The life of an athlete is tough work—a mountain of training, practice and competition, keeping your mind right, periodization, getting enough sleep, and of course, nutrition.
Our training doesn’t end the moment we finish our last Jump Squat or last lap in the pool. Serious athletes know that peak performance comes from maintaining a lifestyle that is conducive to their goals. And yet, far too many athletes treat their nutrition as an afterthought.
It’s easy to hide behind the excuse of not having enough time to crack down on your meals, but if you are serious about making the most of your training, you need to get your nutrition in order. And there’s no better way to do it than by practicing regular meal prep.
You take control of your nutrition. Meal prep involves meal planning, which means choosing what you are going to eat over the course of the week. This is in stark contrast to choosing what to eat when you are hungry and exhausted. At the end of a rough day of training, when your willpower is low, your best intentions can go out the window for the sake of convenience. Meal prepping lets you take the wheel on your dietary intake, which can feel freeing. No longer are you held captive to the whims of your not-always-trustworthy cravings.
It makes healthy food convenient. Athletes have crazy schedules, so it’s easy for them to rely on how busy they are as a crutch for not preparing healthy meals. In fact, meal prep can end up saving you a heap of time once you master the process. If you do it properly, you can bang out 20-plus meals for the week in a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon, setting yourself up for seven days of nutritious chow. How many times have you grabbed something that wasn’t necessarily good for you for the sake of convenience? Probably a ton, right? When you have a stack of healthy meals chilling in the fridge, ready to eat after a quick nuke session in the microwave, eating healthy becomes the easy choice.
It’s a huge time saver. If you sat down and logged the amount of time you spend deciding and making each meal, you might be surprised at how long you hem and haw over what to eat, and on the ensuing preparation time. Each Sunday, while quasi-watching football, I’m able to cook up, portion, and pack 21 meals for the week in just under two hours. Up front, this might seem like a lot of time, until you compare it to the amount of time you will save preparing meals every day. You’ll have more time to focus on other things, whether its recording your training plan in a workout log, foam rolling, or catching up on your sleep.
The importance of nutrition for athletes has been hammered into you since you started playing your sport. Whether it’s staying hydrated, eating your protein, carb loading, or snacking after workouts to optimize recovery, the way you eat matters.
Doing meal prep will free you up to focus on other parts of your performance while helping you get the most out of your time and effort—both in the kitchen and on the field.