"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
Far too many people start of on a nutrition program eager and excited, only to fail within just a few days or weeks.
Why is this?
A lot of the time, it's due to a lack of preparation. If you don't have a backup plan for when a coworker brings donuts into the office, odds are you're going to eat a donut.
This can then turn into a "screw it" situation where, before you know it, you've scarfed down half a dozen.
All of this could have been easily avoided by instilling one simple, yet elusive principle... preparation.
Especially when first starting out on a nutrition program, it is crucial to create some sort of structure. The more you can eliminate the "unknown," the easier it is to adhere to a given plan.
Also, in the case that metaphorical landmines surface throughout your day, you will be much more adaptable to them due to the fact that you are prepared.
Now, there are a plethora of different ways that you can go about implementing planning and preparation into your nutrition plan. Today, we are going to discuss perhaps the most obvious, influential example... meal prep.
Let's circle back to the donut example. Let's say you are in the same situation, except this time you have some chicken, rice, and veggies sitting in the fridge at work.
Yes, the donuts are still tempting. However, the odds that you will give in are now greatly lowered.
It's more likely that you'll just walk over to the fridge and reach for your healthy alternative.
For whatever reason, people have this idea that mea prepping is difficult and time-consuming.
In fact, this could not be further from the truth. In today's post, I'll teach you how to make meal prepping easy and sustainable in your lifestyle using five simple steps.
Step #0: Set aside time to meal prep.
Before we get into the actual meal prepping, it is imperative to set aside time throughout your week to meal prep.
Most people do well meal prepping 1-2 times per week.
I personally favor two times per week (Sunday and Wednesday), since does not limit my food choices for the whole week. If I find that I want to switch it up halfway through the week, I can do that without a problem.
For each meal prepping session, set aside 1-2 hours.
Yes, I know that sounds like a lot of time, but let me explain.
First off, it's really not.
Just like training, nutrition is vital to your results and overall health. If you only trained 1-2 hours per week, you most likely would not see optimal results (yes, you'd see some, but emphasis on "optimal."). Relative to working out, you only need to spend a fraction of the time "in the gym (kitchen)" to see the results you desire. Not a bad trade off, if we're being honest.
Secondly, most of that 1-2 hours is just waiting for the food to cook in the oven. The actual "prep" portion only takes 15-20 minutes, which is a minuscule amount of time to sacrifice to get awesome results. During the vast majority of that time block, you'll be free to do other activities while the food is cooking.
Now, let's get into how to construct your meals!
Step #1: Pick your protein!
When it comes to building muscle, fat loss, neurotransmitter function, and other bodily functions, protein is absolutely crucial.
Therefore, it's the first order of business when we are meal prepping.
Ideally, you want to be consuming 30-40g of protein with each meal. This seems to be the ideal range for promoting muscle growth.
This amount should add up to 1g per pound of body weight to round out your daily protein intake.
What are some viable options for protein?
Beef (grass-fed), chicken breast, chicken drumsticks, salmon, shrimp, tilapia, ground turkey, Greek yogurt (grass-fed), beans, lentils, tempeh, whey isolate protein powder, plant-based protein powders...
This is not a fully exhausted list, but it is a great starting point.
When it comes to ease of preparation, baked chicken is likely the best starting point if you're just starting out with meal prepping.
Here's a quick and easy chicken drumstick recipe for you to try:
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Pour some cooking wine (or chicken broth) into the baking dish with the drumsticks
-Add some seasoning to the chicken (salt and pepper works great).
-Stick the chicken in the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes.
Your protein source doesn't need to be something featured on the Food Network.
Of course, as you get more comfortable you can experiment with different preparation methods, but keeping it simple is a must if you are just starting out.
And honestly, you never really need to get much more complicated than that... I sure haven't.
Step #2: Choose your carbs.
As we know, carbs are the body's main source of energy for high intensity exercise (which you are likely doing quite a bit of) and give our muscles a "full" look.
To determine how many carbs you need in each meal, simply take your total daily intake and divide it by the number of meals you plan on having.
For example, if I eat 400g carbs per day and have 5 meals, I would be having 80g of carbs per meal.
Preparing carbs is actually quite easy.
Before we get into the prep methods here are a few examples:
White rice, brown rice, sweet potato, white potato, any fruit, quinoa, buckwheat...
Far and away, rice is my favorite and easiest option.
Most people digest rice (especially white rice) well. This is a must for me, since my stomach isn't always a happy camper.
If you have a rice cooker, literally all you need is rice and water.
Put one cup of water in the rice cooker for every cup of rice that you plan on cooking, and set the rice cooker to "cook."
Leave it alone for a while and viola! There are your carbs for the next few days.
Now, if you don't have a rice cooker, sweet/white potatoes are your best bet.
Simply rinse the potatoes and poke a few holes in them with a knife.
Then, stick them in the oven at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes, or until soft.
Yet another easy meal prep method.
As you can see, this is not nearly as difficult as people assume.
Let's get onto the next step!
Step 3: Select your healthy fats!
Fats are an essential macronutrient, meaning that we absolutely need them to survive.
They are super important for maintaining hormonal health, managing inflammation, and a number of other benefits.
Just like you did for carbs, determine your fat intake at each meal by dividing your total daily intake by the number of meals you have each day.
The nice thing about fats is that you can get a good chunk of them through fatty meats and fish. Despite what some may think, fat from meat is not detrimental to your health given that the meat is of good quality.
In fact, the fat is where a large amount of the micronutrients are stored!
If you're not getting enough fat from your meat, then you can add other, healthy fat sources to your meals.
Here are a few healthy fats that you can implement to your meal prep:
Olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds.
The great thing about fat sources is that they typically require little to no actual prep.
For example, you can top of you fat intake at a meal by drizzling some olive oil over your rice or veggies (sneak peak at the next step). Or, add a handful of nuts to the side of your meal. Avocado goes well with just about anything. Toss some coconut oil into your smoothies. This list of examples could go on.
One VERY important thing to take into consideration is the fat you use to cook your protein and veggies (usually oils). This is a super common mistake that can put a halt to your progress.
Fat is very calorically dense (9 cals per gram), so untracked sources of fat can cause your energy balance to be totally out of whack.
In my opinion, it's better to overestimate the amount of fat you eat than to underestimate it. This will help to ensure that there is no unnecessary weight gain or stalls in your progress.
Step 4: Don't forget your veggies!
Yes, vegetables do fall into the carb category.
However, I like to separate them into their own category for a couple of reasons.
First of all, vegetables tend to be a lot less calorically dense than other sources of carbs. For this reason, you are able to have them in most, or all, of your meals without exceeding your daily caloric intake.
For example, one cup of raw spinach has only 7 calories, whereas a cup of white rice has roughly 200-250cals!
Secondly, vegetables are absolutely packed with micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals.
While these micronutrients don't contribute directly to energy balance, they do provide a host of benefits when it comes to the muscle building and fat loss processes.
When it comes to including veggies in your meal plan, a good rule to follow is to have a 1-2 fist-sized portions of veggies with each meal.
If you'd like to be more exact, then by all means weigh out the veggies using a food scale and ensure that they fit into your daily caloric intake.
Veggies don't need to be difficult to prepare!
There are quite a few that can actually be eaten raw and taste great!
You can use spinach as a base for a salad, add some chopped up bell peppers, some baby carrots... your options are essentially endless.
Another easy way to prepare veggies is to roast them. Simply chop them up, drizzle some olive or avocado oil over them (remember to count that in your calories!, and put them in the oven for about 10 minutes.
As you can see throughout this article, preparation methods do not need to be difficult!
How many meals should I eat?
Honestly, it really doesn't matter.
Choose whatever number you can adhere to the best while reaching your daily calorie and macro targets.
It's been shown that meal frequency doesn't really play a huge role in total fat loss and muscle gain.
I personally opt for 3-5 meals per day.
The reasoning behind this is while meal frequency doesn't necessarily matter, there had been shown to be an optimal frequency for protein consumption.
3-5 protein feedings per day seems to be the optimal amount to maximize muscle growth.
Now, even if your goal is to lose fat, you should still be prioritizing muscle growth. If you are in a caloric deficit, you want to maintain as much muscle as possible.
The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism is. The faster your metabolism is, the more calories you'll be able to burn daily.
And ladies, building muscle will not make you bulky.
For hormonal reasons, it's essentially impossible for women to put on muscle as quickly as men.
And even if that was the case, think about how many guys out there are actually struggling to put on muscle.
There's no need to worry about looking bulky if you are not taking anabolic drugs.
I'm going to take a wild guess a say you're not.
Wrapping it up
So, as you can see, meal prepping can be a very helpful tool that will help you accelerate your results.
Without planning, you're making things a whole lot harder for yourself.
When changing up your nutrition, things are already difficult enough. Why add stress to your life by not preparing?
Before I let you go, let me remind you of the steps to mastering meal prepping:
-Step 1: Pick your protein.
-Step 2: Choose your carbs.
-Step 3: Select your healthy fats.
-Step 4: Don't forget your veggies!
As you begin meal prepping, remember to keep it simple. Especially as you are just starting out, you don't want to make things more difficult to adhere to.
As I've said time and time again, adherence is one of the biggest determinants of success in any nutrition plan.
When you begin to get more confident with your prepping skills, feel free to spice things up a bit and implement some variety into your meals!
If you follow these simple steps, I have no doubt that you'll be a meal prep pro in no time!
Thanks for reading! I hope you were able to take away some applicable tips for meal prepping. If you have any feedback, please feel free to reach out to me via email or Instagram DM!