not only save you time but make things much easier for you.

  1. Mix and Match Ingredients.

To keep your meals interesting, try mixing and matching different ingredients throughout the week. For example, if you cook a large batch of grilled chicken on Sunday, you can use it in a variety of ways throughout the week, such as in a salad, stir-fry, or wrap. Another useful trick is to make base meals with a protein source like chicken with veg and swap up the carbohydrates throughout the week like potatoes, rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa. It’s just as easy to do it the other way around as well, simply make a base of carbohydrates like rice and veg and swap the protein source for say, fish, chicken, beef or meat substitutes.

  1. Pre-Portion Snacks

In addition to prepping your main meals, it’s also a good idea to pre-portion your snacks. This will help you avoid mindless snacking throughout the day and ensure that you are eating healthy, nutrient-dense snacks that will support your fitness goals.

Some healthy snack options include:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Rice/corn/oat cakes
  • Cereal bars
  • Protein powder/bars and protein snacks

Preparing snacks in advance is a non trivial activity, trust me, this will save you time in the long run, even if it’s just adding an apple to your training bag

  1. Don’t Forget About Hydration.

Hydration is just as important as nutrition when it comes to fitness. If you’re hydrated your less likely to consume sugary beverages and stick to your meal plan. Moreover, athletic performance can drop by up to 15% with as little as a 2 to 3% drop in bodyweight caused by dehydration. To ensure that you are getting enough fluids throughout the day, consider prepping a large pitcher of water infused with fruit, such as lemon or cucumber. You can also pre-portion individual water bottles to grab and go throughout the day. Other strategies that work well are to have large water bottles 2L for example and set goals to consume the fluids by mid-day or the evening meal. Carrying small diluting juice dispensers can also be a useful way to help water taste nice.

You might think large water bottles are a little gimmicky, however having something to hand can really make a difference at increasing your water intake

  1. Be Flexible.

While planning and prepping your meals in advance is essential, it’s also important to be flexible. Life happens, and sometimes your schedule or cravings may change throughout the week. Don’t be afraid to adjust your meal plan as needed and switch things up to keep things interesting. There’s nothing stopping you from having your evening meal in the mid afternoon or your afternoon meal in the evening.

  1. Reward yourself.

Meal planning takes effort, so does sticking to a plan. If you eat 5 meals per day, 7 days per week that’s 35 meals. Unless you’re in the middle of a competitive season or trying to get super ripped, then you can afford to take a couple of those meals off. Going out to your favourite restaurant or having a couple of meal with your partner or family can be a nice reward for all the hard work you’ve put in over the week. Trust me you’ll benefit from that time off in the long run, don’t get scunered with the monotony with a hyper focus on healthy foods.

What’s the point in looking great if you never take the time to enjoy yourself, be sure to reward yourself for all your hard work.

As always, if you find this information useful and you feel like we can help you at ProPrepCoaching reach your goals then head on over to our sign up page Click Here

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