Meal Prep – What is it? How do I do it? Why should I do it?

Meal Prep – What is it? How do I do it? Why should I do it?

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!"

Whether you are following the Paleo diet, the Zone diet or you are just trying to eat clean, meal prep facilitates all of these and is the easiest way of ensuring that you stick to your plan! Preparation is key. It may seem like a chore at first, but personally I have implemented meal prep into my routine and it is now something I look forward to.  I spend the week trying to come up with new recipes, new ideas or testing new things out.

 

So what exactly is meal prep?

It is exactly what it says on the tin! This involves planning out, shopping for and preparing all of your meals at one time, for the whole week, or for a portion of the week. This can vary depending on how busy your upcoming week is. I generally like to try and set aside two days a week to do my meal prep. They tend to be Sundays and Wednesdays. It does take a fair amount of work and effort, but it is worth it. A couple of hours of extra work in return for a weeks’ worth of goodies!


Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • How many meals/ snacks do you need each day? Look at your calendar for any upcoming events that you need to take into account, consider your daily training and how much food will be required on a daily basis.
  • Figure out how many servings you will need per meal, will you be cooking for just yourself or for other family members/ friends as well.
  • Now the fun begins! It is time to convert those meals and portions into actual recipes. Start by finding some of your favorite recipes, then write down or print these out. Moleskine makes a recipe book that is completely blank and I like to use this to write down all of my recipes.
  • Try and focus on a core group of ingredients. This speeds up the meal prep and planning. Add variety with different spices and flavorings and test out a new core group each week.
  • Make a list of all the ingredients needed and write your grocery list.
  • Find some good containers – this is a vital element of food prep! I like to use a combination of mason jars and airtight containers.

Now you are ready to start with the actual food prep! There are a number of different ways to actually prep your meals. There are some recipes that you can make right away and pack away in the fridge, while others you may want to simply do all the necessary prep (chopping, measuring, arranging) 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 certain way to accelerate fat loss results, and to ensure you stick to your diet. Nutrition is the base of CrossFit, and meal prepping is the best way to guarantee the best results. Here are some links to some of my favorite recipe sites with some of my favorite recipes to get you started!


JAMIEOLIVER.COM: Jamie Oliver is an English chef known for his ‘30 minute meals’. His site has a great variety of healthy and fast recipes. One of my favorites is his seared turmeric chicken with couscous and houmous. Turmeric is a great spice to add into your diet as it is very anti-inflammatory.


STUPIDEASYPALEO.COM: A great website with a huge index of simple paleo recipes. I often make these Mediterranean turkey burgers, they are very easy to make and are absolutely delicious. I usually make a yoghurt dip to go with them.


MINIMALISTBAKER.COM: The Minimalist Baker has an extensive plant-based, gluten free recipe index. All of her recipes are relatively simple and I am a huge fan of her peanut butter overnight oats!

 
Meal Prep for Rest Days vs. Training Days

When scheduling your meals for the week, another important element is to take account of rest days. One successful strategy for nutrition on training days vs non training days is to cycle the amount of carbs you eat. Carb cycling is an approach where you alter the amount of carbohydrates consumed on days that you train and rest days. On training days the carbohydrate levels can be increased (particularly before and after workouts). If you are looking for the best results try to consume the majority of your carbohydrates prior to your workout and within a three hour window after your workout.


So for rest days, where there is less output we need to slightly manage the input. However this is not as simple as just reducing the calorie intake. Our bodies principally use carbohydrates for fuel, therefore with less energy being spent on a rest day, we should decrease our carbohydrate intake.  To balance this out and to maintain energy levels it is recommended to increase our fat intake on rest days.

CrossFit Meal Prep
Sample training day food log:

Breakfast: Overnight oats with Greek yoghurt
                   Oats are a great source of slow release carbohydrates, Greek yoghurt is extremely high in protein.
Training
Lunch:   Grilled chicken breast with black rice, broccoli.
               Higher carbohydrate levels from rice and broccoli. Can also add an apple, or a piece of fruit.
Snack: Hummus and veg with seeds and a piece of feta cheese
             Hummus and seeds provide some good fats, feta is a good source of protein and vegetables are a good source of slow release carbs.
Dinner: Pan fried turkey and vegetables with avocado
              Low carb dinner, with high fat levels.


Sample rest day nutrition log:

Breakfast: Eggs with spinach and mushrooms with avocado.
                  High protein, low carb, high fat.
Lunch: Butternut squash and chicken soup
             Keep fat content at lunch quite low after high fat breakfast, lower carb levels and high protein.
Snack: Banana bread with peanut butter
             Lower protein intake, high fat.
Dinner: Roast beef and carrot mash with salad
              High protein, keeping carbs lower and mainly from vegetables.
             
There are also a number of meal delivery services available nowadays to get you kick started on your meal prep journey, or for those weeks when you just don’t have time.
Kettlebell Kitchen offers a variety of menu plans, including paleo, fat loss, muscle gain or sports performance. They also have an a la carte menu.

Trifecta Nutrition also offer a great variety of meal plans, which include paleo, vegetarian and vegan options. They also have an a la carte menu which allows you to buy single products and therefore put the actual meals together yourself.


If you don’t have time to get to the supermarket, Thrive is a fantastic food delivery service that offers natural clean ingredients delivered to your door at a lower cost than most other online and physical store locations offer.

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Stephanie Contomichalos
Stephanie Contomichalos - Author

Stephanie Contomichalos is a sports enthusiast. She is an avid crossfitter, wakeboarder and has recently qualified as a Level 1 CrossFit coach. She is also an advocate for women’s sport and for using sport as a tool for development. She is currently living in Athens, Greece. To connect with Stephanie, follow her on Twitter (@ssconto) or on Instagram.


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