Grab your cheat sheet
You are living a busy life. You are doing it all between work commitments, family time, socialising, and training!
It can be easy to forget about sports nutrition when life gets hectic. But meal prep can keep you on track.
What is meal prep and its benefits in sports nutrition?
Meal prep is simply preparing food to make things easier for yourself when you know you will be busy or unorganised. It is often associated with food storage containers stacked in a fridge full of repetitive, bland meals. But meal prep goes much further than that.
For some people, meal prep is the preparation of an entire meal. The food is pre-portioned, hits all the main food groups and is ready to grab when needed. For others, meal prep is cutting up veg at breakfast to make cooking dinner faster.
There are plenty of benefits to meal prep for athletes. Preparing meals can lead to a more nutritionally balanced diet, lower risk of obesity and saving money. Other benefits include reduced food waste, fewer fast-food or processed meals, and more time for the things you love!
Related content: How to Fuel Your Early Morning Workouts
What to think about before you start your meal prep…
Before you start whipping up meals in the kitchen and filling your fridge with lunches for days, take some time to make a meal plan and gather what you need.
Determine when you need meal prep the most.
If you want to pre-prepare all your meals, by all means, go for it!
But if you’re just starting your meal prep journey, committing to one specific mealtime is easiest. If you love a morning workout, breakfast meal prep might be your priority. Or maybe you never have time to make lunch. Pinpoint when you need meal prep the most and start with that.
Plan your meal prep and make a food shopping list.
Now you know what meal times you are preparing for, it’s time for the exciting part: deciding what to eat!
Have a plan for what you want to cook and make a shopping list. And don’t forget to make sure you have containers to hold the food you are preparing! Stock up on whatever you need to store your food: lunch boxes, smoothie bottles or soup containers.
Find the right time for you to do the meal prepping.
Finally, you can get to the actual meal prepping. You will need to dedicate a small pocket of time to this. But remember, it will save you time when you need it the most! Many people like to prepare meals on a Sunday before the working week. Others prefer to spend time on a Friday night meal prepping for a busy weekend. Find the time that works for you.
Top tip: Arrange your food shop to match your dedicated meal-prepping time so you can get started right away!
Athlete meal prep for sports nutrition: Top tips
Once you’ve planned your meal prep and have everything you need, all that’s left is to get prepping! Here are five tips to help get you started with your meal prep.
1 - Plan your sports nutrition.
Meal prep gives you an excellent opportunity to make sure you eat nutritious food in line with your training goals. Plan your meals with the correct carbohydrate, protein and fat portions, and a big helping of fibrous fruit or veg.
2 - Make use of the freezer.
The freezer is a godsend for meal prep. Batch cook big meals and freeze portions. Chop up leftover vegetables and chuck them into a stir-fry. Whatever meal prep you choose, the freezer will help your food last longer.
3 - Still want to cook fresh? Prep the time-consuming tasks.
Meal prep doesn’t have to involve a full meal. If you love to cook fresh, you can still use meal prep to save time by pre-preparing some tasks.
Chop vegetables ahead of time so they are ready for cooking later. Or make up a marinade for dinner and add it to your meat in the morning - saving time and adding extra flavour!
4 - Don’t let it get dull - mix things up!
The big mistake many first-time-preppers make is sticking to the same meal time after time. If you are happy to eat broccoli, chicken and brown rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner all week, that’s great. But for most of us, eating the same meal all the time can get boring. Mix things up a bit. Make one batch of rice to split between a chicken meal, a burrito bowl and a salad. You can pre-roast vegetables to add to a variety of meals too.
5 - Have some go-to meal ideas
Experiment with a few ideas and always have some go-to recipes that you know will fill you up, meet your nutrition goals and be delicious. For breakfast, you could make easy overnight oats or delicious omelette muffins. Pre-prepared smoothie bags are great to take out of the freezer and pop in the blender for a snack. Or batch-cooked turkey chilli is a staple that can make lots of portions.
Meal Prep for Sports Nutrition Success
Sports nutrition is all about balance, and that includes a balanced lifestyle. When you are splitting your time between training and everything else your busy life throws at you, it is easy to let sports nutrition slip. Meal prep can help you keep track of your nutrition and training goals. The key is to plan well and keep it interesting!