Essential Sports Nutrition

10/25/17

Making the time to meal plan



Sitting down to a home-cooked meal is a great feeling, especially after a tough workout or a long day of work. But sadly, in our society, making the time to cook a meal is not an everyday occurrence for a variety of reasons:

  • Being too tired or too hungry
  • Needing something quick and convenient
  • Feeling too busy
  • Not knowing what to eat 
  • No love for cooking
  • No appetite
If you are like everyone else, you already have a lot to squeeze into the day so it's easy to see why your meals may be an afterthought, especially if you wake up at 4am to workout and you don't come home from work until 7pm.
But is that a reason not to cook/meal prep or an excuse? 


Meal prep/cooking should be a priority in your day. Just like working out, going to work, playing with your kids and sleeping, cooking/meal prep should be on your daily to-do list. It's not about finding the time but making the time. 

As an athlete, I understand how overwhelming it can be to plan (and eat) nutritious meals, every day of the week and still squeeze in exhausting workouts and everything else that keeps me busy in life.  For myself, my meals in peak training become a lot less exciting as I am hyper focused on nourishing my body but also constantly fueling and refueling, whereas in the off-season, I have a lot more flexibility in my diet and more time to cook. 


For athletes, the off-season is the perfect time to develop a passion for cooking and to create sustainable habits that promote meal planning and healthy eating. By placing a similar amount of passion, effort and enthusiasm into your daily diet as you do with your training, you will find it easy to adapt to your training as it increases in intensity/volume but you will also find yourself with a great relationship with food and confidence in fueling and nourishing your body.  


Here are a few of my meal planning tips that will work for your busy lifestyle. 

1) Prepare meals/ingredients when you have free time and when you cook, always plan for leftovers.  

A little meal prep goes a long way. Dice, chop, wash, cook - do as much as you can when you free time. No free time? Instead of playing on your phone or spending 5 extra minutes working out, or taking care of something now that you can do later, get in the kitchen and start prepping food. Don't overwhelm yourself with meal prep - plan for 1-2 days worth of meals at a time.
2) Prep a meal before a workout.
Guess what happens when you finish your workout hungry, with no meal at home waiting for you and no patience/energy to meal prep. Prepare as much as you can before working out. This is a game changer. You won't believe how much easier you will find fueling and refueling (and how less complicated "healthy" eating will be) when you know that a meal is waiting for you post workout. More often than not, if you finish a workout hungry, you will almost always go for what's quick and easy and not always healthy or performance enhancing.
3) Have a menu for the week.
Knowing what you will eat for dinner (and breakfast, lunch and snacks) will ensure you have the necessary ingredients and will prevent you from eating out due to "not having anything to eat." No need to make this menu extravagant or fancy, just have a plan. I find that theme meals work really well for families or those who struggle to be creative with new meal ideas and tend to eat the same thing every night of the week. 
4) Allow yourself one night a week to get a little help from a pre-made or semi-homemade meal.

Eating out is expensive and sometimes time-consuming but every now and then, it can work for you! Consider getting help from the grocery/restaurant, etc. once a week by eating from a salad bar, pre-made meal option, restaurant, pick-up/take-out healthy item or making something semi-homemade. Make sure this meal works for you as you should never feel guilty about eating food prepared outside of the home. My tip: Be inspired by what you eat outside of the home and try to re-create it at home. 
5) Use your time wisely.
Think about eat day of the week - when do you have the most free time? And by free time, this includes watching TV, laying around or spending time on your smart phone/computer at home.
It's important to find 10-30 minutes a day to use your time wisely and meal prep or cook. Set an alarm or a reminder on your phone/computer to alert you to stop what you are doing and get into the kitchen to start a meal. It's so easy to let
 cooking and meal prep become an afterthought because you feel "too busy" but really, it all comes down to how you use your time. 

As an athlete, cooking/meal prep should be high on your to-do list. Put the same focus and attention on your eating habits as you do with your training and you will soon find yourself with a healthy, strong and well-nourished and fueled body.