Since you’re reading this, I am going to assume you are either looking for a new solution to your nutrition goals or you are diving in for the first time trying to understand this whole meal prep, macros, nutrition world. Either case, consider this article more as a guide than a cut and dry “one size fits all” approach to your meal prep.
I have done meal prep as someone who is meal prepping for photo shoots and a 12-14 hour work day with no life outside of training and dieting, and now more as someone who meal preps with whole foods for what is fuel for my body structured around 4 whole meals a day. Having said that, how you meal prep will depend on your lifestyle, schedule and goals so my goal in writing this is to share with you my biggest meal prep tips in hopes to inspire you to structure them according to what fits your lifestyle.
First, the basics: Every meal throughout the day needs to consist of all natural whole foods groups which means your macronutrients of carbohydrates, lean protein, veggies/fruit, and healthy fats. Here are a few examples of these macronutrient sources straight from the Flat ABS for Women program to help you get a general idea:
Your healthy fat sources would come from foods like: Natural Nut Butters (Almond butter, Peanut Butter, Cashew Butter etc), Avocado, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Sesame Oil, Raw Almonds/Nuts, Grass Fed Butter, etc. You want to stick with fats that have the cleanest source of Medium Chain Triglycerides which are the fats that burn fat.
Once you have a general understanding of the macronutrient groups, the next thing you need to do is figure out what schedule or meal structure works with your lifestyle.
Do you work a 9-5 so only have time to eat 3 meals a day with 1 snack at night? Then structure your macro nutrients distributing the majority of your food throughout breakfast, lunch, and dinner with your snack at night being high in protein and fats but lighter on carbohydrates.
Do you have a flexible schedule that you can eat whenever you want? Then distribute your meals to 5 meals a day with 3 whole meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and 2 snacks (mid-morning and mid-afternoon, mid-afternoon and evening, etc).
I personally prefer doing 3 whole meals with 1 snack at night. Mostly because after 10 years of being in the fitness industry I just know that this is the pattern that works best for my energy and overall performance, but again it’s taken me years to just go through the process of educating myself and listening to my body to figure this out. Try out a meal structure for a few weeks, keep a journal and pay attention to your body and make adjustments accordingly.
Here is an example of a full days meal plan also straight from the Flat ABS for Women program to help give you an idea of how these meals are structured:
As you can see, this is structured around 6 meals a day. If this was way too much meal prep for you then you would simply combine perhaps your breakfast and mid-morning (I always like eating a large breakfast to jump start my metabolism first thing). If this is entirely new to you, then at first this will seem like a lot of food because it is. However, most women don’t have a problem from eating too much of the right food it’s usually either eating too much of the WRONG foods. I’ve never heard of anyone having weight problems from eating too much lean protein, complex carbs, veggies and healthy fats…so keep that in mind. Also take into consideration if you are working out 3-5x a week (which you should be), your body needs this fuel for recovery and performance.
Now that we have gone over the basics, how do you prep all of this food so that it doesn’t consume your entire day?
There are several ways you can do this, but here are the 2 easiest ways:
- Set aside a day like Sunday that you have a couple extra hours to cook all of your meals and then portion them out into Tupperware for every meal for the week. Here is an example of what that looks like:
2. Your second option if this just looks way too overwhelming and complicated is to do macro nutrient prep and then just treating this like a buffet of healthy options to create your meals throughout the week. Similar process, you would set aside 1-2 hours on the weekend and all you do is literally cook up all of your macronutrients (think lots of chicken breasts, salmon, eggs for protein, lots of veggies, lots of sweet potatoes and brown rice). Then, you would put the macronutrients into separate individual containers. So you would have a container of all your proteins, one for all your carbohydrates, one for all your veggies, and so on. Then throughout the week, when it comes time to eat all you do is select a food from each group to make up your lean protein, fats, carbs/veggies. I personally like this process better for two reasons: First, it’s less prep time on the weekend since you are just cooking in bulk and second, because I like being able to choose what I want to eat on each day instead of having to eat so strictly to what I already sectioned off as a meal.
Now let’s get real for a second, nobody has time to eat perfect for every single meal and sometimes we don’t want what we already cooked. For moments like this, I suggest going for a healthy meal replacement like an All Natural Protein Bar, Protein Powder with some almond/peanut butter, getting creative with your recipes which there are tons on here you can use, but also learning how to have a social life and still stick to your nutrition goals. Use these same macronutrient examples to put together a meal at your favorite restaurant. Meal prep doesn’t mean you have to sit in a lonely corner by yourself eating bland food with no social life or any real food. If that happens, you’re never going to stick with it.
Like I said at the beginning, my hope is that you use this as a guide and not as a cut and dry approach so that you have this education and the tools to understand how meal prep works so create your own structure that fits your goals and your lifestyle. It’s all about learning and listening to your body and building off of that. You can also try a program that has meal plans structured into it as an initial way to just get used to understanding your macro’s and structuring them around your workouts like that Flat ABS program.
As always, this is your body and your life so create it based on your needs and what fits you and if you need help with this I am here to provide you with the tools to do so.