You must have heard the adage ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ a million times. But when it is a question of diet and nutrition, this age-old chestnut is spot on.
CrossFit is a fantastic training regimen, but no matter how devoted you are to your training, nutrition is key. A good diet will take you a lot closer to your goals. Irrespective of how much effort you are putting in at the gym, if you do not pay attention to your nutrition, you will struggle to obtain the results you desire. Putting together an appropriate meal plan can be a challenge, so read on for some great tips and tricks to get you started.
We are going to be looking at meal prepping, a nifty trick that many crossfitters swear by in a bid to save time, eat healthy and keep their goals on track.
Meal prep does not have to be complicated nor difficult. There is no one set way to do it, and that is precisely what we love about it! It is an approach that can easily be modified for everyone’s unique regime allowing you to be more efficient while sticking to your goals.
An organized and well-structured diet is key to success, whatever your fitness goals are – strength and performance gains to compete at a high level or ideal body composition for that beach bod.
Meal prep is not only for CrossFit Games athletes and Olympians – it is the keystone of success for anyone who trains hard to be stronger, faster, and in better shape. If there is only one thing that will assure the desired results, it is a diet plan designed to meet your goals…and that begins with pre-preparing your meals efficiently and effectively.
What is Meal Prep?
Simply put it is preparing meals ahead of time. It involves planning out, shopping for and preparing ingredients or your entire meals for the upcoming days. It is a very popular concept with busy people because it can save a lot of time and athletes as it helps to keep them on track.
Having pre-prepped meals on hand can also help to decrease your portion sizes and help to attain your nutrition goals. This way avoiding unhealthy options like TV dinners or takeout, particularly when you are feeling exhausted. Given that it requires you to think about what you are eating ahead of time it can also lead to more nutritious choices over the long term.
Meal prep can be as simple as chopping up some veggies for salads, or as involved as cooking and dividing full recipes. It is a fantastic way to get a head start on things and allows you to feel more in control of what you are consuming.
What are the benefits of meal prepping?
Meal prep makes healthy eating easier during your busier days. Meal prep means different things to different people. For one person it might mean preparing a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches that they can simply heat up at work, for someone else it could be as simple as making a salad dressing for the week ahead.
A popular way of meal prepping is to do the shopping and cooking on the weekends. Counter to some arguments against food prep (that suggest it lacks variety) it can actually be a way to add more variety to your diet. By forcing yourself to plan your meals in advance, it can encourage you to try something different as opposed to simply depending on your tried and trusted recipes.
If you meal prep correctly, it can essentially be as easy as grabbing your food from the fridge and GO! If you do not eat well, you can simply undo all the hard work you have put in at the gym, and we all know that CrossFit is hard work!
Different Ways to Meal Prep
There is no one cookie cutter version of meal prepping. You have to find the right way to do it for you. If you enjoy spending hours in the kitchen and it is a way for you to destress, perhaps a big Sunday cook up is the thing for you. There are of course alternatives:
- Make-ahead meals: Full meals cooked ahead of time which can be refrigerated and reheated as needed.
- Batch cooking: Making large amounts of a specific recipe which can be frozen, or eaten over the next few days. If you are already planning to cook something you can simply double or triple the amounts.
- Individually portioned meals: Cooking fresh dishes and dividing them into individual portions to be refrigerated and eaten over the next few days.
- Ready-to-go ingredients: Prepping the ingredients needed for specific meals in advance can be a great way to reduce time in the kitchen. Chop your veggies, season meat etc.
The best technique for you will be dependent on your goals and daily routine.
For example, prepping your breakfast may work best if you are often rushed in the morning. Alternatively, keeping pre-cooked meals in your freezer is very convenient for those who have limited time in the evenings.
Recognize Your Mealtime Pain Points (And Needs)
The whole purpose of meal prep is to make things easier. So, start by identifying where you need the most help. Do you struggle to find time for a healthy breakfast and pick something up from Starbucks most mornings? Do you get back after work and CrossFit and just grab the first thing that you see? Do you want to stop spending so much money on lunch?
Or are you prepping for a competition? Do you need to cut weight, boost performance, or perhaps you are looking to bulk up. Identifying your goals is very important to get the most out of your meal prep.
One of the essential elements of meal prep is ‘understanding your numbers’.
This may mean calculating how many calories a day you should be eating in order to maintain your goals – these may be fat loss, muscle building, strength, recovery or performance.
Perhaps you count your macros and know how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats you require on a daily basis.
Next it’s all about formulating your three, four or five meals a day, in addition to snacks and post-workout nutrition, to obtain your macronutrient targets.
Meal prep then, in its simplest form, is making every meal, with the correct amounts of macronutrients to guarantee that your food is there as you need it – packed up and ready to eat. This avoids drifting off course with sub-par convenience food and helps to keep you on track towards your fitness goals.
Key Elements of Meal Prep
Determine your goals and organize your nutrition to match
There is no shortcut when it comes to nutrition. Prepping your meals will help to bring consistency to your diet. If you have your meals ready to go, with the correct number of macros, you will progressively reach your goals.
Well-ordered meal prep ensures the correct macronutrients in the correct amounts:
- Sufficient protein to encourage muscle growth and tissue repair,
- A desirable amount of carbohydrate to support performance and restore muscle glycogen
- A suitable amount of fat for vital functions such as hormone production.
Check Your Schedule
How much food will you need for the upcoming week? Begin by deciding which meal you will need to prep – take into account things like date nights, meals with clients, and travel. If you know exactly when you will need your meals, you can plan more effectively and avoid wasting any food.
Consider your upcoming training schedule, is this a strength week, or are you taking more of a recovery week? In this brainstorming stage, you can also begin to think about what you have been enjoying eating or what is currently in season.
Make Your Menu
Once you have established how many meals you will need (and which meals), it is now time to decide what you will eat. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Protein should come primarily from lean options such as chicken, turkey, eggs, Greek yoghurt, lentils or other pulses.
- Include good fats such as olive pile, avocado or nuts,
- Aim for complex carbs (as opposed to refined) these include brown rice, quinoa, vegetables and whole wheat bread.
- Get your imagination going. Prepping a couple of different things in bulk is a lot easier than cooking something different every night of the week. But eating the same thing repeatedly is boring! Think about how you can use your central ingredients in different recipes.
- Make the most out of leftovers. A simple way to facilitate meal prep is to double your dinner recipe and keep the leftovers for lunch.
- Keep it simple! But make sure that the recipes you pick are well balanced.
- Look for recipes that can be made in a slow cooker or pressure cooker to save even more time.
- Avoid making the same meal two weeks in a row. Even your favorite recipe will get old if you eat it too often.
Once your meals are all lined up, make a grocery list and head to the supermarket. Many people like to do their big shop on the weekend allowing for time to prep the ingredients before the work week begins.
Find some good containers – this is a vital element of food prep! I like to use a combination of mason jars and airtight containers. The last thing you want is a leakage in your bag!
Now you are ready to start with the food prep itself! There are several different ways to prep your meals. There are some recipes that you can make right away and simply put in the fridge, while others you may want to do all the necessary prep (chopping, measuring, portioning) so that everything is ready for you to make the meal and eat it hot.
Once you get into the routine of preparing your meals for the week it is a reliable and easy way to achieve goals, and to ensure you stick to your diet. Nutrition is the base of good health and is fundamental for sport performance. Meal prepping is the best way to guarantee the best results.
Food prep does not have to be complicated or stressful! The whole point is to make your life easier, so don’t let it do the opposite! Some final tips:
- Start in your kitchen: begin by looking at what you already have in the fridge, freezer and pantry to inspire your weekly meals before heading out to the supermarket! This will mean that you save money, waste less food, and have a briefer trip to the shops!
- Prep products: We love our veggies, the problem is, they can be time-consuming to prepare. Prep your vegetables – clean, chop, and prep a variety of veggies, so they’re easy to add to meals throughout the busy workweek.
- Make big batches: healthy starches like quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes are easy to cook and will last up to five days in the fridge. Make a bigger batch and use them for multiple meals! It makes things a lot easier even if you haven’t had time to prep anything else, when you get home and find some quinoa or freekeh and you just throw some stuff on top of it!
- Grill. Using the grill is a simple, fast and effective way to make a big amount of food. Prep two or three protein options (marinate them, cut them into strips or perhaps just add a little rub) and grill them. While the protein is on the grill, you can use this time to chop your veggies. You can even grill some vegetables – either make kebabs or throw some chopped up and seasoned veggies into tin foil and leave it on the grill.
- Buy Pre-Made Meals. If you are extremely busy, or travel a lot, you may want to think about occasionally purchasing some pre-made meals from a food delivery service. Of course, it is best to cook your own food, but this may not always be possible. There are many healthy meal services available, ask at your CrossFit box as they may have some good suggestions.
- Freeze individual servings of protein. A super simple and extremely time efficient thing to do. Buy a big bunch of meat and package into individual bags. Marinate some chicken breasts and freeze them. Simply pop them in the fridge in the morning so when you get home from work all you have to do is pop it in the oven.
- Don’t boil vegetables. When you boil a vegetable such as broccoli, you can lose over 50% of the nutritional value, and it can also destroy any beneficial enzymes. Steaming is a great way to preserve the nutrients in food. If you don’t have a steamer, you can cook your vegetables in a colander on top of a pan of boiling water.
- For the maximum nutritional benefits, eat your vegetables raw. Chop veggies up smaller and add them to salad. You can also rice your broccoli or cauliflower.
Do you prep your food? What are your favourite recipes? Share them with us here! Bon appetit! 😊
Our Favourite Meal Prep Ideas
- Overnight Oats – this is a fast, simple and delicious way to prep breakfasts ahead of time. Banana and peanut butter is always a great combination to add to overnight oats!
- Egg Muffins – super easy to make, very simple ingredients and very easy to pack and go. These are also great for afternoon snacks. Try these with ham, kale and cauliflower rice.
- Make ahead smoothie packs – simply pack these, pop them in the freezer and you’re ready to go! Check this list of great ideas.
- Kale, edamame and quinoa salad bowl. This heart grain bowl packs a real punch and is a great vegan option.
- Avocado, tuna salad. This is delicious as is, in a sandwich, on top of cauliflower rice or even on a sweet potato!
- South west chicken burrito bowls. Always a favourite, these are easy to make, gluten free and a great option for both lunch or dinner.
- Hard boiled eggs, make a great snack, add some cherry tomatoes and a slice of avocado to make it a complete snack.
- Classic apple and peanut butter – an old school snack that is a perfect combo.
- No bake vegan protein bars – these bars only have four ingredients, are super easy to make and keep well.