You have an image in mind of a competitive bodybuilder, and you imagine it will only take exercise and proper nutrition to get there. But how much do you know about meal prep, and are you doing it right? Nutrition and regimented exercise are the combination you need to get a muscular, lean body.
Prepping your meals helps you stick to a regimented bodybuilding diet, enables you to get the right amount of nutrition, and keeps you focused. Here is everything you need to know about meal prep and how meal-prepping can help your bodybuilding journey.
Meal Prepping: What is it?
Meal prepping involves preparing meals in advance and partitioning them into convenient grab-and-go meals later. It is similar to packing leftovers in tupperware for dinner the next day; then, you have experience with meal prepping. However, meal prepping prepares food that lasts for at least a week. So, instead of making meals before consumption, when prepping meals, you choose a day to cook food that will last you an entire week.
Benefits of Meal Prepping
Prepping meals will make your week easy in different ways. Here are some benefits:
It saves time and money
If you have a full-time job or other engagements, go to the gym every day, and are a parent, you can save time by meal prepping. A busy schedule is a common reason people prefer takeout meals. After preparing the meals, all you need to do is reheat and chow down. So, you save time you would’ve spent cooking every day and money you would have spent on takeout.
Improves the quality of your diet
Home-cooked meals are more nutritious and healthy than takeout. Meal prepping helps diversify your diet, improving your diet’s quality. Besides, before meal prep, there is a long thought process where you consider different nutrients and add them to the plan.
This is the greatest advantage of meal prepping. Whether you will constantly be on the go, travel around for work or do extra time at the gym, there will always be whole-food-centric nutritious meals waiting for you.
It prevents indulging in cravings
How often do you cave into cravings after a workout or extend a cheat meal into a cheat day? Impulsive food choices are common, but with meal prepping, you can eat a balanced meal since the food is ready. Thus, it encourages you to eat nutritious food for physical and mental benefit.
Aids weight loss
Most takeout meals are loaded with empty calories and sodium and are high in fat. Preparing your meals in advance helps with weight loss since the foods are mostly whole, nutritious, and have a balanced diet. It also helps with portion control since you have already pre planned portions for the week.
Get the nutrients your body needs daily
Meal prepping ensures you get your macros in and boost your fitness goals. When preparing meals daily, it is tempting not to measure every scoop. However, meal prepping ensures you get all the doses right, meeting your calorie needs.
Is Meal Prepping Worth the Time and Effort?
Yes, it is. If you are ready to smash your next fitness goal, the answer may not be more time in the gym, but it could be more time in the kitchen. Prepping meals is worth the time and effort as it can determine your success or failure.
By prepping meals, you can pre plan meals depending on your body’s needs, health, and fitness goals. It helps you get better results from training and controls what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it.
So, taking time to prepare meals for the entire week could put your eating under control. It helps manage temptations and reduces the consequences of decision fatigue which could lead to more cheat days and slow progress. Here is a guide on healthy cheat meals to avoid stalling your progress.
When it comes to nutrition, there isn’t a one-size fits all approach that everyone needs to follow. The percentage of macros you need varies, although you might need more carbs, moderate protein, and low fat. Here is a guide to help you understand macronutrients and how to count them.
Tracking calories helps keep tabs on how many calories you take every day. You might also need to count macronutrients to get calories from proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. While it sounds complicated, it is not. Hire a nutritionist or a training coach to identify your calorie count and the macronutrient breakdown you need to devise the right meal plan.
Besides, in your bodybuilding journey, you might need to go through cutting and bulking sessions which might need a different meal plan.
How to Prep Meals to Achieve Your Bodybuilding Goals
Determine Your Body Needs
Before prepping meals, you need to determine your calorie and macro needs. You can do so by:
- Determining your total calorie output- what is your daily energy expenditure? Estimate the number of calories you burn daily. You will need to consider your activity level, height, age, and weight. You can use an online calculator.
- Identify the cycle you are currently in- are you currently bulking or cutting? When cutting, you need fewer calories than your TDEE, and you will need more calories when bulking. So, find out which part of the cycle you are following and determine how many calories you need.
- Find your macros- find out how many grams of proteins, carbs, and fats you need to eat daily.
Prep the Meals
After figuring out your body needs, you can now prep your meals through the following steps:
- Get the tools you need- you might need to download tracking apps like MyFitnessPal to easily track foods as they count the calories and macros on foot. Get a kitchen scale for accurate measurements.
- Plan and go shopping- write down three columns- proteins, carbs, and fats. Then write down a list of foods under each category. Try to add variety, especially vegetables, to avoid nutrient deficiency and ensure you get various vitamins and minerals. Then go grocery shopping.
For example, you can get some eggs, chicken, beef, and sardines for proteins. For carbs, get some oatmeal, sweet potato, and rice, while for healthy fats, you can get avocados, cheese, and coconut oil. Remember to diversify, e.g., get both plant-based and omnivorous sources of proteins.
- Prep the food- a common mistake people make is prepping the same food for a week. Meal prep doesn’t have to be boring. Cook a variety of stews and starch to keep your meals interesting during the week. For example, you can bake different vegetables in the oven or steam different types of vegetables together and boil several eggs.
- Measure the food- after putting your culinary skills to show, use a reliable food scale or calculator to measure the foods. After all the meals are ready, take some containers and measure the different foods before putting them in the container. Combine foods differently and ensure each container has consistent amounts of macros. Fill half your plate with veggies, a fourth with protein, and the rest with healthy carbs depending on your macro needs.
Tips to Make Meal Prepping Work for You
You have seen fitness enthusiasts on Instagram displaying their week’s meal on a kitchen counter. However, meal prepping doesn’t have to be what people portray. It doesn’t need to be the all-or-nothing Tupperware-centric display. Here are some tips to make prepping work for you:
Shop for specific meals
What is your schedule for the week, and how many meals will you be prepping for? Think about what you want to eat, and shop with that in mind. Cooking foods you don’t enjoy could result in a last minute decision to eat out, which could beat the whole idea.
Determine how much time you need
Meal prepping will help you save time. However, during meal prep, you might take more time. So, find a day you have free time and dedicate it to meal prepping.
Consider your post-workout dietary needs
The meal you have after a workout is a recovery meal. While it is often underrated, it is an essential part of training. After exercising, your muscles soak up nutrients, which is why most people have cravings after working out. So, consider a snack high in carbs and proteins before having a full meal.
Factor in Monotony
Meal prepping can be a success or a failure depending on how you prefer your food. Therefore, it is best to prepare different foods at a time since limited variety could get tiresome and boring, leading to wastage and takeout. So pick different themes and change what you eat often, provided you meet your macro and calorie needs.
Should I Get Help from a Meal Prep Service?
If you have a hectic schedule, don’t like cooking, or are yet to perfect your cooking skills, you can use a meal prep service. While the price will be higher than you doing grocery shopping and cooking yourself, sometimes, paying a premium for quality services is rewarding.
Professional meal prepping services can help develop recipes, source ingredients and prepare them. They also portion the food and pack it before delivering it to your doorstep. They offer convenience and flexibility. Besides, it is better than buying takeout or eating out.
After our helpful resource and step-by-step guide above, it is time to start. You can only learn by doing. Instead of waiting until you can afford fancy Tupperware, start today with your few solid containers. If you look closer, you have what is needed for meal prepping. So, get ready with a list, go to the grocery store and get to work.