A Beginners Guide to Meal Prep
So you’ve got your macros and you’re ready to start ‘self-tracking’ your nutrition… Great!
The beauty of tracking your own food within your macros is it is one step closer to creating a sustainable approach to fitness and results, whilst also giving you so much more flexibility. Meal plans can be great to get you going when you have just started, but tracking your own food is king in my eyes
However with tracking comes an inherent new task of fitting meals into your week! this is where I believe meal prep can be your best friend, it can make the process of tracking calories a lot easier, but also take the thinking out of it and reduce it to a 1 time a week thing, but it also reduces your cooking time to once maybe twice a week, meaning you suddenly have a lot more free time during the week!
1) Sit down and Plan
Step one is the trickiest bit, you need to sit down and plan your meals on the MyPThub app or MyFitnessPal for the week, and also when you’re going to make them. My best bit of advice would be start simple, pick some easy to cook meals that you know you like, and fit them to your macros… How do I do that?
Start with protein, once you have hit your protein target you will have calories left… I won’t go into it now and you can learn about it in other articles in the education hub, but carbs and fats aren’t as important as hitting your protein targets. If you can hit them great!, but if you go a little over or under, don’t worry! As long as all your macros fit into your total calorie limit. That said, try to avoid big fluctuations week to week, this helps keep you weight stable and less affected by fluctuations at check-ins.
Now make a shopping list and plan when you’re going to cook them. Set aside 1-2 hrs if needed (remember you are saving a lot of cooking time during the week by doing this).
2) Cooking & Storing
Okay, so you have your ingredients, and you’re ready to cook, first off, make sure you have somewhere to store it, in general a meal will last 3-4 days in the fridge, so you need to decide if you are cooking 1 or 2 times in the week, and then decide if you need to freeze anything or not. Once you’ve decided you can proceed accordingly…
Theres a couple of ways to approach this, you can either prep meals individually portioned out, or bulk cook ingredients individually and use those to build meals throughout the week. The latter can also be an alternative approach to meal prep where you only bulk cook your longer cooking items when you prep to save time during the week, but thats also pretty self explanatory.
For the former the best approach is to take a look at your ingredients and work backwards in terms of cooking time and what you can cook very hands off. Something like a chicken breast could be cooked in an oven while prepping other things or in a slow cooker. It requires little attention and allows you to do other things at the same time. The aim of the game here is efficiency.
Recipes like a chilli can also be cooked very hands off and 90% of the meal is all done in one pan. Figuring out what to cook in what order is key, when you get really good at meal prep you will be able to cook most of the meals at once, people might think you’re trying to feed an army, but you can get it done!
In terms of storage you can use Tupperware containers, or tin foil depending on what you have. If you are cooking in bulk or individual meals, containers may be the best choice. A lot of people worry about storage of food in Tupperware containers because of plastic “leaching” into their food. If you have ever drunk from a plastic bottle you probably have nothing to worry about, however, why increase your exposure to something if you can avoid it. I wouldn’t say I’m the most clued up on this and you may want to research a little more, but it seems to me BPA free containers are your best shout.
Here is a link to ones I have used in the past
Plastic Slimline 2 Compartment Containers – These are great if you want something a little slimmer, but have no clips for the lid if travelling with them.
Plastic Slimline 1 Compartment Containers – Same as the above but the compartment is not split.
Glass Containers with Clip-able Lids – If you want to avoid plastics all-together maybe this glass option maybe be up your street.
Now you have cooked your meals, it’s the hardest bit done, now it’s time to eat them, stick to plan and make progress. As you get better at meal prepping you can add in more complex things and maybe even prep less. Because the better you get the easier to tracking as you go becomes, meaning you can cook more from fresh.
Meal prep for some people is literally the biggest game changer off something that seems so trivial. but it’s removing barriers to your nutrition goals, especially if this is something you find a little trickier than others, it can massively improve your fitness game and take your results to the next level.