It’s almost impossible to read a fitness blog or magazine, or talk to workout-minded people without the topic of meal prep coming up, at some point.
The fact is that a well-rounded fit life--one that is attempting to correlate exercise and nutrition--is going to have some element of meal prep in it, if it’s going to be successful, even if the level of meal prep is just thinking about what you’re going to eat when.
Higher levels of fitness pursuits, ones that involve training for competitions, for example, are going to necessitate the sort of meal prep that makes things like carb timing or other nutritional cycling easier (or possible in the first place). When you have a schedule and specific needs, and need almost military precision in your diet, meal prep isn’t even a question.
Even if your goals are just “eating better” or fueling beginner workouts, meal prep can be dialed in to whatever frequency you’re training at right now. And if you can harness your natural inclinations--your “Meal Prep Personality”, so to speak--you may be able to slip it into your lifestyle with very little adjustment. Once that happens, and you see what a huge difference a little planning makes...meal prep may become less of a chore, and more of a fun endeavor. (Yes, it’s possible.)
What's Your Meal Prep Personality?
Is the thought of spending Sunday alone in the kitchen, cooking a million chicken breasts and boiling all the eggs in the world enough to keep you in bed or send you to the coffee shop for a pastry?
Get a friend to join you! Pairing up with someone makes grocery shopping and even chopping veggies a little more fun. No one interested in pairing up in real life? Make it a social media event! Like minded folks on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat are always interested in seeing someone else perform a task they need to be doing, and the feedback you’ll get may cause enough of a buzz to get you through the mindless hours of baking sweet potatoes.
No matter how much we preach that “There’s time for the things that matter”, sometimes a big addition to the schedule is simply too much. If you have a job that is super demanding, a ton of kids, or if you really only have so much time on the weekend for self care and need to balance more than just your nutrition, consider a limited form of meal prep. Check out how I plan my meals spending almost zero time and brain space on it here.
What’s your biggest goal? More protein? Focus a couple of hours on cooking high quality sources, bag ‘em up quick, and call it good. Feel like you need more raw veggies in your diet? Turn on Netflix, grab the knife and cutting board, and sit down to fill up some plastic bags with enough precut veggies to get you through the week. The good thing about starting small is that once you see how much easier it is to hit goals with a little time investment, your ideas about meal prep may change, and your schedule may open up.
You’re an all-or-nothing gal. It’s likely you’re training for something (world domination?), see the benefits of meal prep, and you have some hardcore goals and very specific nutrition needs. You spend as long as it takes prepping your meals for the week, and even more amazing...you stick to eating them.
Just be careful not to burn out. The benefits of meal prep are amazing, but you’ll hear a common refrain among the formerly faithful…”I always do so well when I meal prep. I’ve just fallen off.” I've been there! I'm not a long term Blitz Betty and had to find a better approach for myself.
Burnout when a task takes a gargantuan amount of time is easy. Spend some time fine tuning your routine so that it takes only as much time as necessary, or take a look at whether it's actually necessary for your goals. Just because you see people on social media with their perfectly filled and lined up plastic containers for the week does not mean it's the best approach for you. Ultimately, the best approach for you in the one you can stick to.
Whatever your method, rest assured that devoting a little time to meal prep--on its own or as part of a workout plan --reaps benefits well worth the time investment.