I have been touching on the subject of meal prep and food prep this week on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/walkthetalkfitness) and posting photos of food I’ve been creating, how I’ve made it and sometimes posting the recipe. I get asked a LOT of questions on food/meal prep as well as how I manage to eat so well on a budget. So I’ve put it into this blog for you guys!
This is a blog designed for people who don’t have time to cook. Yes, you read that right. It is also a blog designed not only for the athletes among us, but for those who are just starting their journey to optimal health through nutrition.
A lot of people are surprised when they find out that I spend the majority of the first two weeks training someone sorting out their diet. You are starting a journey that is going to one of the must fun and challenging journeys you’ve ever been on – and we must always strive to be better than we were yesterday. If you look around your gym – you will see that most people are following some sort of structured program. Most of the time they will plan this program meticulously ahead of time so that when the day comes – and you walk into that gym – you know EXACTLY what exercises you’re going to be doing and on which body parts. Why then, do we fail to prepare our nutrition in advance?
Fear of failure? No idea where to even start? I won’t lie to you – to be successful at meal / food prep – you’re going to have to be committed, work hard and be dedicated to what you’re doing. Day in, day out. Week in, week out. That is, of course, if you’re serious about getting the best results from your workout program (which is already planned, right??!).
WHY BUST YOUR ASS IN THE GYM EVERY DAY IF YOU’RE SPOILING ALL YOUR HARD WORK BY UNDER RECOVERING? By under recovering I mean not providing your body with the nutrients it needs to repair and grow muscle tissue that has been broken down in the gym. Failing to replenish muscle and liver energy stores properly thus feeling tired, sluggish and prone to injury and illness. It’s time you got your diet sorted. Stop pissing around pretending that you know what you’re doing and ask for help! Or read the rest of this blog, and it might become a bit clearer.
Planning your meal prep –
I’m going to tell you how I prep. You can take from it what you will. The way you prepare your meals will completely depend on your schedule. Let me give you a typical day for me:
06:00 – Wake Up
07:00 – Lifting in the gym (1.5 hours)
09:00 – PT Clients (3-4 hours)
13:00 – Work from home – admin/writing
16:00 – PT Clients
17:00 – Group Fitness Classes
21:00 – Home
…and everything else in between.
I meal prep 3 days in advance. A Sunday is my meal prep day and I spend around 3-4 hours doing this each week. However, I live alone and do not have any dependents so, if you have a family – I would recommend that you plan your meals for the entire week. It’s actually a lot easier than it may initially seem.
1. Write it down. Get a notebook, or make a chart on the computer if you’re in geek mode (I always use the old fashioned method because I love writing on paper). Headings should be days of the week – split into 3-6 meals (again depending on your situation). Write down what you’re going to have for each meal. It sounds simple because it is. If you have kids, it might be an idea to make a separate list for them to include packed lunch ingredients and snacks, if different to yours. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t meal prep for the kids too. Stop making excuses.
2. Once you determine the number of meals you’re going to have in the week (or days depending on how many days you’re prepping for) – you can start to write your shopping list for the supermarket. Ultimately you want to walk into the supermarket with your list, like a Boss, and know exact quantities of what you need and where to get it. This is going to save you time AND MONEY. So make your list ACCURATE and SPECIFIC. For example, if you’re making a big bolognese to feed the family, write down 1kg steak mince. Don’t just write steak mince.
3. Save money where possible. We all have this misconception that eating healthily needs to be ridiculously expensive and I’m here to tell you that this is complete and utter bullshit. You can hit a quick Google search for “in season fruit and vegetables” and you can sure as hell bet that these will be the cheapest in the store at this given moment. For example, asparagus is about to come into season here in the UK – it’s going to be dirt cheap. So eat asparagus. Don’t spend a bloody fortune on some shit that’s not in season and has been genetically this, genetically that and flown from the other side of the planet for £10 a kilo! It’s always a good idea to source your meat from local producers – and in bulk. Often your butcher will sell you 5kg of chicken breast for example for almost half what it would cost to buy say 5 lots of 1kg. Buy in bulk and freeze – this is the best way to save money. Also, check out websites likehttp://www.paleowales.co.uk which always have great offers on meat, game and poultry. Cupboard essentials like rice, quinoa, bulgar, wholemeal pasta, tins of chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, tinned beans like kidney, butterbeans – they’re all pennies and keep forever! They can be added to any meal to enhance the nutrient density. I will touch on this in more detail later.
Invest in Tupperware (or similar)
It seems like a given, but it’s really critical to your meal prep success that you invest in some really good tupperware. If you’re like me and you love kitchen shopping, then this should be fun! (I love this stuff: http://www.black-blum.com/homepage/). Make sure your meal containers are dishwasher and microwave proof. You don’t have the spend a fortune, just get some bloody tubs!
Keeping your food –
Bro-Tip: I like to slightly undercook my veg, so that when I go to heat it up again – it cooks through. There’s nothing worse than soggy broccoli. Most food will keep for between 4-6 days in the fridge, but if you freak out leaving something in the fridge for just one day, freeze and take out the night before!
Which leads me to…. – freeze some. Make double what you need for one week, freeze the rest and BOOM suddenly you have two weeks worth of food prep!
Microwave your food when the time comes to eat it. If you’re as busy as me, you will know that the last thing you want to do when you come home from work at night is start cooking a full meal. Then you’re sitting down to eat at 10pm and lying in bed feeling horribly full. So now that your meals are all prepared and in the fridge – just microwave them (make sure they are piping hot before you serve). Believe it or not, and despite any other bullshit you have heard – microwaving food DOES NOT KILL THE NUTRIENTS!
Now I’m going to go into some depth on how your kitchen should look. You can’t meal prep without some decent equipment. Don’t fuck around making things difficult for yourself by not having the correct tools. That’s like giving a gardener a spoon and asking him to dig a hole. Fuck that. Here’s a list of things that I think are critical to food prep success:
Set of frying pans (different sizes)
Set of good pans (different sizes)
Sharp chopping knives
Tupperware (discussed above)
Store Cupboard ingredients that I always have and that you should always have:
Dried spices & herbs (A-Z!! Always good to pimp the taste of a meal)
Sea salt & flavoured sea salts
Chilli powder (I add this to just about everything!)
Nut butters (almond, cashew, peanut)
Tinned chick peas
Tinned kidney beans
Tinned Tuna (lasts forever & a quick snack)
Meat, Fish & Poultry
I touched on this above in regards to sourcing this stuff from local producers. I truly believe that we should be supporting our local farmers by buying produce locally. Try to obtain free range and grass fed where possible financially and logistically. You will often find that if you take your prepared list to your butcher and give it to him/her – he will cut you a deal. If they don’t, ask them to! Don’t be afraid to haggle prices. Don’t be afraid to ask for the origin of the meat. If you are on a more restricted budget – try places like Costco who do a lot of bulk buy meat. Please, try to stay away from frozen food shops who sell bags of frozen chicken for super cheap. They’re dirt cheap for a reason – the chicken is pumped full of saline (salty water) to make it bigger. It’s just not good for you. Stay away.
My favourite fish that is dirt cheap – trout. A really good alternative to salmon for those on a budget like me (plus I hate salmon so that works out well). Right now, trout will cost you approximately £2 for about 150g fillet. That’s really not bad at all. Canned fish is also a really good option and it keeps for ages in the cupboard.
Fruit & Veg
There are a couple of fruit and veg companies who delivery locally in my area. One of whom is Orchard Produce run by Ken Reid:(https://www.facebook.com/orchard.produce). You can actually make a list (from your meal prep list of course) that matches your weekly requirements and give this to Ken – he will supply you with everything you need directly from the Glasgow Fruit Market straight to your door, weekly. Alternatively, take your list to the supermarket and fulfill your requirements that way. Remember – find out what’s in season and eat it in abundance!
Tracking your Macros –
If you are a client of mine, or are thinking of joining me for some training, or even if you’re just going to have a right good crack all this nutrition stuff yourself – I suggest you download and use an app on your smart phone called “MyFitnessPal”. I use this religiously to track my nutrition AND plan my entire week in advance. Yes, I could tell you what I’m going to eat on Wednesday. Why? Because I plan meticulously. For example, at the moment I am on a cut – which means that I am eating less calories than my body requires. This is in order to drop body fat. But don’t get all caught up with numbers because that isn’t your job. If you would like me to help you with fat loss and nutrition please just get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) because everybody is individual and I cannot give out generic recommendations. I use MFP to create all my recipes for my clients – so they know exactly what is in them nutrition wise, and they can adapt them to suit their goals. Easy peasy and lightening fast.
On the go…
So one of the main questions I get asked is – how do I stay on track when I’m out and about? At work all day, out shopping all day etc etc etc… My answer is plain and simple every single time.
If you know you’re going to be working on Tuesday from 7am until 10pm – then you really have no excuse to get caught out. Plan your snacks in advance and have them ready the night before to take with you. That way, you will not get to that horrible stage of hunger along with feelings of “oh I’ll just grab something from the vending machine – just this one time” or ” I’ll just wait until I get home otherwise I’ll wind up eating shite”. NO. Just NO! If you have prepared in advance – this will never happen.