Meal prep is an essential part of any training and fitness routine, no matter what part of your fitness journey you’re on. However, it is extra important for those who are starting out and trying to eat clean for the first time. Good meal prep is the easiest way to stay on top of your nutritional goals, which is half the battle of getting and staying in shape. If you’re neglecting your nutrition, there’s no workout in the world that can get your where you want to be. We’re going to walk you through meal-prepping, from the tools you need to how to budget your calories based on your lifestyle.
What You Need
Tupperware containers—lots of them. Get ones that are safe for refrigerating, freezing and reheating in either the microwave or the oven. It’s not necessary for them to be the same size and shape, but it is helpful if you’re going to do a couple days at once. Trust us, they’ll take up a lot less room in the fridge if they’re stackable. It’s also helpful to come up with some kind of labelling system. Whether that means putting Post-its on top, using certain color lids for certain days of the week or writing the contents on the side in dry-erase marker, do whatever will be helpful for you.
Ingredients—well get to this one later.
Prep materials—you’ll need some basic cookware like pots and pans, cutting boards, knives, etc.
When to Do It
Weekends work well—but it’s up to you. The most important thing is to pick a time when you know you have enough free time to get the entire job done and commit to it. Whether it’s over the weekend or Monday night when you get home from work or class, do it at a time when you have a few free hours and it won’t stress you out. Remember—this is supposed to be helpful, not stressful. It may seem like a pain in the butt while you’re doing it, but it’ll make your life easier in the long run.
Why Do It
Stops cravings—and keeps you from eating unnecessary fats and carbs which your body automatically craves when you’re hungry.
Routine—creating a routine is one of the most important parts of getting and staying in shape. This goes for both clean eating and exercise. Once you have a routine formed, it’s a lot harder to break it and go back to your old ways.
Saves time—in the long run. Especially after a long day, if you don’t have a meal prepped you’ll be tempted to eat quick junk food or greasy carry out rather than taking the time to cook something healthy.
How to Do It
Start with a meal plan—depending on your goal—burning fat and losing weight, building muscle, maintaining your weight—your necessary caloric intake will vary. You can find lots of meal plans online for different calorie intake levels. The 30 Day Fat Blast Stack also comes with a meal plan to kick start your healthy eating and fat-loss regimen.
Portion it out—once you know how many calories you need to eat each day, plan out a breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack (or two) within that range. For example, if you need to eat 2,000 calories a day, you could have a 400 calorie breakfast, 500 calorie lunch, 600 calorie dinner and two 250 calorie snacks. Make sure each meal has protein, carbs and healthy fat—like the kind found in fish, olive oil or nuts. But the majority of your diet should be lean protein like fish and chicken. Plan it however it works best for you. If you work out in the morning, plan a bigger breakfast and smaller lunch. If you snack a lot, allot more calories for healthy snacks throughout the day. The point is, make sure all your calories are accounted for and you have enough healthy, filling meals throughout the day to keep you from binging.
Grocery shopping—now that you’ve got all your meals planned out, make a grocery list. You should know exactly how much of each ingredient you need to get you through the week. So rather than aimlessly wandering around the store putting whatever sounds good in your cart, make sure to stick to your list and get the things you need to meal prep for the week.
Ready, set, prep—you’ve got your meal plan and your ingredients, so all that’s left to do is prep. You can cut everything up and measure it out, so that when mealtime comes all you have to do it toss it in the pan and cook. Or you can take it a step further and fully cook everything, then put it in the fridge or freezer to be reheated at meal-time. (If you do prep more than three days in advance, we recommend putting the food in the freezer and defrosting it the day before you plan to cook/eat it so nothing spoils.) Or you can do a combination of these. Maybe you want to fully cook your breakfasts and lunches, but leave the dinner ingredients to cook when you get home. Do whatever works best for you.
Add spices—yes, you’re going to be eating a lot of white fish and chicken breasts. But that doesn’t mean they have to be bland and flavorless. Adding things like lemon or lime juice, garlic, chili powder, pepper, parsley, oregano and tons of other herbs and spices can add a huge boost of flavor to your food without adding unwanted calories or fat. Plus, spicy foods are proven to activate your metabolism more than other foods, so don’t be afraid to pile on the chili powder and cayenne!
Don’t eat everything cold—this may not seem like a big deal now, but when you’ve eaten a week of cold lunches at your desk while your coworkers eat pizza it will. If you can go home for lunch and cook something healthy and warm, do it sometimes. If you can’t, bring things to work that are easy to reheat.
Plan around your lifestyle—you know your workout schedule, job and nutritional needs better than we do. You know when you have the free time to cook meals and when you need to have something prepped and ready to go so you don’t resort to fast food. Think of meal prep as your insurance plan: you do it so that when you’re busy, hungry and craving something you know you shouldn’t have, you have a healthy backup option ready and waiting.