Make meal prep for athletes easier with some of these simple meal prep tips that help you cut corners but still make easy, balanced meals to fuel activity!
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I recently gave a presentation about meal planning and meal prepping during training season, so I figured I’d share my process with you guys.
These are super helpful meal prep tips for athletes and active individuals.
I actually recommend them often to athletes who are following a marathon taper or looking for marathon taper nutrition advice.
This can be a great way to fill extra time!
Meal planning does not need to be overly structured or rigid. Meal planning and intuitive eating can coexist.
Meal planning can also work however you need or want it to. You want it to work for your family and schedule, without being overly stressful.
Should You Meal Prep?
Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to meal plan. I actually have clients write out their schedule for the week (what nights do you have events/commitments?) when we’re figuring out what meal planning looks like for them.
But, for most athletes, doing some form of simple meal prep or mental prep can help, especially if you’re working on marathon training nutrition.
Making sure you have meal prep-able foods on hand! I use this runners grocery list to help structure my grocery shopping.
Grab Our Meal Prep Ebook to Finally Conquer Meal Prep in the Kitchen
Meal Prep For Athletes Tips
As mentioned earlier, prepping meals for athletes can definitely be helpful for a busy week ahead, filled with practices, training sessions and other commitments.
If you spend a little time on the forefront, you’ll reap way more time on the backend. Plus, you can spend more time recovering, sleeping and more!
I know after I do my pyramid workout, the last thing I want to do is think about standing up and making dinner.
Benefits of meal planning:
- Saves money
- Decreases food waste
- Improves the quality of your diet
- Decreases prep time, cooking time and clean up
- Eliminates stress
So, here are my favorite tips and athlete meal prep ideas.
Be Realistic With Your Training Schedule
First and foremost, when I say meal planning, people conjure up this idea of spending 5 hours on a Sunday in the kitchen – neglecting their family and obligations and turning down Sunday fun.
That’s not the case. I mean, if you like it that way and it works for you, then bravo. But, that doesn’t work for everyone.
So, find what works for you, and work around your training or marathon training schedule. This can work as meal prep for recreational athletes, meal prep for high school athletes, whatever!
Maybe you do a majority of the prep on your off day, or after your long run when you’re starving and making your post-workout meal anyway.
Make Different Parts of Meal Prep Work For You
To do simple meal prep, you can literally be as simple as you want with your methods. This is one of my non diet resolutions to create healthier habits.
Meal prep can include:
- pre-washing veggies/fruits
- chopping veggies or meats (freezing single servings for later, if needed)
- sauteeing or baking veggies for the week (sheetpan meals are great for this! We love 20 minute honey garlic shrimp and broccoli, a chicken apple sausage sheet pan dinner and sheet pan salmon and veggies)
- dividing meals/ingredients into tupperware for salads.
- pre-portioning snacks (nuts/seeds in individual bags or containers), making a batch of hempseed granola bars, or vegan 3 ingredient cookies
- Bulk cooking rice in the instant pot, rice cooker or stove, to add proteins to throughout the week. I love this basil lemon rice because it’s so flavorful!
- Making a marinade for lemon pepper baked chicken tenders
- Baking 5 sweet potatoes or grilling 5 chicken breasts at once because it takes the same amount of time as baking or grilling 2 breasts
Meal prep doesn’t have to run the gamut of making all of your carbs, fats, proteins, veggies AND snacks. You can just prep certain components of meals to make things easier.
What Day Should You Meal Plan?
Think about your training schedule and review the following questions:
- Are you more energetic or useless after a long, hard workout?
- When are you hungriest?
- When do you have the most energy or the most time?
- Can you roast some potatoes in the morning while you’re getting the kids ready for school?
- Can you hard boil some eggs while you’re eating dinner with the family?
There’s no right or wrong way to meal prep. Whether you do it all at once or do it sporadically based on your time and energy, any bit you can do helps!
Make a List of What You Have Vs. What You Need
This is number one on everyone’s tips for meal planning, but it’s so true. Meal planning does involve a little preparation – so, take stock of what you already have in your kitchen cabinet or pantry staples.
And then, make note of what you want to make, so you know what else you need to buy.
For inspiration on what you want to make, think about your local farmer’s market and what’s in season, a recipe you saw in a magazine/cookbook/cooking show/Pinterest, or even what’s on sale at your grocery store this week.
Also, if you’re following recipes, try choosing some that use the same ingredients to decrease your grocery costs.
I usually go to the grocery store twice a week, so my list each time is a little shorter.
When you’re making your list, don’t forget about snack foods!
String cheese, nuts, fruit, raw veggies, crackers, edamame, hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese, oats, peanut butter, peanut butter powder – those are important for meal prep too!
Other ingredients I recommend always keeping stocked: Hemp seeds and chia seeds. Not only are they full of nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, and iron, they are also pretty easy to add to anything!
Add them to yogurt, oatmeal, and even salads, and pack a protein and fatty acid punch.
Snack Recipes for Athletes
- Use your oats for maple cinnamon granola
- 4 Ingredient Trail Mix
- Vegan hemp protein bars or Nut Free protein bars
- Chia seed protein balls
- Carrot Cake Energy Bites
- 5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Energy Bites with Sweet Potato
- Banana Chia Pudding
- Salted Cinnamon Peanut Butter
- Boil a dozen eggs for HB eggs to top salads, grab and go athlete snacks or for breakfast
- Sweet potato zucchini muffins
- Banana chickpea muffins
- Cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cups
- 3 ingredient vegan banana cookies
Batch Prepare Foods and Ingredients
Need a meal prep plan? Read on!
I really like to multi-task when I’m doing some meal prep so I’m not there all day. While one thing is cooking, do something else.
So, for example, this week I cut and roasted some sweet potatoes, made my asparagus and mushroom quiche, lentil and cous cous salad, caramelized some onions, cooked some broccoli, and made a loaf of zucchini bread.
The way I did these easy prep meals all in under two hours takes a little bit of strategic planning.
First, I cooked my grains – lentils and cous cous – for the salad. While the grains were cooking, I washed and poked sweet potatoes and threw them in the oven (350 for 40 minutes).
I microwaved my bag of steamables broccoli and sauteed the onions.
Once the grains were done, I added the other ingredients for the salad, and boom, that’s done.
I also generally make a form of these zucchini sweet potato fritters each week, and freeze extra for later! Top them with greek yogurt for extra protein.
PS – Moroccan lentil cous cous salad recipe comes from Run Fast Eat Slow. My favorite recipe in the book!
I separated the broccoli in a separate Tupperware, and once the onions were done, put them in a small glass container too.
Next, I mixed the eggs and veggies for my quiche and got that started on the stove, then put it in the oven for a couple of minutes.
I love quiches because they’re nice and quick.
Pro tip: While you’re doing this, keep a bag close by for all of your scraps so you don’t have to keep walking over to the trash.
Lastly, I wanted to make some bread. I usually make bread or chickpea muffins for the week for some easy grab and go snacks.
I made Sally’s zucchini greek yogurt bread. By the time I had all the ingredients mixed and ready to throw in the oven, the sweet potatoes were done.
So, while the bread was baking, I cleaned up everything, and boom, that was my meal prep for this week.
It’s not extravagant, and it’s not a ton, but the quiche will be easy for breakfasts or lunches, and the lentil salad can be lunches or dinners.
The broccoli/sweet potatoes can complement anything or just be a great snack.
If we run out of food, I’ll probably cook some chicken or tempeh later this week that should last me through the end of the week.
If you hate cooking, I hope to do a follow up on athlete meal delivery services which may be helpful.
Quick Athlete Meals
You don’t always have to follow recipes either when creating athlete meals.
Sometimes, just cooking a bunch of macronutrients (grains, potatoes, proteins) and separating them out is fine. Nice and simple too!
If you’re looking for some easy recipe ideas for athletes and runners, here are some of my favorites.
- Cook a large batch of oatmeal for overnight oats for the week or baked sweet potato blueberry oatmeal
- Cook beans or lentils (love this lentil hummus dip)
- Bake a loaf of sweet potato bread or almond flour banana muffins, which are ready in 30 minutes
- Mason jar salads
- Make a large batch of anti-inflammatory oatmeal
- Prepare salad dressings or marinades
- Soups! This instant pot pumpkin soup is high carb and full of antioxidants.
- Cook a batch of lemon herb cheesy quinoa, and a bunch of chicken breasts. Use the extra quinoa for a turkey taco quinoa skillet.
- Make lemon basil hummus or a sweet potato cookie dough dip
- Pasta! The easiest thing to make and freeze. Gluten free pasta salad is great and this veggie pasta bake is the best for freezing and reheating!
This roundup of freezer meal recipes for kids has some easy, hands off meal ideas!
Many of these also work as leftover lunch for athletes to take to the office or reheat at home.
Don’t Forget The Freezer
This post is a great exhaustive list of the best freezer meals. Great for new moms, prepping for surgery or a major event, or just for meal prepping.
Don’t forget about your freezer, friends! It can be your best friend for convenience.
Fill it with leftovers if you cook too much, so when you need it, you can thaw them out.
I love frozen fruit, frozen steamable veggie bags, chicken sausage, frozen fish/shrimp, grains and more.
Meal planning can be 20 minutes, it can be an hour, or it can be a couple of hours.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it – it’s whatever works best for you and your schedule. I hope you find this helpful!
Other Athlete Meal Prep Resources
- 51 Healthy Athlete Meals
- Easy Breakfasts for Athletes
- Pantry Staples for Runners
- How to save money at the grocery store
- Tips for stocking your pantry
Do you meal plan? What works for you?
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