If you’ve been going to the gym for a while, or not lived under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘meal prep’. You’ve probably seen it all over your Instagram, with influencers and their colour coordinated containers, or doing a paid ad for a company who does it for them. Lots of people in the lifting world commit a good chunk of their Sunday to meal prepping, and sometimes it's hard to see why.
But as always, we are here to lay it all out and make sense of the sometimes bizarre things that happen within our community. We linked up with Accredited Dietician Victoria Matkovic of Thrive Nutrition (@_thrive_nutrition) to take us through her best tips and tricks to make meal prep bearable!
So what is meal prep, and why do people do it?
Firstly, Meal prep typically looks something like this:
Now that you have the visual representation of it, meal prep is essentially making your meals in advance, usually making them roughly the same size, to eat over the course of the week.
And there are two ways you can meal prep. The first is by doing it yourself, making your own meals. The alternative is purchasing them from a company that does it for you. But this can become quite costly.
There are plenty of reasons why people meal prep, and the benefits are pretty impressive. For some, it’s about the time and convenience of not having to cook every night, particularly after a long day at work. Others want portion control. The world is your oyster.
Benefits of meal prepping
These so called benefits, why do people actually do it? Well here are some of the rewards of taking the time to cook your meals in advance:
- Save money
- Save time
- Portion control
- More balanced meals overall nutritionally
- Great way to keep on track with your nutrition goals
- Reduces food waste and only buying what you need
To get the best out of meal prepping, Victoria suggests planning and writing out your meals and/or snacks for the week – often when we don’t plan out what we are eating it can result in eating last minute takeaway or pre-packaged food. Knowing in advance what you’ll be making and eating is a good way to build meal prep into your lifestyle.
Picking a day of the week that works well into your schedule is also an important component of meal prepping. Lots of people prefer to prep on a Sunday for their week ahead. It depends on what works for you.
Building a prepped meal
Pick good protein sources for the week. Protein is super important, it’s the aspect of the meal that will keep you full and get you the gains of your dreams. Victoria suggests options like chicken breast, mince meat (turkey, beef, pork), boiled eggs, canned tuna and firm tofu or tempeh.
Pair your protein with a good quality carb source for your meals and the week – great options are wholegrain or wholemeal breads and wraps, brown or white rice, roasted sweet potato and wholemeal or bean pasta. Try changing this up every week to ensure that you’re getting a good variety and discovering new foods. Who knows, you might really love bean pasta and not know it!
Add veggies, always. Whether they are fresh, frozen or canned, they are nonetheless perfect and will give you a boost of micronutrients and make the meal super interesting.
Get creative – you don’t just have to prep your lunches and/or dinners. You can also prep your breakfasts such as overnight oats or protein pancakes. If you’re ever lacking inspiration, they are endless Instagram accounts that have the best ideas for this!
How long do meals usually last?
For fresh meals that are kept in the fridge, try aiming for no more than a few days.
Need to prep for longer than a couple of days? Freeze your meals in freezer-safe, air-tight containers for up to 3 months.
How to do it safely:
Make sure you have some good quality containers to store your foods and are suitable for reheating food in.
This also makes sure that all the freshness of the meal is locked in and not compromised over the course of the week.
What if I get bored of eating the same meal over and over?
Make small tweaks! This is one of the quickest and most simplest ways to spice up your meal prep menu. Life doesn't always have to be chicken and rice, try proteins like turkey mince or tofu, or even swapping out your typical veggies for ones that you don’t usually reach for.
If the small tweaks aren't doing it for you, make big tweaks, research some new meals, try different carbs, you know the drill. Pinterest has meal prep goals too, take a look and make a whole board of new ideas. One you start, you’ll end up going down a rabbit hole and before you know it, you’ve got a whole recipe book of ideas to try.
If that STILL doesn't work. Add flavour! Try incorporating spices, herbs and sauces to your meals. There are so many different spice mixes out there, be brave and give them a go! Bland, boring chicken is a thing of the past, we don’t do that here.
And make sure you’re incorporating snacks too! Keeping yourself powered throughout the day with energy boosters is super important. Victoria recommends snacks like dark chocolate cups or chocolate coconut protein balls to curb those afternoon sugar cravings!
If you’re wanting to secretly stash your snacks, gals, the NKD leggings are perfect for you. *Wink wink*, they have a hidden pocket in the waistband.
And guys, check out this BLOCK sleeveless hoodie. Big pockets. Multiple snacks. You’re welcome.
Sometimes with meal prep, it’s just trial and error, figuring out what your favourite meals and flavour combinations are, and what day suits you best to make your meals. Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen!
Shout out to Victoria Matkovic of Thrive Nutrition for her guidance on this one too!