Nutrition is the foundation of performance inside and outside the gym. It fuels your training and your life. Here at Icehouse we encourage taking the whole foods approach to nutrition that sounds a lot like, “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar” ~ Greg Glassman, or the abbreviated version, “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants” ~ Ben Bergeron.
Eating real food takes real time to plan, shop for, and prepare, and one of the most commonly used “hacks” to making real food more approachable and convenient is “meal prep”. It’s no secret that I’m the Meal Prep Champion of the coaching staff here at Icehouse and for that reason have chosen to impart some of my meal prep tips, tricks and techniques to help you up your meal prep game.
Why do I Meal Prep?
I like to automate as many decisions as I can. I have a limited amount of good decisions I can make for the day, so when my discipline is high, I prepare. I preload a shaker bottle with post workout protein and pack it, along with my workout clothes, in my gym bag. I lay out my clothes for the following day and I meal prep. When I’m pressed for time in the morning, I just grab my gym bag, throw on the clothes that are on the top of my dresser and snag the meals on my top left shelf in my refrigerator on my way out the door. It’s taking advantage of my “past self” ‘s extra time to take care of my “future self”.
What is the Process?
Plan your work and work your plan. Principles of meal prep do not change. You need to know which meals of the day you want to prep, along with the days of meals you want to have on hand; pick your recipes you
want to cook, shop for what you need to make the meals, make the meals, portion the meals out into containers, store (freeze or refrigerate) and consume as planned. You need to decide what will serve your household best when it comes to which meals of the day, how many days of meals, whether or not to include snacks, and then go from there.
To Freeze, or Not to Freeze?
This is generally the difference in meal preparation. Are you planning on filling your freezer or not? In theory this is a good idea, but in practice, it’s complicated. My recommendation is to have a plan for the meals if you’re going to fill your freezer. I currently live in the land of moderation when it comes to filling the freezer. I generally have no more than 4 containers of 2 different meals each in the freezer. This allows me a little flexibility throughout the week and saves on freezer space. Earlier this year meal prep got a little “out of hand” and I ended up with 30 of the same meals (photo above)… Let’s just say that was a fairly predictable couple weeks, nutritionally speaking.
- Bulk cook lightly flavored protein, then flavor separately (taco, pasta, bbq…)
- Slow cook protein overnight
- Instant Pot (what else can give you a juicy and perfectly cooked beef roast in less than 35 min?)
- Pick your Top 3 Breakfasts and Top 5 Lunch/Dinner recipes to start
- Costco membership…
- Looking for recipes? Head over to Healthy Steps Nutrition: Recipes
- Need a breakfast recipe with protein? Try Amish Oatmeal
My “Perfect” Meal Prep Day
My perfect meal prep day is Sunday and it starts off with a leisurely cup of coffee, followed by breakfast. After breakfast I’ll head over to the local grocery store and pick up the last minute items that I need cook up all of the meals. Not shocking, I’ll generally have the big ticket items; protein (eggs, chicken, pork, beef), starches (potatoes, rice, quinoa), and non starchy vegetables (broccoli, peppers, onions, greens, tomatoes, cucumbers…) already picked up from my weekly Costco trip. Either late morning or early afternoon I’ll spend a couple hours chopping, sauteing, roasting, baking up Amish Oatmeal for breakfast for the week and 5 or so servings of 2 separate meals. I’ll freeze some and leave a couple in the fridge as options for early in the week and then call it a day.