10 Dec The Simple Guide To Meal Prep
Planning and preparation is the cornerstone to success in anything you do. Transforming your body is no different. If you want to get into the best shape of your life, and sustain it thereafter, you need to become efficient at planning your training and nutrition ahead of time.
‘Winging it’ won’t work.
Your training should be slotted on repeat each week in your diary on the days and times that work for your schedule and lifestyle.
For your nutrition, you need to learn to become a pro in the kitchen. This doesn’t mean you need to take cooking classes and prepare gourmet meals on a daily basis. Instead, the real key is learning how to prepare your meals ahead of time, so you’re never in a position of being caught out, and how to do it in the fastest manner possible.
At RNT, we specialise in helping regular people with busy lives achieve maximum body composition results and live healthier lifestyles. With packed schedules often involving commutes, long office hours and too many ‘bad’ food choices available, it’s absolutely critical you’ve planned and prepared your day’s nutrition ahead of time.
An important point to note here is this is not just for ‘dieting’; it’s something that works no matter what phase you’re in, or what your goal is. You could even argue that developing the habit to prepare food ahead of time (on some level) is one of the real keys to maintaining your gains in the long term.
Enter: Meal Prepping
With a million things to do in the day, the last thing you want to be doing is spending over an hour a day in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. In order to eliminate time and effort as excuses from why complying to a diet may be difficult, we encourage all of our clients to do some form of ‘meal prep’.
Before diving into all the different meal prepping methods, there’s one ‘pro tip’ that’ll make it 10x easier:
Keep it ‘samey’.
Don’t overthink your meals and try make the most elaborate, different meals everyday. Decision fatigue is very real, and wasting precious time and effort is only going to zap away from your limited willpower reserves, and make complying to healthy nutrition habits that much more difficult.
It also makes prepping tedious and lengthy, so by keeping similar foods in on a weekly basis (on at least your weekdays), you’ll make life so much easier for yourself.
The tips we’re going to give you are inspired by our clients living the lifestyle, so it’s all taken from the real world!
Meal Prep Example 1 – Sunday ‘Meal Prep’
This is the boss of all meal preps and for those of you with extremely busy weeks that involve may involve extensive commuting, and long working days where time in the morning and evening is sparse.
For the Sunday meal prep, you’re going to cook for the entire week ahead. This sounds daunting, but with a little practice, it shouldn’t take you longer than 60 to 90 minutes, max.
Let’s break it down step by step using the following example diet:
Breakfast – Eggs and veggies
Mid Morning Meal – Protein powder, rice cakes/oats, nut butter
Lunch – Meat/fish/veggie alternative, veggies, carb source
Mid Afternoon Meal – Protein powder, rice cakes/oats, nut butter
Dinner – Meat/fish/veggie alternative, veggies, carb source
Here’s what we’ve found to work best:
1) Batch cook an entire week of eggs (boiled, frittata, muffins, etc), and take on the go each morning.
2) Cook it fresh every morning (this is the most common option). When you’re batch cooking every other meal, this can usually be made up in a minute or two in the morning fresh, and it tastes a lot better!
For protein powders, nut butter, rice cake and/or oats meals, this can either be:
1) Weighed and portioned out at the start of the week and then eaten accordingly on the day.
2) Prepped the night before or the morning of.
These don’t take too much effort, and both methods work well.
1) Pick your protein source, season accordingly, and then cook enough with your preferred method for the week.
2) Let it cool to room temperature (this is key) before storing (see below on different methods).
3) Bulk cook your choice of carbs. If potatoes, cut thinly to speed up cooking and roast them. If rice, you can simply boil a ton at once, and portion it out after.
4) Roast your veggies so they hold texture. Tends to also work well in stir fry’s with the protein source. Another popular option is to use frozen veggies bags. Or in some cases, veggies are often chopped at the start of the week, and cooked on the day.
1) Once you’ve cooked it, so long as you bring it back to room temperature, it’ll be fine in the fridge for the week.
2) You can either eat it cold, or warm it up in the microwave if you have one at work.
3) You can also opt to keep only 3 to 4 days worth in the fridge, and put the rest in the freezer. Or even cook it all and freeze it at once. When it comes to eating the frozen, you can either microwave/heat straight from frozen, or let it defrost over night and then heat it up. Make sure the food is piping hot when using this option.
Meal Prep Example 2 – The Biweekly Prep
The best thing to do here is to pick two days of the week like Sunday and Wednesday, and prep for the following three to four days after.
The strategy here is exactly the same as the example one, except with half the portions, and having no need to freeze any of the meals.
Meal Prep Example 3 – The Daily Prep
This is an option for many who enjoy varying seasoning and prefer to cook their food a little more fresh. There’s two ways to do this: the night before, or the morning of. Which option you opt for will depend on your schedule, so we’ll walk you through some different options.
1) Cook extra at dinner. If you’re using the same protein source for your main meals, one option is to cook extra at dinner, and pack the rest up for the next day’s lunch. For your snacks and breakfast, they’re a lot simpler to prepare, so when you box your lunch up, you can get the other meals ready too (or cook breakfast fresh if time isn’t an issue)
2) Cook everything each morning. This was something I did during my five years of commuting to the city, and it worked really well in that I didn’t actually create any dead time. Here’s how I did it, to the clock:
Before bed: chop and season meat, veg, and measure out rice in a pot
4.30am: Wake up
4.45am: Prepare eggs, put meat/fish and veg in the oven, and turn rice on.
4.55am-5.15am: Get ready while everything was cooking
5.15am: Eat breakfast
5.40am: Box up all food and leave home
Meal Prep Example 4 – The Specific Food Prep
Now that I work from home, I don’t meal prep to the extent I used to. Instead of prepping entire days, I’ll batch cook the more time-consuming meals, such as the chicken and rice.
I now typically cook 3 days worth of chicken and rice in advance, and then heat it up on each day. But for the eggs, the whey/oats, fruit, and my more ‘simpler’ meals, I’ll just make it as I go.
Should You Meal Prep Year Round?
For long term, sustainable results, I see great value in meal prepping year-round. How you do so will depend on your lifestyle, how meticulous you need to be, and what phase you’re in, but there should always be some level of preparation in your diet.
When people stop meal prepping, the follow issues tend to crop up:
- The condition you achieved during your fat loss phase starts slipping away quickly.
- You lose structure in your day, and you start forcing menial decisions in what you’re going to eat and where.
- Too much scope for error. Laziness can creep in and you opt for easy options that make you satiated.
- You start eating out more than necessary, and begin to lose track of your calorie intake.
- You begin to make more bad choices, and find yourself caught ‘off guard’ more often. If you’ve got nothing prepared at work, and you’re hungry, it’s a lot easier to buy a chocolate bar than a protein packed meal!
- If you’re in a muscle building phase, you may struggle to reach all your calorie targets.
I personally use some form of meal prep year-round, no matter what the phase is, as it frees me time and energy to focus on what matters in my day.
During ‘maintenance’ phases and long-term approaches to fat loss and/or muscle growth, you should utilise at least one level of meal prepping for maximum results.
When Not To Meal Prep
This might sound counter to everything I’ve written about so far, but there will be some people who never meal prep, and that can work too.
We’ve worked with clients who are experts at eating on the go, and are educated enough with nutrition to be able to manage their intake in this fashion to make it work for them.
Whatever their reason for not meal prepping; whether it’s that they don’t enjoy cooking, they like eating something different each meal (and don’t get overwhelmed by it), or they just don’t want to do it, it can work. The key caveat here is that you’re very well educated in different food contents, and that you have access to good foods during your day. If you’re trying to eat on the go when you’re surrounded by ‘junk’, it’s going to be very difficult.
It’s situation dependent, but I wanted to cover this as I know there may be a few who ask about this.
The other solution to those who don’t enjoy cooking, are time poor, but also want the rigidity and the ability to ‘switch off’ about food is to use meal prep services. Companies such as Fresh Fitness Foods (you can use code ‘RNT10′ for 10% off) work with some of our clients to provide macro and calorie specific meals as guided by us to deliver ready to eat meals to their doors. This can be a good solution for some, so is always worth considering.
The Educated Solution
The goal for everyone should be to become as educated on different food choices, calorie contents and macronutrient profiles as possible.
Whether you meal prep everyday, once a week, or you don’t meal prep at all, it’s critical to stay aware of what you’re putting in your body, and learn all about it.
The real benefit I’ve always found in meal prepping, or at least knowing ahead of time what I’ll be eating is the ability to go on ‘autopilot’ mode with my food, and focus all my mental energy on the harder decisions required on a daily basis.
Finding Your Meal Prepping Solution
How you prepare your meals will be very individual to your unique lifestyle and daily timings. There’s so many factors at play that applying a blanket statement to say you need to prepare your foods this way would be wrong.
Instead, just like it’s critical to find the right diet for you, it’s just as important to know how to execute it in the best possible manner.
Whether it’s you prep all your food on a Sunday, twice a week, or on a daily basis, will depend on your individual preference. Remember, the key is to keep it simple, don’t make it overwhelming, and start small.
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